Run for fun

Run for Fun in the Hot, Hot Sun

 (with only mild apologies to Dr. Seuss)

And we’re off!  No more training runs; no more preparation. On a hot and sunny Sunday morning, as #114 in your program it’s now time for me to try to just enjoy this Newton 10k road race.  No, the low number doesn’t mean I’m that good –  I registered early.

It’s only minutes into the race, and the faster runners are already far ahead.  I’m not competing with them anyway, but I am looking around for those who might be 70 and older. That’s one of the pleasures of reaching this age bracket; a reduced field and the chance to actually finish as one of the top three. Just a few steps ahead there’s a white-haired older man, so let’s be sure to keep him in sight.

Run within yourself to settle into a reasonably comfortable pace – think of Alan Greenspan’s irrational exuberance – try to have a little something left at the end of the race.  Keep your veteran runner’s wits about you, and be aware of today’s draining heat.

Which is what those wearing the black tee-shirts haven’t done.  They didn’t recall their high school physics, where they might have learned that black is a terrific heat absorber.  Score one for this old-timer who chose to run shirtless today …

There’s a light breeze – pleasant now, but in the wrong direction on the way back. Try to remember that this means that there will not be a cooling breeze for the hot treeless stretch after mile five.  Meanwhile stay to the shady side of the street to keep out of the debilitating sun.  Practice some personal energy conservation – every bit helps. 

Here’s that first real hill – never that much fun, and certainly not today.  It has already affected my white-haired competitor; he’s settled into a pattern of interspersing his running with a few walking steps, and it’s not even mile two yet!  I’m especially glad that the race organizers changed the course recently and took the tough Austin Street hill out of it. 

Approaching the first water station, and time to grab a cup and hydrate.  No one drinks anymore, everyone hydrates.  I never could figure out how to drink on the run, so it’s good to take a few walking steps along with some deep breaths before continuing on. Those precious lost seconds not running are an investment for the rest of the race.

It’s not far after mile two and here are the lead runners already coming back and looking great. Are they that fast, or am I that slow?  Probably both, I think.

A flat stretch, but be careful not to push too hard; it’s too easy to go over the aerobic threshold, and then it’s really hard to recover.  Keep that serious hill at mile three-point-five in mind; after that, there will be only a few little ones left on Prince Street, and then it’s flat to the finish.  All those training runs over the race course are really helping with the race strategy.

Another water station – take a few swallows; the rest goes over the head and feels so refreshing.  I’m buoyed by passing a few walkers now; others are breaking up their run with some walking.  I’m not feeling too drained yet, but will I be able to pick up the pace during the last mile and a half?  Better not – the heat can take a toll pretty quickly.  And there are no runners close enough to pick off with a faster pace.  Settle into maintenance mode again.

Finally there are only a few tenths of a mile to go, on a slight downhill, and there’s the finish line in sight. Nothing left to lose with a little extra speed (if that’s the right word) – I pass no one, but no one passes me either.  I hear a voice announcing each finisher, but as I cross the line he either misreads my number or my name and congratulates someone from Cambridge instead. Too bad, but the electronics in the number bib and the finish mat should get it right.

Not a sterling time today, but it was a hot day and now the race is done and over.  Time to hydrate seriously.  So how did I do compared to the other 70-and-overs?  One benefit of slower running is that one doesn’t have to wait so long for the awards ceremony.  This time they even read off the older age-bracket awards first.  And yes, there’s my name among the top three!

As I sometimes like to say: not bad for an old man.

Peter E. Schmidt (June 2013)