And the Streak Continues – The Big Red Shoe 5K.

The only known picture in existence of me winning a race. UNC indoor intramurals, 800 meters, circa 1986.

About a week and a half ago, Charlotte Running Club’s most improved runner, Chad Crockford (or as he’s known in Salisbury, Chad Crawford), sent me an email.  See Chad knows that I’ve been looking for a race that I could win.  Not my age group.  Not the master’s division.  Win, overall, as in ‘the winner’.  I want to be able to make this same phone call, the one Bart Yasso (about the same age at the time that I am now) made to a friend:

“I won the Smoky Mountain Marathon!” I said.
“You won your age group?” he asked.
“No, the race.”
“What do you mean you won the race?”
“I was the guy behind the cop car.  They call that the overall winner.”
(excerpt from My Life On The Run, by Bart Yasso, with Kathleen Parrish)

The thing about this little mini-quest (the big quest being to qualify for the Boston Marathon, of course) that drives me so crazy is that I’ve never won a road race.  Even in my prime, back in the day, when I was relatively fast (faster, fast-ish) and ran sub-17 (and if my memory serves me correctly, even low-16’s a few times) 5K times, I never won on the roads.  Even on my best day.  There was a guy, John Peterson, who was the Jordan Kinley of our time – he simply did not lose local races.  Again, if I’m recalling this right, John ran low to mid 15-minute 5K’s.   So even at my peak, I came in second.

Last year, when I struggled to break 21 minutes, the thought of winning a race was a complete pipe dream.  But this year, I’ve improved considerably, thanks in large part to the coaching advice of  Mark Hadley, and now I’m consistently running under 19:30.  I’ve seen several race results where the winner ran slower.

So Chad, looking to help me with this dream of mine, emailed me with some information on a race, the Big Red Shoe 5K, that was taking place this morning.  Chad’s email contained this quote from Karin Helmbrecht, one of the race organizers, “The good news is since it is still small, it’s a great race to place in. I looked at the times for last year and the winner finished in 20:54. This year the first female and male runners receive a free pair of sneakers from Omega Sports.”  20:54?!?!  Are you picking up on this?  Did you catch that part last paragraph where I said I was consistently under 19:30?  And free shoes?!?  That’s like a $100 value!  I mean if I was a collegiate athlete, that’s the kind of thing that would get me in trouble with the NCAA.  And with 4 or 5 other races in the local area today, the running talent pool was spread out, with most of the fastest runners running in the biggest local race, the Hog Jog.  Sold – I signed up for the Big Red Shoe.

Yesterday, taking a page from the Kevin Ballantine strategy book, I ran the Big Red Shoe course.  Twice.  I wanted to make sure that I knew it, thereby avoiding any disastrous directional mishaps like the one that occurred in the Run Ballantyne 10K.  I memorized every turn and was excited at how flat and fast the course was.

Last night, I kept checking the Big Red Shoe Facebook page.  I didn’t recognize anyone as being exceptionally fast.  But then Théoden posted on Facebook and asked everyone what they were running this weekend.  A guy I didn’t know, Tom Ricks, posted, “Big Red Shoe 5K. Might be pushing a baby jogger. Goal w/o baby jogger is 19:00, goal w/ baby jogger is 20:30. We’ll see.”  I got a little worried but I told myself, “Don’t panic.  Maybe he’ll push the baby jogger.  OR maybe 19:00 is a really aggressive goal and you beat him anyway.  OR maybe you go sub-19 and beat him.”  But I was concerned – there was a picture on Tom’s Facebook page of him running a 3:13 marathon, on a hilly Thunder Road course.  He was for real.

This morning, everyone mingled around the start.  I spotted a tall, thin, athletic looking guy wearing a Charlotte Running Club shirt.  I thought that must be Tom.  Then as we lined up at the start, he introduced himself.  Tom Ricks.  The guy to beat.

The starter gave us the ‘Runners to your mark, get set, go!’ and I jumped into the lead, taking off too fast, as usual.  Some tall, lanky, teenager passed me immediately but he had a pretty awkward gait that led me to believe he’d come back to me quickly, and he did.  But Tom comfortably passed me about a quarter mile in.  He wasn’t breathing hard.  I was.  Damn.

I settled into my standard 5K pace and watched as Tom casually gapped me.  Then, before the mile mark, another guy cruised past and it was pretty clear that he was no poser either.  All I could do now was push and hope for a miracle.  But a miracle never came and I started glancing back occasionally to see where fourth place was.  He looked to be safely back so my new goal became third place.  It was the one goal I met.

Tom won in 18:09 (turns out his 19:00 was a conservative goal).  Second place, Huey Inman, finished in 18:29, then me, a distant third in 19:24.

I chatted with Tom afterwards.  I offered to trade prizes – my third place Grease tickets for his free shoes.  Unfortunately, Tom has already seen Grease.  So I’ll make the same offer to any fans of the blog.  Whaddya say?


8 Responses to “And the Streak Continues – The Big Red Shoe 5K.”

  1. caitlin Says:

    I ran with Tom last week…Great guy. He’s a Wake grad and I actually met him and his wife randomly at Yoforia. I got an idea on how to try to beat him – start training with him!

  2. Paul Says:

    nice third place Allen! nice -tash in the pic too!

  3. Evan Kluttz Says:

    Bald Head Island has a 5K -don’t know what time of year it is run, but it might be worth checking out. If not, you could always dominate a fun run before ANY 5K. Nice ‘stache by the way – did you ever direct adult movies? Hope you are doing well.


    • Allen Strickland Says:

      Hey man, good to hear from you! You can make fun of that ‘stache all you want but didn’t you have that exact same ‘stache in ’86? Didn’t everybody in Rowan and Cabarrus county have that same ‘stache in ’86? Maybe it was just a Cabarrus county thing. Cabarrus and Hazard.

      Gotta get you back into the running scene. Much safer/easier than the basketball scene! I messed up my knee in ’04, had surgery, and officially retired from basketball. Sticking to running from here on out.

      Hope things are going well – tell everybody I said ‘Hello’!

  4. Kay Says:

    My congratulations for third and commiserations that Tom decided not to run with the stroller after all. Although, at least you know that if he had you still would likely have not broken the tape!

    Love the 1986 photo. My first running win goes back to 1981.

    I think I made it look effortless, and I do believe that is a pair of brown leather MaryJanes that I am wearing. Maybe you should take notes. 😉

    Thanks for dropping by my blog the other day.


  5. Adam Mayes Says:

    I think the mustache helped you back in the day. 🙂

  6. Pit Stop Says:

    Maybe it’s time to bring back the -stache and all the magic it brings!!

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