I haven’t competed in a 10k event very often as in a manner of speaking I kind of fear the 5 – 10k disciplines. I have heard it described that running these races is like running on the verge of death. I go all out and try to hang on for dear life. In the 1970’s my father drove a Pinto. It was not a car built for speed and I was convinced that when my dad drove down the highway as the car shook with effort that something, maybe the passenger side mirror, was going to fall off the car or the car itself would explode. Likewise when I race a 10k I’m convinced that a similar fate will befall me if I keep pushing what for me are the upper echelons of my speed.
But the last time I did race a 10k, in April 2012, I had a very interesting experience, particulalry pre-race. It was a cold damp morning and many of us huddled in a Running Room to guard against the inclement conditions and to ready our minds and bodies for the race. Sitting on a bench and trying to zone out by reading a magazine I was a little miffed at the constant chatter that was around me. As you read my story you’ll discover that as opposed to the constant chatter hampering my preparations it would actually inspire me to new heights.
N.B. I would later realize that the man identified as “Kenyan” was none other than newly crowned Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir — 6 days removed from his triumph!
So there I am on a bench in the Running Room. Taking shelter from the cold before this morning’s Toronto Yonge Street 10K race. As I flip through the pages of my running magazine, familiar faces appear before me, not just in the mag, but on the very bench I’m occupying. Reid Coolsaet, Canada’s top marathoner is there. He’s talking with a top Kenyan runner.
Reid: Have you figured out your fall schedule yet?
Kenyan: Not yet, my country might still want me for the Olympics.
Reid: Ya, I heard Mutai dropped out.
Kenyan: Yes. This is the problem with selecting your Olympic team a year before…..Chicago wants me, New York wants me, Toronto wants me, but…..
Reid: Toronto won’t have the budget for you.
Kenyan: I placed 2nd earlier this year so if I can win another (marathon) I can probably be #1.
Reid: That’s a $500,000 bonus for you.
Kenyan: It depends (name obscured) has already won once and if he wins the Olympics, then he’s number 1.
Reid: Well let me know and I’ll take him out for you in London. But I want a cut.
The mood is familiar and jovial and I’ve somehow crashed the party.
As I take to the line, I look for the 40 minute pace bunny. My goal: to finish this race in under 40 minutes. Given that my previous best is 45:49 and I’ve never run a 4 minute kilometre before, let alone 10 of them in a row, my expectations may’ve been a little unrealistic. But that’s never stopped me before.
The 40 minute pace bunny is here because he just came off of Monday’s Boston Marathon and his legs are still stiff. As the gun goes off, I notice Boston guy — stiff legs and all — is sprinting ahead of me, effortlessly. I pick up the pace and pass him. My first kilometre is done in 3:56.1…..my very first sub-4 minute kilometre. But it isn’t enough. Boston guy with his pace bunny ears passes me shortly thereafter. And I never see him again until the race is over. In all, I had my first 3 sub-4 minute kilometres…..kilometre 1 in 3:56.1; kilometre 6 in 3:56.8; and kilometre 10 in 3:54.5. I got killed in kilometre 8 with a 4:28.8 (WTH?!?!).
The net result, I finished in 41:18.5, 4:30.5 faster than I’ve ever been over this distance. Overall I would finish in the top 6% of all runners. The top 12% of all males. And the top 13% of men in my age group. Am I happy? Sort of. Mostly. But I want more.
Let’s see what I can do from here.