No Hollywood Ending, But a Good Show

THE 2011 HOLIDAY HUSTLE IS IN THE BOOKS, and I have two good reasons to be very pleased with my performance. I ran my fastest 5K by over a minute, and I came in second in my age group – my first top-five finish!

Had I written the script, it would have been only slightly different. My favorite 5K run held on my 50th birthday? Check. Get bib #50 to mark the event? Check. Finish in under 20 minutes, and win my new age group (50-54)? “Uhhh, save that for the sequel,” said the Great Director.

My goal all year had been to run a sub-20 minute 5K, but I’ve known it would be a stretch; it requires a 6:25 per mile pace, which in training runs I’d only been able to hold for one mile (1.6K). Based on my recent intervals I figured my achievable pace was 6:40, for a finish time around 20:40. My plan was to line up in the front to get a clear and fast start, run at a 6:40 pace for 2.1 miles, then give it whatever I had left for the final mile.

There were a couple of hiccups. I’d felt low on energy most of the day, and for the first mile I worried I’d run out of gas early. And despite triple-knotting my shoelaces, my left shoe came untied at the half mile mark. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise; it gave me something to focus on other than my discomfort, and I resolved to run hard to the finish even if the shoe came off. At the halfway mark I caught a second wind, and even got a kudo from another runner who noticed my flopping shoelace as he passed me. I didn’t have much left to surge at the end, but I didn’t bonk either, and crossed the finish line running strong. And what a feeling to have the front runners in sight most of the way, and finish in the top 50!

Here's the proof! There were 31 runners in my age group, and 1,076 overall finishers.

My time was 20:28 (6:36 pace) – a big improvement over last year’s 21:40, and just 25 seconds behind the age group winner. Naturally, I can’t help wondering if I could have made up those 25 seconds if I’d known how close I was to winning. This train of thought disregards that I ran the race according to plan and gave it everything I could, so I’ll let it leave the station without me now. Time to be grateful for what I did achieve and for those who helped make it possible.

One nice bonus this year was a temperature in the 40s, the warmest of my four Holiday Hustles and a big help to breathing. Another was seeing many people I know; along with my niece Robin, the runners included several people from my running group, and someone from my writers group (you rock, Stephanie), and my wife and brother were there to cheer me on and take pictures. (I hope to have some to post shortly.) And finally, I have a new ornament for the Christmas tree, thanks to my first-ever age group award.

Sure, it's just a little thing, but by golly, I *earned* it!

Still to finish: reaching 1,000 running miles for the year – only 106 to go. As for the sub-20 minute 5K goal? Just look out for me in 2012!

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