The Concord United Way Run For Life 10K

Saturday, I headed back to my hometown to run a 10K.

With the Richmond Half Marathon only a week away, Saturday morning I opted to run the Concord United Way 10K instead of the Dowd half.  I wanted to run a race to use as tempo/speed work, but a half would be too much – I wouldn’t have sufficient time to recover before Richmond.  And I really didn’t want the all out sprint feel of a 5K.  A 10K was the Goldilocks distance – not too far, not too short,  not a sprint, not a grueling test of endurance.  Concord it was.

Laura and I got off to a late start and scrambled to get our act together in time.  We rolled into Les Myers park, the locale of the start, at about 8:10 for a race that started at 8:30.  I sprinted to the registration tent, grabbed my packet, hastily pinned my bib on, all askew, ripped off my sweats, and took off to get an abbreviated warm-up.

I figured this race would be pretty small.  After all, it was competing with one of Charlotte’s bigger road races.  Most of the area’s faster folks would be lining up in Charlotte.  So, yet again, thoughts of a possible victory crept into my head.  And once again, these dreams were dashed as soon as I saw Bobby Aswell run by.  But I was glad to see someone I knew – none of my other running pals were there.  With a lot of folks’ marathons looming on the horizon, very few of my buddies were racing this day.

At about 8:28, I trotted up to the starting line and stood near Bobby.  He and I chatted with another guy – I later found out his name was Dennis Livesay – about the course.  Dennis had the look of a serious runner, more competition, but he told us he was running the 5K.  So my race time strategy became the same as it has in quite a few previous races, “Try to keep up with Bobby”.  And while Bobby typically destroys me quite easily, he had just run a marathon a week before.  He hadn’t had time to completely recover.  I might have a shot of sneaking past him.

The starter signaled for us to begin and a half dozen or so folks shot out to the front.  One of them was Dennis, a couple were teenagers, and one was Bobby.  Keeping an eye on my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t setting myself up for an early crash-and-burn, I tried to get comfortable as I settled in a few paces behind Bobby while we made our way onto the Harold McEachern Greenway.

The greenway is a pleasant little paved trail with several wooden bridges along the course.  When I hit the first bridge, I nearly bit it, spinning out on the slippery wooden planks.  ‘Bridge ices before road’ popped into my head.  Note to self – be careful along the bridges.  Apparently Bobby’s shoes had better traction as his lead lengthened across each bridge.  I crossed the first mile marker in 6:14 with Bobby maybe 5 seconds ahead.

When the leaders reached the 5K turnaround, all of them, except Bobby, made the U-turn.  The 10K was now a 2-man race.  I got a little excited – it’s been a while since I was still in contention this deep into a race.  Even in The Big Red Shoe 5K, a race I entered thinking I had a legitimate shot at winning, I was significantly gapped by half a mile in and already knew at that point that I  was out of contention .  But here we were well over a mile in and I was only a few seconds behind the leader.

But Bobby continued to pull away.  As we exited the greenway, I found myself glancing back at the runner in third.  It was a kid who was well off the pace.  Barring disaster, I should at least be a lock for second.  I backed off the pace a little.

We made our way onto Union Street, Concord’s idyllic row of plantation-style homes.  My mind wandered a bit as I admired the pretty homes and lovely fall foliage.  My watch beeped and I glanced down at my second mile split.  6:55.  Shit.  Bobby had significantly gapped me while I was losing focus.  Then I heard a familiar voice scream “Go Allen!”  Laura, taking the day off from racing since she had a long training run scheduled for the next day, had run up to cheer me on.  I felt like a jerk for backing off and decided to push the pace.  I may crash later but what the hell, I might as well try and make a move.  I made a concerted effort to bridge the gap between Bobby and I.  Moments later I checked my third mile split, 6:22.  Better, but Bobby continued to pull away.

When Bobby made the turn off of Union, he glanced back.  I pulled out an old cross country trick – I staggered, intentionally losing form, and put on a grimace of agony.  The trick is to appear to struggle so that the guy in front of you will relax, figure he’s got this thing in the bag, and therefore back the pace down.  As soon as he turned forward again, I pushed on the gas.

At this point, we hit some significant hills.  I tried to relax going up, attempting to maintain form but not kill myself with the additional effort.  I saved the real effort for the downhills where I really sped up.  There was a nasty hill at mile 5 and this time I pushed hard, up and down.  At the bottom, I gagged and had to fight back the urge to vomit.  I now knew that if I lost, it wouldn’t be for lack of effort.

But through it all, Bobby maintained a solid lead, probably about a quarter mile as we neared the home stretch.  We re-entered the park and things got a little crazy.

Back in the park, we were now confined to the sidewalk.  The course took us down a very steep, but short, hill and then right back up in sight of the finish.  I followed what would appear to be the logical route to the finish, but the race director corrected my detour and yelled, “Back to the sidewalk!  Up that way!”  This circuitous route took me winding through a parking lot and back out of the park, then down the road, then back in to finish.  Bizarre, winding, and confusing – reminiscent of the Ada Jenkins course, yet even worse.  I wondered why the Concord race directors felt the need to change last year’s course – a perfect, flat, out and back one down scenic Union Street.

As I made my way back into the park, again, I could see 39-something on the clock.  I tried to sprint, knowing that a sub-40 gets you a first corral start at the Cooper River Bridge Run.  But I crossed in 40:14.

All in all, I had a good race.  I finished second overall, and I improved by nearly 2 minutes over my performance of only a week ago.  Plus,  I scored this sweet trophy:

Second best trophy I ever won. First is still the 2004 China Grove 5K age group trophy that looks like the Heisman.

It was a good day – I take no shame in losing to Bobby who’s clearly a superior runner.  And Ken continued his streak of 70-and-over age group victories.

Next up, the Richmond Half Marathon.  I think I’m more excited about the weekend’s festivities than I am the actual race.  Several of my buddies, Bob Heck, Leonard Hilliard, Kevin Ballantine, and my girlfriend Laura, are running the half with me.  Afterward, we get to watch our pals Aaron Linz, Jay Holder, and Paul Mainwaring, battle it out for title of top Charlotte finisher in the Richmond Marathon.  We’re going to have a blast – I can’t wait!


2 Responses to “The Concord United Way Run For Life 10K”

  1. dennis livesay Says:

    The key to gettting a blog shout-out is to introduce yourself with, “I read your blog religiously.” And it turns out that we’ll be racing next week…I’m doing the Richmond Half as well. Congrats on the great run and super cool trophy…mine is on the mantle!

  2. Allen Strickland Says:

    Cool – see you in Richmond! Should be a ton of fun!

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