The "Pike's Peek" million-centimeter road race (that sounds so much more impressive than "10k", doesn't it?) on 28 April 2002 goes well --- though I don't make my goal of maintaining a 9 minute/mile pace. The run is quite peaceful --- no adrenaline rush, just a pleasant ramble in the rain down the roadway.

Probably about 2,000 folks show up in spite of the weather. I get to the starting area about an hour early, follow the crowd through the drizzle for a couple of blocks to pick up the sensor chip assigned to my shoe, then come back and stand with a few others under a small tree as we wait for time to pass. It keeps raining moderately, lessening a bit now, then ramping back up to continue the heavy-steady shower scene. Lots of people are wearing impromptu rain gear, trash bags with holes cut for arms and head; some hang around in windbreakers; a few have umbrellas. Most just get patiently moist in their t-shirts. The temperature is warm enough to be comfortable, cool enough to feel good for a run.

With about 15 minutes to go I put my dripping jacket into a plastic bag labeled with my bib number (2292) and turn it in to be trucked to the end of the course with a thousand other bags. Then I lurk under my favorite tree some more. A guy comes up and chains his bike and helmet to the trunk. On the wet grass a woman throws herself down on her back and does stretching exercises. A thick chain of polychromatic helium balloons is supposed to form an arch above the starting gate, but there's too much wind and rain for it to work --- so it lies by the side of the road and drifts back and forth, with unlucky balloons popping like firecrackers every few seconds as they encounter sharp twigs. The sensor mats across the path are all set up, with blinking lights on the control panels and extra car batteries for emergency power. By this point my shoes and socks are supersaturated. My floppy hat symbolically keeps my head "dry".

Then it's time to begin. The huddled masses fill the street, more-or-less sorted using an honor system based on anticipated pace: under 6:30 plus potential age-group winners, 6:30-8:00, 8:00-10:00, and everybody else. I find a niche toward the back and laugh with my neighbors about the weather. Some people try jumping up and down in place to warm up. I stay cool. My plan (if it deserves the dignity of that term) is to begin slowly, conserve energy, loosen up along the way, and finish strong.

We wait as the first group leaves, then the second, and begin walking forward when it becomes our turn. We're still walking when we cross the starting line but are able to break into a slow jog soon after, about two minutes post-gun-time (though I hear no gun --- perhaps a kinder, gentler signal is used?).

There's not much to report about the run itself: splashes of water... car dealerships ... myriads of bright orange traffic cones ... a college campus ... county police cars parked, lights flashing, to insulate the route from manic Sunday drivers ... mile markers ... friendly spectators and volunteer race officials who applaud and wave indiscriminately at runners ... digital clocks inexorably ticking off the seconds ... flattened paper cups that cover the road after the 2- and 4-mile watering spots ... and a blur of strip-malls and gas stations. The overall terrain is slightly downhill, but with enough gentle valleys and hills along the way to sporadically give a good view of the river of humanity as it floods down the highway.

Amplified voices at the commencement and conclusion of the race provide humorous commentary. As I approach, loudspeakers boom "... and now finishing, the runner with the longest beard!" I untie the sensor chip from my shoelace, turn it in, and get a ribbon for completing the course. Then with the rest of the population I walk to a big multilevel parking garage where the goodie tables are arrayed, eat a slice of pizza and a cup of frozen yogurt, have a soft pretzel and a soft drink, pick up my bag with the wet jacket in it, and trek to the nearest metro station for a ride back to where the event began.

The rain tapers off and, naturally, is over shortly after the race.

As for my own performance, the official results (see put me in 637th place at 56:14, which my calculator suggests is about 9:03/mi. From memory and my wristwatch I estimate that the first five miles went by at rates of about 9:30, 8:45, 9:00, 9:00, and 9:15. Then I accelerated to maybe 8:45/mile ... not quite enough to pull my average down below a 9. But it was a comfortable run, and except for some wobblies in my left knee I felt, and feel, fine. Good result for my first 10k. Major kudos to the organizers for putting on an excellent event.

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2002-04-29

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