Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Running with the devil, and some other folks, too

Two weeks ago I ran my first race ever, the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse CrossKnox 15K. That's 9.3 miles to the rest of us. I've been waiting for the results to be posted since then, but it turns out I just wasn't looking in the right place. I finished in 1:13:18, good for seventh place in my age group (25-29), 54th overall out of 409 finishers. Apparently my age group doesn't field a lot of runners, but I'm pretty happy with my result, as the goal I set for myself was 1:15.

The experience of running with other people was new to me and I really enjoyed the sense of competition, something I've missed since I retired from rec-league baseball at 18 and entered a few bouldering comps in college. Since I decided to start running about a year ago, it has been a lonely pursuit, something that suits me. It was a thrill, however, to find myself in a surging pack of 420-odd people, all with really nice calves, on a clear, 50-degree October morning. Having run untold miles over the past year with no sound but that of traffic and my own steady breathing and nothing with which to gauge my pace except the joints in the pavement disappearing underfoot, the sense of motion created by the jostling crowd was surprisingly thrilling.

I quickly discovered that my choice of inserting myself into the middle of the pack at the starting line was a bit modest as I began weaving through traffic as we made our way towards the river and the flat part of the course. Passing slower runners, I tried to keep my pace in check to save something for the finish, nine miles distant. After about a mile, after the jostling abated and the pack stretched out comfortably, everyone found their own pace and I found myself back in a place I've come to know well, running alone on a clear morning. I would pass people from time to time, but no one would pass me for the rest of the race, save for one guy, but I decided he'd be the last and I followed him all the way to the finish line.

The post-race party consisted of Kobe beef hamburgers from Ruth's Chris and massages from students from the Tennessee School of Therapuetic Massage. A hamburger doesn't really go down too well after a long run and I was way too tense to enjoy the massage, but I went for both anyway. There were a ton of "door" prizes (the party was outside) and I actually won a women's Timex Ironman watch. I was already wearing a women's Ironman watch, but I'll take it.

All around, the race was a fantastic experience and I'm looking forward to running another. Anybody interested in training for the Knoxville marathon?


Courtney said...

You should hold your own little auction to see who wants that Timex watch the most. I don't want it. It's pink.

Jacob said...

I have the talent (and the really nice calves) to be a runner, but I get too bored. My brain gives up long before my lungs or legs do (and I've never actually had my lungs outlast my legs). Because of this, I've never made it past three miles, and that was on a treadmill watching The Simpsons reruns.

Chris said...

You rotten bastard. I trained (semi)intensely for three years on the high school cross country team, and never in my best shape could I have run 9 miles at a sub-8-minute mile pace. But then again, I kind of already figured you to be a better, more disciplined runner than me. Generally even the most casual runners are. Serious runners learn to push themselves until they cramp or vomit; I quickly learned to slow down long before either of those happens.

We should run together some time. (But apparently it will have to be on one of your short-distance days.)