It’s become an unintentional tradition to race the Run By The Creek 5K & 10K every other year. Since starting a paying job at Austin Runners Club this summer, my racing has taken a backseat to supporting the running community. Today I raced what has become one of my favorite local races. Untrained.
Today’s goals were:
A: Run how I felt
B: Podium my age group or win Masters
C: Break 37 minutes
D: Win the whole thing
I felt good, excited, and nervous at the same time this morning after getting out of bed. Usually I’m not nervous on race day. I always tell my athletes, “You can only control so much. Control what you can.” So I embraced the anxiety and accepted it as simply the way that I was feeling. The anxiety was good. It meant I had expectations of myself.
There were some other “seasoned” runners in the starting corral, so I knew there might be a race for Goal B. There were a lot of high school kids, probably coming off cross country season, so Goal D stayed at the bottom of the list.
The gun went off and we piled out. After the first half mile I looked at my watch and had already settled nicely into the Goal C pace. I revisited Goal A and decided I could hang there for 5 more miles. I knew I’d pay for it at the 5k mark, but I also knew that over the course of 10 years I’ve been learning to deal with the discomfort.
I hit the 5k split at 18:29. I could do it.
And that’s when I noticed how quiet it had become. I was out front. All alone. I’d outrun the footfalls behind me.
That’s when Goal D moved up. I knew the last 3/4 of a mile were uphill. I’d still try to break 37 minutes, but I’d try harder to break the tape.
It’s odd, the sounds you think you hear when you know there’s someone behind you, but you don’t know how far. I thought I could hear footfalls. But I couldn’t tell if they were echos of my own. Or something completely different. Like hammering in a barn in a pasture near the course. Or my heartbeat in my ears.
With two miles to go I couldn’t start backing down. I didn’t want to look back. If I couldn’t see second place, that would mean I would let myself back down, and I’d pay for that in the last mile.
I asked a volunteer at the 1.5 mile aid station, “how far back is he?”
“He’s way back there.”
I could dial it back, or I could add some distance between us.
The hill added 15 seconds to my last half mile pace and it hurt.
I didn’t break 37 minutes, but I broke the tape. My first 10k to win overall.
And the best part? Being with these three friends at the end who all podiumed in their respective divisions and age groups. Look at those grins.
I love this damn sport.