I had just run two races in about a week's time, so, I was very doubtful that I would be running this race as well. But, the week I had at work, I had to do something about my stress. I had to run as fast as I could. Or punch a wall. I opted to run instead. I could have run by myself but I was afraid I was going to burn out too early and not have a good workout. So, I decided to run the race.
When I got there, I said hello to Steve. Steve is the kind of guy that I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him. (Of course, I've never been pulled over for speeding in Doylestown, either). Everyone knows Chief. Everyone comes over to say hello to Chief. And, Steve always has a smile on his face at these races.
For the past few years, I've always 'used' Steve as my measuring stick in 5ks. I will keep my eye on him when he lines up at the start and try to keep pace with him throughout the race. What generally happens is I will go out too fast and Steve will eventually pass me with his steady pace. It doesn't happen that often, but, the times when I do beat him (even if he is running injured), there is a sense of accomplihsment for me.
At 7p, the race starts. I'm lined up next to the Chief as we head out. I sense that I am going out too fast (again) so I slow myself down a bit and try to run a steadier pace race. I pull ahead of Chief but expect him to catch me any minute.
At 3/4 mile, we have to climb a good hill (for these parts anyway). Chief pulls up beside me and says, 'Let's run this hill together.' I started the climb and noticed I was pulling ahead again. 'I thought you said we were going to run this hill together?', I, jokingly, said to Chief, as he falls behind.
We started our descent and headed for the mile 1 marker. A woman and I started to run together for a few strides. We were about an arm's length apart from each other when Chief cuts in between us and starts to move ahead. But, he is only a few strides ahead of me, so I make a move to get ahead of him again and I stay there.
Now, this is the part where being well-liked can be used against you. For the next mile and a half of the race, I was ahead of Steve. But, I had a way to gauge just how far ahead without ever having to look back. The spectators on the side of the course would be yelling, 'Go Chief!' or 'Hang in there, Chief'! I would look at the spectators and see where their eyes were and try to calculate the imaginary triangle from me to spectator to Chief. If I felt they were looking at me, I knew he was close behind me. If I had already passed them and they were looking behind me, then I knew he was further back.
The last half mile, the spectators thinned out. I lost track of where he was. With a quarter mile to go, Chief pulls up beside me and then passes me. 'This is it!'. I thought. But, he only pulls pass me by about three strides. If he had gone faster for the next five strides, I would have given in. But, he stays there. I pull beside him, look at him and say, 'Oh no!' as I begin to pass. Now, two strides ahead of him, I hear, 'I'm cooked. You win!' but I think he is toying with me. If I start to relax, he will come up behind me and steal the race. So, I sprint with whatever I have left to the finish. Crossing the finish, I turn around and see Chief right behind me. We congratulated each other on our efforts and for help pushing us through to the end.
I stick around for the award ceremony after the race. There was less than 100 people in the race so I thought, maybe, just maybe, I might get a third place finish or something. The first awards was for the Hawaiian shirts award for the best finishing times for runners wearing Hawaiian shirts. Didn't know about this. (Note to self to send Frayed Laces an e-mail asking if she'll send me a cheap XL Hawaiian shirt for next year's race.)
The awards are handed out from oldest group to youngest. As it turns out, Chief wins his age group! He thanks me for being his rabbit! I ask for custody of the award for every other weekend visitations. My age group is announced. Bumpkis. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch for me. (Sigh)
Still, I'm glad I ran the race. It helped the stress. I had a lot of fun running it. I had a lot of fun competing against Chief in it. Plus, I helped a friend in winning his age category. Just remember, Chief--it's my turn to have the award over the Labor Day weekend!