Running With (Or Near) Charlotte’s Fastest


The Irwin Belk Complex features, one of, if not the, nicest tracks in the Charlotte area.

The other night, I got a chance to run with some members of the Charlotte Running Club.  Most of the time, my schedule doesn’t allow me an opportunity to run with these guys – I usually go to work too early to make the morning runs, I stay too late for the evening runs, or a given day’s CRC runs simply don’t align with my training plan.  The biggest obstacle preventing me from running with the club is that most of the CRC folks are just too damn fast for me to be able to keep up.

But when I read this week’s CRC schedule, I saw an opportunity to run with the gang.  A group of CRC runners was meeting at the Johnson C. Smith track at 6:00 p.m. to run mile intervals.  This fit perfectly into my training schedule as a) I could shoot right over there after work b) I was scheduled to run intervals too – what better place than a collegiate track? and c)  I didn’t need to try to keep up with the speedsters – I could do my own thing in the outside lanes.

I dropped Aaron Linz (the chairman) and Caitlin Chrisman (vice-chairman) an email to make sure it was okay that the old, slow guy showed up and they both encouraged me to come out.  That’s one of the things I love about the Charlotte Running Club – while they have most of Charlotte’s fastest runners in their ranks, they also welcome those of us that are not so fast but share their passion for running.

So right after work, I shot down I-77 to Johnson C. Smith.  After my usual directionally-challenged-never-sure-where-to-park-in-an-urban-setting-where-my-car-might-get-towed quest, I parked on a nearby street and jogged over to the track and met up with the club members.  As usual, Aaron, Caitlin, and Jay Holder (club marketing director) greeted  me cheerfully and we, along with the other 10 or so club members, set out on a warm-up run.

As always, any time I run with these folks, I’m super self-conscious of how I slow I am.  My goal is to just sort of fit in, to not draw attention to myself as ‘the old slow guy’.

We didn’t go out exceedingly fast (about 7:45/mile), but we were certainly going a bit faster than I normally would if I were warming up by myself.  We ran fast enough that my breathing was heavier than usual so early in a workout.  And as it was much colder than I had anticipated, the cold air affected my breathing  much more than I would have expected.  About a quarter mile into our warm-up, I started wheezing (adding to the stereotype of the old guy, I’m asthmatic).  First I got mad and then a little worried because I don’t normally carry an inhaler anymore since I can’t remember the last time I had an attack.  What perfect timing.

It’s bad enough to be the ‘old, slow guy’ – I sure as hell didn’t want to be the ‘old wheezing guy’.  I tried to avoid drawing attention to myself by easing my way to the very back of the pack and by attempting to wheeze as quietly as possibly.  But I was sucking wind hard and I began feeling light-headed. I kept thinking ‘Please don’t pass out.  Please don’t pass out’.

When we got back to the JCSU track (an incredibly nice track, by the way), Jordan Kinley was warming up on the infield.  Great – I have a chance to meet arguably the fastest distance runner in Charlotte face-to-face, a guy that could possibly run in the Olympics one day,  and I won’t be able to speak because I’m too busy wheezing.  He walked by and I mustered up enough oxygen to say, ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’  He responded ‘Hey, good.  How are you?’ just before hooking up with the rest of the CRC gang and taking off for their first repeat.  Still trying to catch my breath, I jogged in an outside lane.

I’ve had more than a few asthma attacks in my time, so I knew from experience that if I could just take it easy for a bit, my lungs should eventually (mostly) recover, and they (mostly) did.  Yet I never breathed comfortably – it felt very labored for the rest of the workout.  But I really wanted to get in my mile repeat workout, hopefully without passing out in front of many of Charlotte’s elite runners, so I took it easy until my breathing evened out to something approaching normal.  After jogging a little over a quarter on the track, the wheezing, while not dissipating completely, let up enough so that I felt like it was relatively safe to start my first ‘fast’ mile.

I labored.  I glanced at my watch initially and tried to ease into what Coach Hudson’s workout called for, 10K pace, which is roughly 7:00/mile pace for me.  I didn’t check the watch again because, even with the JCSU stadium lights on, it was dark enough to make reading the Garmin too difficult.

Jordan and the CRC guys FLEW by me.  When they passed me, it wasn’t like in a road race where someone eases by you and gradually pulls away – they zipped past me and in a manner of seconds were 100, 200, 300 meters ahead.  My buddy Bill came up with a great analogy – it was like being passed on the interstate by a cop chasing a speeder travelling over 100 miles an hour.  It was ridiculous how fast these guys went past.

