Retro Race

A fun race, a worthy cause, and a great venue.

I knew I was going to race today.  I just didn’t know where.

All week long I tried to decide which 5K to run, the Run for Peace 5K or the Davidson Day Care Dash 5K.  The Davidson race had the geographical advantage, being only a few miles away.  A couple of my friends and fellow Charlotte Running Club and Davidson Area Running team buddies, Chad Randolph and Todd Hartung, were both running in Davidson so I wanted to run there.

But the Run for Peace held the sentimental edge since it was being held at McAlpine Park in Charlotte.  I ran our high school sectional cross-country meet there in 1983 and I’ve felt a special tie to the park since.

Ultimately, the deciding factor became my planned long run on Sunday.  I needed to quickly recover from Saturday’s race if I was to have a successful Sunday ran.  McAlpine’s soft dirt trails lead to fast recovery.  Run for Peace won out.

This morning I was on my own as Laura wasn’t feeling particularly well.  I was out the door by 6:30 in order to make it to the park in time to register.  This race uniquely offered 2 start times – the men at 8:00 and the women at 8:30.  Fortunately, unlike my last 2 races, I had an uneventful trip to the park and found my way to the start without issue.  I registered and warmed up with plenty of time to spare.  A band featuring an Elvis impersonator fired off a trumpet blast at 8:00 and we of the male persuasion took off.

I had quickly surveyed the group and spotted 3 or 4 fast-looking guys, most of them younger.  I didn’t see any of Charlotte’s well-known, uber-fast runners – no Jordan Kinleys, no Aaron Linzes, and no Jay Holders were there.  I briefly entertained the notion that I might have a shot of winning.  Briefly, as 2 fast kids in there late-teens to early-twenties bolted ahead of the crowd.  No choice for this elder statesman but to let them go.

2 young guys led, followed by 3 or 4 other teenagers, a guy about my age, and then me.  I locked on to the other forty-something and made sure he didn’t gap me early.  We were cruising at a fast clip, about 5:30 pace, so I gambled that my fellow 4+ decade pal couldn’t sustain this pace and I backed off a bit.  He soon followed suit, even as we blew by 2 kids posing as leaders but going out too fast.  I trailed my age group competitor by 20 or 30 meters as I crossed the first mile in 6:15, a tad fast but manageable.

Not long after the first mile we came upon McAlpine’s only hill, but  it’s a pretty nasty one, short yet very steep.  I bridged the distance between me and other-40ish-guy almost instantaneously.  Somebody had been neglecting their hill work.  I blew past him on the downhill, the 20-30 meters erased in about a minute.  But someone came with me and now was only a few feet behind.

The mysterious stranger stayed close as we made our first lap around the McAlpine duck pond.  He began to go past me when we entered the woods.  I reached into my dusty old bag of cross-country tricks.  Of late, I’d almost forgotten that I used to be a bit of a mean runner, especially in cross-country.  You know how you’re supposed to move out of the way for the faster guy?  Screw that – I make him (or her) earn it.  As the unknown runner tried to pass me on the left, I subtly shifted in that direction, eventually cutting off his escape route.  He backed off.

As we approached a large mud puddle, I knew that I, directly in front of him, was blocking his ability to see it.  At the last second, I skirted to the right, leaving mystery man only 2 options, plow ahead through this impromptu body of water and get soaking wet, or slam on brakes.  He chose the latter, giving me a few yards advantage.

But only moments later, he caught and passed me.  I was a little miffed to discover that he had a head of completly white hair.  Getting passed by Lute Olson.  Or was it Bobby Cremins?  Whoever,  I passed him back.  Then he passed me back.  Then I him.  We went back and forth like this.

As we neared our second loop of the pond, and final quarter mile of the course, I had an epiphany.  Why keep up this inane back and forth game?  Let him stay in front – just don’t lose touch.  If  I can’t outsprint Lute Olson or Bobby Cremins, I don’t deserve the spot.  I let him go but not too far.  He accelerated slowly and I stayed right with him.

With about 50 meters to go, I blew past him, quickly enough so that he had no chance to respond.  In the process, I nearly caught one of the kids – the teenager finished in 19:40, with me a foot behind in 19:41, then Lute Cremins in 19:42. 

Afterwards, I asked Bobby Olson (whose name is actually Michael Murphy, according to Queen City Timing)  how old he was.  “56”, he responded.  Wow, my hat’s off to him.  I hope I’m that fast when I’m 56 but that’s highly doubtful since I’m only barely that fast now.

After I got home, I said to Laura, “In what other sport will you find a 14, 43, and 56-year-old battling it out?”  I thought it was pretty cool, although if I had my druthers, I’d have beaten them both by 3 or 4 minutes.

I finished first in the 40 – 44 year-old age group, and seventh overall.  I was pleasantly surprised by the award, a $30 gift card to Omega Sports.  I’ll be picking up some nice running attire there soon -something, anything that might help me hold off the next 50-something to pass me in the last quarter mile.

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