The very first leg of the Capital to Coast Relay is my favorite. It’s my favorite leg for many reasons. When my friend Harry recruited me to run this race 4 years ago, he assigned me runner #1 (legs 1, 13 and 25). It’s also the longest leg of the race at 8.95 miles. It’s also one of, if not the hardest legs of the course because we have to contend with downtown traffic and obstacles since this isn’t a normal race where there would ordinarily be street closures and police support. If you’re brave, fast and stupid enough, you can run through traffic at a red light. You also have to fight the long uphill on Congress Avenue. And it’s the most competitive leg because all of the runners are starting together. And the main reason it’s my favorite leg is that it gives me the chance to set the tone for the team.
When the announcer called us up to the starting line, I stood there for a fleeting moment and was considering letting the other teams line up and I’d just “settle in somewhere.” As fast as that thought came into my head, the better thought surfaced: “No. I’m going to line up at the very front and kick the hell out of this.” It was instant commitment. I had zero reasons to second guess myself. I knew I could do it and I wanted it. And what was most motivating was knowing that I had a team behind me that would push and fight like hell to maintain the lead time that I gave us.
When the announcer counted down and sent us on our way I took the lead when we got out of the park. I had no idea where we were going, so I turned and asked, “Does anyone know where the hell we’re going?!” Everyone laughed and said, “No, we’re following you!” Thankfully a guy pulled up the leg route on his phone and guided us through the first two turns. I remembered the rest of the route after that. After the first couple miles on Trinity, the 10 or so of us had settled into our respective paces. Three of us were at the front and had a significant lead on the rest of the pack.
We hit a red light at MLK Blvd. and my two competitors darted out between cars and kept the pace going north on Trinity to the UT campus. I got stuck at the light for what felt like an eternity and I could hear the other teams coming up behind me quickly. When the coast was clear and the light changed to green, I bolted to catch up with the two leaders. I was frustrated with the situation, but I didn’t let it get me down. I ran fast and was able to catch the first two guys in relatively short order. I decided to settle in right behind them and draft a little while. I made sure they knew I was directly behind them and I pushed them.
We made the turnaround at the campus and started back south on the downhill. That’s when I decided I was going to start making them work. I took the lead again and decided I was going to hold it for the rest of the leg. I took a deep breath, thanked the air for being 55-degrees, and I sped up. I heard them having to work behind me, so I kept making them work until I just couldn’t hear them anymore.
And I never looked back. And there was no one in sight behind me after I reached the exchange and Shawn started running the second leg of the race.
We charged on, day and night. In the afternoon we started passing people from the 4 a.m. wave and we just kept truckin’.
While it’s not official yet, I think we came in 5th place overall. 4th if the race determines that one of the teams cheated. The four teams that beat us were elites. Our team’s not elite. We’re just a bunch of Coast Busters.