For many of the repeats that I witnessed, it looked to me like Jordan was waiting a few seconds after the CRC guys took off before he started.  Then he would calmly, methodically, reel them in and cruise past – very impressive stuff.  These were not joggers he was blowing past – these were, in most cases, 2:40ish and better marathoners. 

The highlight of the night, for me, came during one particular repeat.   Aaron (who had just run a 50K (31-mile) ultramarathon only 3 days earlier) sprinted stride-for-stride with the 10-year (or so) younger Jordan.  This was something I’d never get to see in a local race – 2 of Charlotte’s best going head-to-head, stride-for-stride, as I would typically be miles behind somewhere.  But on the track, I was mere feet away as they jetted past.  Aaron passed Jordan and said something to him as he went by.  It may have been encouragement, friendly chatter, or smack talk but the curious side of me wants to know.  I should ask one of them what was said.

But back to the elderly guy in the outside lane.  As I struggled with what felt like uber-slow mile repeats, I naturally assumed that my breathing difficulties had derailed me – I thought my splits must have been exceedingly slower than what the workout called for.  There was nothing I could do about it but keep gutting it out – the old, slow, wheezy guy slogging along in the outside lanes.

After a bit, Jordan and all the CRC guys disappeared, I’m assuming off to run their cool-downs somewhere.  Only Billy Shue and I remained to continue our respective workouts.  Then suddenly the stadium lights went out and Billy and I were left in the dark.  I had no desire to run in the pitch black so as soon as I crossed the start/finish line, I retrieved my sweats, cheered out ‘Good job Billy!’ as he ran by, and then hit the road.

Here’s the kicker.  I hadn’t seen my splits while at the track.  When I got home and loaded up the Garmin data, I fully expected my mile splits to be somewhere between 7:30-7:40.  I was shocked when I read the times: 7:01, 6:58, and 6:57 (I missed one of  the split times by pressing the wrong button on my watch – I’m guessing it’s in the same range as the other 3). These met the requirements of my workout and were relatively fast if you consider that I was practically holding my breath while running them.  To see the CRC crew breezing by me and to find out I was running low to sub-7’s tells me that the Charlotte Running Club (and Jordan Kinley) ran even faster than I had expected.  They were cruising at sub-5:30 and faster range.  I’m guessing Jordan may even have some sub-5’s in there.  He usually posts his workout splits on his blog – I’m looking forward to seeing his times.  Crazy fast!

Long story short, I was depressed during the drive home.  I was beating myself up for being old, slow, and infirm.  But when I got home and read my splits, I was pleasantly surprised.  Yeah, I’m not going to make the Olympic team.  But more and more, it’s looking like I might be able to break a 3:21 marathon.

Latest Weight Stats
Date: 1/11/2010 
Weight :163.4
Body Fat: 15.1%


3 Responses to “Running With (Or Near) Charlotte’s Fastest”

  1. jordan kinley Says:

    nice workout allen. dropping sub-7 min miles while wheezing is impressive. tuesday night was fun for me. it’s always nice to have bodies around because it keeps the workout honest. i end up running better and more consistent even if just one person is there spectating or running around the track. i look forward to more workouts this winter/spring.



  2. aaron Says:

    My comments mirror jordan’s! Truly, the more folks out there of all abilities, the more excited I get and encouragement we can provide each other. Please, never, never feel uncomfortable out there. Some folks have incredible god given talent but if you are working harder than they are out there, I am more impressed with what you are doing. Enjoyed the recap. Made me laugh reading your recount. Let’s just say I had some fun poking Jordan througout the workout. If you are the new guy out for the workout, I am gonna let u know no matter who you are. I don’t think he reacted to my smack as he is a bigger man that than that. I was trying to get him to engage but he is just so damn fast, he was gonna catch me even if I said nothing so it wasn’t even necessary. I have not had any track in months so shooting off a quick last 800 on that mile was a BLAST! I look forward to summer as I am dropping down to the 5k and will be on the track more like back in the old days for me 🙂 There are few things in this world that give me as much satisfaction as rolling a fast couple laps on a track. I LOVE IT!

  3. aaron Says:

    great pix of the track and of course the bull! Love the bull! I like to point out he is all man every time we have a new visitor to the JCSU track.

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