Last night, I raced the hilly FoxPoint Sunset 5-Miler along the tree-lined roads of historic Newington, NH. It’s one of my favorite races of the year. The course keeps everyone honest and the volunteers are genuinely enthusiastic about putting on a great event for the running community. The post-race barbecue alone is worth the price of registration.
After warming up for a mile or two with my 12-year-old son I joined the rest of the runners outside the town cemetery. Minutes later, hundreds of runners bowed their heads in remembrance of those who were lost on September, 11th 2001. Then, the students of Newington Elementary produced goosebumps by singing our national anthem.
Then it was, “Go, go, go!” And we were off and running. The first mile flew by in just under 5:50 and I knew I was going to pay the price for a fast start over the next four miles. I was sitting in 9th place and running beside the top women runner. Someone behind me joked that I couldn’t let a girl pass me. I told her that I wished I could run like a girl and not an aging masters runner.
I lost touch with her over mile two and found myself in eleventh place overall as I passed the second mile marker in 12:12. Things were about to get even uglier as the hills of mile three and four would show me no mercy. For the next two miles, I ran entirely alone with only occasional glimpses of the two runners ahead of me up in the distance. Each time I passed a group of spectators I strained me ears to hear how long they paused before cheering on the next runner. I was truly alone and in the middle of a huge gap.
The last mile was an internal battle. I pressed on knowing that I had third place in my age group all locked up. I really had nobody behind me, but knew I had a shot a decent time if I pushed it a bit longer. So, I attacked the last hill as if someone other than a woman pushing a baby stroller were racing me up the last hill. I finished under 32:00 and took solace in getting faster despite getting older.
A few minutes later, my son crested the hill. He took first in his age group and was delighted to receive praise from the adult runners who finished around him. As we walked down the hill to watch the other runners finish we caught sight of my wife pushing it up the hill to finish strong in under 40 minutes. We all enjoyed some watermelon, hamburgers, pizza, and desserts and watched the sun set over the fields of Newington’s town center. We chatted with friends, swapped race stories, and generally enjoyed the rush of endorphins and smiles that come with a tough race effort.
Reflecting on my race performance, I’ve decided that the space between the lead pack and the rest of the pack isn’t such a bad place. Anything is possible.