Posted by: Drew | May 23, 2007

Komen Race for the Cure – Race Report

Well, it took a whole year to get there, but I was finally set to race (or more appropriately put, “run”) my second 5 kilometer event.  The Komen Race for the Cure was this past Saturday, and as expected it was a huge event.  While waiting for the start, we were informed that over 37,000 people signed up.  I’m not sure how many actually showed up and ran, but there were people in front of and behind me as far as I could see.  It was quite a spectacle.

Knowing in advance that the scene would be crowded and I would not likely have an opportunity to run a good race at my pace, I talked with my running buddy Cletus and asked him what his goal time was.  He wanted to finish under 30 minutes, so I told him I’d try to pace him to meet his goal.  We (Cletus, myself, and the husband of one of my wife’s coworkers) lined up right around the 10-minute mile pace marker to start, actually having shown up on time this year instead of walking to the start line while the gun went off like last year.  Despite the clearly marked section for those walking the 5K, there were plenty of people who were lined up in the seven through nine minute mile sections who had no intention of breaking a sweat over the next 3.1 miles.  It’s a huge race, and while I should have expected it I have to admit that these people do bother me a bit.  (More on this later)

The first mile (plus) of the run is right down High Street through downtown.  The five lane road made for relatively easy passing conditions around the walkers and slower folks.  Our first mile was clocked at 8:53.  Considering the conditions, I was pretty pleased with that time.  But I also knew that the road was about to get a lot narrower, and there were still plenty of walkers clogging up the road (I know, after nine minutes, we still hadn’t cleared them all?!?).

Race for the Cure

(Can you find me?)

As we made our first turn, the road (expectedly) narrowed, the crowd got a little more intimate, and the pace slowed considerably for us.  When we were able, we shot the available gaps and tried to maintain our pace, but there was simply too much congestion.  We passed the second mile mark at exactly 20 minutes.  After a nine minute mile at the start, we had followed up with an eleven minute effort.  Doing some very rough arithmetic in my head, I knew we’d have to run the last 1.1 miles at about a 9:00 pace to finish under Cletus’ goal time of 30:00.  He assured me before the race that he’d follow me to the finish, that I was to set the pace and off we’d go.  So I did what was expected and threw a few more logs on the fire (or coals in the oven, whichever you prefer) to bring it home.

The third mile of the Race for the Cure contains what has to be my favorite stretch of racing to date.  There are about 100 men and women lined up on the side of the road, Harley’s roaring, dressed in their black leather biker gear, all having one hand on the throttle gunning their engines and their other hand outstretched to high five the passing runners.  These are people that a lot of us would deliberately avoid in the real world because of fear we may have based on preconceived notions.  But they’re human, too.  You could tell by the looks on their faces and their words of encouragement that they or someone they cared about had suffered at the hands of breast cancer.  That stretch in mile three when the throaty gurgle of motorcycle engines is so loud you can barely think, that’s what has reminded me each year that this particular event is more than a simple road race.  It’s an opportunity to help.

Our spirits lifted by the smell of combustion engines, we continued on our quest to the finish line.  I periodically checked behind me to make sure that Cletus was still there, and he didn’t disappoint (he said later that he’d developed a wicked side stitch at the second mile marker but pushed through to try and make the goal).  Just before the final turn down Nationwide Blvd, I heard voices scream, “Go Cletus!!” (okay, they used his real name, but you get the idea).  I turned to see both our wives in the crowd waving and cheering (my wife said that as I ran by I looked pissed off and frustrated with the crowd.  and here I thought I was hiding it pretty well…). 

With about 150 yards to go, I disabled the speed governor.  I looked at my watch and it said 29:47.  I wasn’t going to make it under 30, but it would still be PR.  I stopped the timer as I crossed the finish line to see 30:14.  I’d bested my previous year’s time by over three and a half minutes.  The three of us that ran together rejoined while gathering in our food goodies, and Cletus told me to add ten seconds to my time and that would be his finishing time.  When I told him that he finshed in 30:24, he was a little disappointed at first but then remembered that he’d busted his old PR by almost five minutes.  Being so close was a bit of a drag, but then he said, “alright, I’m done with 5K’s, bring on the half marathon!”

In all, it was a great day to get out and run.  While it may not be the perfect event for racing, it’s a worthy cause for our time and we had fun doing it.  We’re already looking forward to next year.

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