The Bunny Run

Pretty cool logo for a little race

I recently decided to focus on speed between now and the start of my next marathon training camp.  When I found out that the Concord Parks and Rec Department was putting on the Bunny Run 5K on Saturday, I jumped all over it and signed up.  Those guys did a really good job organizing last summer’s United Way 10K so I expected them to do the same for this 5K.  And I was right:  flat, fast course; nice, technical tees; great awards, etc.

Laura and I were running a little late on Saturday morning as we pulled into the parking lot of Concord’s Les Myers park at about 8:05.  The race was scheduled to start at 8:30.  We finally found a parking spot after a few minutes driving around, then scrambled over to the registration tent and panicked when we saw the long line.  There was nothing we could do but get in it and hope things went smoothly. 

While we waited, I pointed to a young couple that ran by and said to Laura, ‘There’s your women’s winner, Danielle Walther.  And that might be the men’s winner, Chad Crockford.’  Then I spied an even faster runner, Mike Beigay, warming up nearby.  I told Laura, ‘Oops, nope, that might be the men’s winner, Mike Beigay.’

We finally got our packets, rushed back to the car, pinned on our bib numbers, and ran over just in time to line up at the start.  I noticed various other Charlotte road racing mainstays, including fast master Bobby Aswell. 

A nearby guy, noticing my CRC singlet, asked me if I was in the Charlotte Running Club.  When I answered ‘Yes’, he asked me if any other CRC folks were running today and what kind of times I thought they’d run.  I pointed out Danielle and Chad and then Mike, who had his kid in a stroller and was lining up in front.  The guy chatting with me introduced himself as Jason Rose as I told him, ‘That’s Mike Beigay.  He’ll break 18:00, even with pushing the stroller.’  Jason seemed a little skeptical.  (I was right and wrong about Mike – right that he would break 18:00, wrong in a sense because he broke 17:00. )

Jason asked me what I wanted to run and I said, ‘I’m going to try to break 20:00, but I’ve been training for a marathon so I haven’t really done any fast speed work.  I’m not sure how fast I can go right now.  We’ll see.’

The horn fired and we took off.  As always, I went out a little fast.  I knew I was too fast because, although I felt fine, I was right up there with Danielle and Bobby, two consistenly sub-19:00 5k runners – no way I’d be able to maintain that kind of speed.  I backed off.

I closed in on a big guy for a runner – he looked more like an NFL receiver than a distance runner – about 6’3″, 220.  I thought to myself, ‘I bet that’s Todd’, my friend Todd Hartung.  I deduced it was him because I know very few good distance runners his size.  As I squeezed by on the relatively narrow greenway trail, sure enough, it was Todd.  Normally I would have said something friendly, but not this time as I was too busy sucking wind.

I came through the first mile marker and the kid manning the stopwatch said, ‘5:55’.  ‘Not true’,  I thought – I was running pretty fast, but not quite that fast.  A little while later my Garmin beeped and I looked down to see 6:09 – that sounded more accurate.

I was right behind new running friend Kevin Ballantine, who Théoden had introduced to me at the Corporate Cup half a few weeks earlier.  Kevin beat me there by a couple of minutes, then proceeded to beat me by about 45 seconds or so at the Winter Flight 8K a couple of weeks later.  But I knew that at the Corporate Cup I wasn’t racing so much as I was running a marathon-pace training run.  And at the Winter Flight, I was sick with bronchitis.  Now that I was 100%, I thought I had a shot at beating Kevin, who was running his first 5K. 

I settled in a few paces back from Kevin.  I felt relatively comfortable despite the fast pace.  The course took us down the flat greenway adjacent to Branchview Avenue.  By the time we crossed the 2-mile marker, Kevin had pulled ahead by some 30 or 40 meters.  My Garmin beeped 6:42 for my second mile.  ‘Damn it, I always drop off too much’, I thought to myself as I tried to pick the pace back up.

We were headed back in on the out-and-back course when I heard Laura yell, ‘Go Allen!  You’ve got this – looking good!’  She sounded way too fresh – how could she put together that long sentence in the middle of a race?  I didn’t have the wind to yell anything in return so I just waved and continued to try to reel in Kevin.

A little past 2.5 miles, Kevin had lengthened his lead to the point where I realized that it was no longer realistic to catch him.  I tried to maintain pace in hopes of picking off a guy between Kevin and I. He looked back a couple of times which made me think I could get him, but while I closed the gap some, I could never quite manage to catch up.  (I later found out that guy was Mitchell Rippy.)

With less than a half mile to go, one of the frontrunners who had already finished, jogged back towards us as he ran his cool-down.  He called to me, ‘Looking good – you can still break 20:00’.  I believed him and pushed a little harder.

I tried to sprint up the only hill, albeit a small one, to the finish line.  I crossed and looked down at my watch which read 19:48.  Sweet.

I’d been struggling for a while with how to describe my good races.  People ask me, ‘Is that a PR?’ and I always have to answer, ‘No’ because I ran some relatively decent times (low-16’s for a 5K) back in the 80’s.  When I recently heard someone say ‘That’s my masters PR’ , I knew I had my way to describe my best, recent races.  So all day long on Saturday when people asked ‘Is that your PR?’, I merely answered, ‘That’s my masters PR.’

This was the first time I’d broken 20 minutes in a 5K since before I had knee surgery.  Shortly before the surgery in 2006, I ran a 19:42.  Some 4 years later and I’m finally back to where I was and I hope/I think I can get faster.

I won the 40-44 age group.  I found out later that the reason Laura was able to yell was that she had dropped off her usual race pace to run with her stepdad, and my pal, Ken.  With Laura’s support, Ken was able to run his own masters PR, 32:27, while placing third in the 70-74 age group. 

Todd came in second in our 40-44 age group, running a 20:20, and jokingly told me, ‘I won our age group here last year.  Thanks for showing up today, Allen.’  Mike, pushing the baby stroller, came in second overall in 16:59.  (That’s just sick.)  Bobby won the 45-49 male age group in 18:15.  Chad won the 25-29 age group in 18:25, while my new friend Jason Rose came in second in 20:49.  Danielle won overall for the women in 18:47.  And Kevin won the 30-34 age group in 19:16.

All-in-all, it was a fun, and fast, Saturday.  In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be striving to set some more masters PR’s on some other fun, fast Saturdays.

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