I ran the United Run For The Hungry 10k on Thanksgiving. It’s a race held in downtown San Diego and since I ran Father Joe’s two years ago, I figured I’d try something new. I looked at the results from the last couple years and figured I had a chance at winning, but wasn’t expecting much. Originally I was hoping for a PR, but the few weeks before the race left me tired and rundown so I decided I’d make it a glorified workout. I was shooting to run in the 34s, but I wasn’t going to kill myself. I was also warned that the course isn’t as flat as one would think.
I ran into Juan and Miguel before the race, they seem to show up at every 5k-10k I run lately. They both ran the 5k. They also pointed out a triathlete on the starting line and told me he was fast. When the gun went off, this was the guy who immediately pulled ahead. I tried to stay under control and on pace (5:30) gapping the field immediately. It took about a mile, but I finally reeled him in, and just as I’m coming up on his shoulder I hear THE TROLLEY BELLS in front of us and the gates come down. We stop. Seriously. I look over to the bike cop leading the race who is waiting with us and plead “Can’t you do anything about this?” Meanwhile the rest of the field catches up and waits with us. 35 or so seconds later, the gates come up and we get to continue the race. But now it’s a completely different field. I’m sitting in 3rd or 4th behind new leaders. Within a mile I decide to take the lead. I quickly create a gap and am leading by about 10 seconds.
Leading so early in a race is a dangerous move. You could burn yourself out trying to create that lead. It’s also easier being the hunter than the hunted. I always have a big kick for the guy in front of me, but less so when I’m the one in front. Once I got up front, the competitive juices take over and my thoughts of running a glorified workout take second to thoughts of victory. The leader always gets a lot of cheers from the spectators, which is nice. And you can hear them cheer for the 2nd place runner, so it gives you an idea of the gap without looking.
This race is a loop course, repeating the same 5k loop twice. This means there’s lapped runners on the way to the finish. Matter of fact, they get in the way. Especially the ones walking with their dogs. The cop nearly hit a walker who wandered in front of him as he tried to pass on the left side of the street. This complicated things including my ability to see how big my lead was. This wasn’t a flat course. There were a number of long slight inclines (especially on Market St) that make you feel crappy. It’s not enough to break you, but enough to make you feel the pace and wonder how much breathing room you have. Then you get a big downhill right before the finish, so you can finish in style. It’s not quite as cool as the Carlsbad 5000 sled finish, but it helps when you’re dogging it at the end. Once I hit Market St, I knew it was in the bag. I looked when I turned the corner onto 13th and knew it would take a miracle to catch me. As I ran down 13th I started to relax and smile and enjoy it. As I approached the finish, few people recognized that I was winning the 10k because I was lapping so many people. Traffic was thick! I came through the finish in 35:21 with the second place runner a dozen or so seconds behind me. Subtract the 36 second wait for the trolley and you’ve got my watch time, which was 34:45. Not a bad run, especially since I didn’t go all out.
The 5k went off about a half an hour later. This meant I had a very long wait for the awards ceremony. I wandered around the parking lot near the finish and ran into some people I knew. That was nice considering none of my friends were running this race. Once again, I win a race and nobody is there to see it! Karyn was in New Jersey running her own Turkey Trot, so no dice there. The 5k had a pretty tight 3 way finish. About 2 hours after my race finished, they finally started the awards. The awards were pretty good, I got a $50 gift certificate to Roy’s (which I’ve never eaten at) so I’m looking forward to that. I also got a month membership to PureFitness, but I don’t know if I’ll even use that. I just won a race, don’t use it to sell me a membership, thanks. Once I got my award, I had to book it home to get to my grandparents for Thanksgiving. Traffic to Orange County wasn’t pretty!
Two wins in a month. Who would’ve thought? Now that I’ve won a few.. it’s not as exciting as you’d think it would be. The first time is the best. But with no one to celebrate with at the finish, you can’t really share your joy with anyone. To be honest, I’d rather set a big PR than win a race. In the future if I’m going to win, I hope it’s because of a really fast time, not because of light competition.