THE 15 DEGREE FORECAST FOR SUNDAY’S RACE TURNED OUT TO BE OPTIMISTIC. When I arrived at the Novi Civic Center for the Super 5K, my car’s thermometer read 9 degrees. I didn’t want to think about the wind chill. And yet over 1,400 runners showed up. That’s the count of finishers, anyway. I’m not sure how many were dug out of snowbanks by the rescue dogs.
Usually I warm up for a race with a mile or so at an easy pace, followed by some dynamic stretches and a few strides (short sprints). This time I warmed up by huddling inside with everyone else. When the time came, I reluctantly changed into my lighter jacket and briskly walked the quarter mile to the starting line. With the serious runners also shedding their outer gear, there was a lot of jumping in place in the starting chute. After the gun, it took about a half mile to start feeling warm, although my hands and feet never really thawed completely.
The route, new this year, took us through a nearby subdivision, which helps with traffic control and normally increases the spectator count. But for some reason there weren’t too many this year. Big kudos to the volunteers pointing the way and handing out the Gatorade; running the race was hard enough, but they had to stand in place the entire time.
Following a slow start, I finished in 21:22, which I considered respectable for the conditions. As the streets still had a dusting of snow, I’d decided that staying upright took precedence over a record time. My goal had been to place in the top 5 of my age group, and the preliminary results had me at #4. But that evening the final results showed I’d dropped into a tie for sixth, missing out on an award by 3 seconds. Arggh! At least I managed to edge out the lady on the right. Whew!
There are handy excuses, of course – the temperature, the decision to focus on safety over speed, lack of proper warmup, and so on. But I could have run a few seconds faster without knocking myself out. So that’s what it really comes down to – at a certain level of performance, the winners are often those who wanted it more. I was capable of running stronger – probably much stronger – but that day, I didn’t really want to.
So while I’m a bit bummed about the result, it’s got me thinking about my approach to running races. When I started, I had no particular expectations; winning my age group was a fantasy. Now I’m fast enough to compete for a top spot in races from 5K up to 10K. Do I have to lay it all out every time to feel satisfied? If I don’t place well, can I still say that I ran a good race and had fun? If not, then why am I running races at all? Certainly not for fame and fortune. If it’s the personal challenge, then I need to figure out what’s left to prove.
But while I sort out the cosmic stuff, there’s the next race to plan for – the Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor on March 10. Fair warning to everyone in my age group – I’m going to be wanting it this time. Really wanting it.