Like many of you, I like to run. While we do have our preferred distances, it doesn't matter if it is 100 miles or 1; we like to run. Some of us are competitive in the longer stuff, while in the short/fast distances we'll strain a gluteus just to be a mid-packer. But why then is it fun for long-distance runners to run fast? Until oxygen debt has us drooling and tripping over our own shoes? 5k's are grueling, but not for long. I think short races are fun because they are short; we're barely warmed up and it's already time to have a Clif bar and a banana. I had one of those races last weekend.
But this report is not about my 5k race, that would be boring.
Every year, the New Richmond Area Centre hosts a series of (7) 5k races throughout the winter, one a month from October to April. The whole series costs $20. It would be challenging to find a single race entry at that price, so I consider it the deal of the century; a no-brainer. For that price you get a shirt, low-key race vibes, non-certified courses that tend to be a few k long, and more importantly, a reason to run throughout the winter. Plus they start at 9:00 am. I can still sleep in!
The November iteration was one I was not planning on attending. It was too soon after my last 50-miler, and I was still in recovery mode. And for $20, I can miss a few and still have a clean conscience. I went though (what the heck), intending on a relaxing 5k tour of the New Richmond Industrial Park.
The start line for this race was in the Family Fresh parking lot, with the course an out-and-back on paved trail. There were about 100 racers toeing the line that morning, with a great mix of moms and dads, kids, students, dogs, strollers, and a few runners. Good weather too; at about 40°F, some of us were in shorts and tee's.
After a ready-set-go, we were off, high-tailing it up the trail. After an initial sorting out, I found myself in the lead pack, consisting of a girl's high-school cross-county team, myself, and a 12 year-old boy in gym sneakers. This report is about that boy.
He was TRUCKING, having a blast! Prepubescent arms and legs flailing about just trying to stay with the 6:30 pace. The contradiction between the smooth flowing stride of the girls with his discordant zombie sprint on Red Bull was joyously evident. But what he lacked in style and efficiency, he more than made up with zeal. He would inch into the lead, and then look around with a loopy grin that seemed to say, "I can run faster than these people. Those are just girls and an old guy, and they're slow. I'm going to win. This is easy. Mom said I was a good runner, and she was right!" And, of course, the rest of us are cringing for the eventual blow-up.
But he kept this up for far longer that I expected. After about a mile though, I could tell he was starting to flag. The periodic forays into the lead had ended, and he was now working hard to maintain pace. And his smile was unfortunately gone. Compared to the lead group's symphony of rhythmic footfalls and harmonious breathing, he was playing the roll of jazz trumpeter; off beat and blowing like a freight train. It was a little sad to see, though not really unexpected. Talk about a school of hard knocks.
Eventually, his strain turned to panic. He was now delving into some serious oxygen debt, and losing his battle with consciousness. Each time he looked back to gauge the leaders' positions, I could see panic in his eyes. They now seemed to say "What's happening? It wasn't supposed to be this way? Why is this so hard? I can't breathe! Man these girls are fast!"
And then he was gone, like a parachutist into the slipstream, he just disappeared. Bummer, I was rooting for him. It was like the lead group just lost its mascot. I think he learned some valuable lessons though, like "running is hard", and "racing is harder". What heart!
I did see our 12 year-old runner at the finish line. He eventually did cross the line, and he did not look too good. But his smile was back. Maybe he'll be back too. I hope so. I admire youth with an adventurous, "go for it" spirit. He'll have the rest of his life to learn to strategize and moderate.
I crossed the line in second place. I did drop the girls past the half-way point, though some high school boy loped past me just short of the finish line. Inches from an old-guy win!
Maybe in Decemebrrr. And I'll be looking for my 12-year-old friend; I've got to meet him, and maybe chat on him a bit.