Last Sunday I ran the Shelter Island 5k. I’d looked at the results from the previous couple years and thought I had a chance at winning. What I didn’t realize was that the same kid had won the last two years. Before the race, I was talking about my sub-16 goal and my friend pointed him out and said “If you want to run fast, follow him. He won the last two years.”
I didn’t even start on the starting line. There were too many people up front so I was probably 2nd or 3rd row. When the gun went off, the defending champ took off like a bat out of hell. I was slightly boxed in by two women who I never saw on the starting line. I’m still confused how that happened. So I had to pick up the pace to get clear of the field and start chasing. A lot of people went out fast in this race. I looked at my watch and saw 4:50/mi staring me in the face about 200m into the race. My goal pace was 5:08/mi so I decided I had to let them go and run my own race. There’s nothing I can do if a bunch of 15 minute guys show up. Turns out, they were pretenders, rabbiting the start. I settled into a nice pace in the 5:0-somethings and started passing folks. Within a half mile I passed all but the defending champion and was gaining ground. He had quite a lead on me, I didn’t know what he was capable of.
I went through the first mile in 5:06, although the volunteer called 5:04 and the leader was definitely sub-5. 5:06, perfect I thought, albeit a little intimidated. That’s the fastest mile I’ve ever run in a race longer than a mile. I breathed deeply and continued chasing. His lead was slowly being shaved down as I pressed ahead. I was pushing, but still controlled. At mile 2 I was about 20m behind and closing. 5:12 by my watch, still right on sub-16 pace. I realized I just needed to suck it up for the last mile to get my sub-16 goal. I think Shelter Island is ever so slightly uphill going to the turnaround, but it was an out and back and I was thankful to see the finish line on the other side of the street. It makes the distance left measureable. We hit the turnaround and came back. I looked at my watch and noticed the pace had slipped to 5:30 without the effort level really falling. At this point I was racing and not running for time, so I picked it up a little until I caught his shoulder. I caught him with a half mile to go.
His breathing sounded labored, but so did mine. I was running pretty high on the effort level. I could hear cheers and encouragement from runners passing on the other side of the street, but I was afraid to look and waste energy. It took a lot of focus to keep pushing it. I felt my form folding so I concentrated on a high turnover. At about a quarter mile to the finish, he dropped off my shoulder slightly, so I hammered it hoping to open a gap. Knowing he’s a high school kid, I figured his kick might be as good as mine and I would rather not test it. I kept pushing, wondering if he was keeping pace. At mile 3 I turned to look to see how hard I’d have to kick and he was far behind. I knew I’d won. I saw the finish line ahead with the timer already counting to 16 minutes. So I sprinted in hoping for a PR. I crossed the finish line in 16:21, with the defending champ 12 seconds behind me.
I was pretty physically spent. Chasing him down pushed me pretty hard. We must’ve slowed on the 3rd mile because my watch showed 5:33. I was disappointed at the split, knowing I was on pace to break 16:00 (which was my original goal). But you can’t be upset when you win the race. I had a big smile on my face once I realized I had it in the bag. And even better, I was the first one to get the champagne brunch.
Unfortunately not only did I miss sub-16, I missed my PR too! I’ve run 16:19 twice in the past. It would’ve been hilarious if I’d run it again. The course was pretty flat, I just blew it on the last mile. I haven’t been doing any 5k pace work in the last 2 months so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ll take another crack at it in December at the Bumble Bee Foods 5k. Maybe I’ll do some 1k repeats before then to prime the handle so to speak.
Shelter Island 5k, 1st Place. 16:21.