Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tufts 10k for Women

Only eight days after the Ronald McDonald Women's Classic, this was also a breakthrough race for me. My previous 10k PR was 40:36, which I ran by myself at my hometown 5k, the Stonington Six, on July 4. I broke that in this race by over two and a half minutes, running 37:53. This was a vast improvement over my Tufts 10k time of just one year ago; I ran 44 minutes at the 2008 Tufts 10k. (results)

Getting on the starting line was very nerve-racking. They called people to line up by time, slowest first. When they called six-minute pace, I started making my way towards the starting line. But they loaded it from the back, so I had to fight my way through a huge crowd. They were introducing Joan Benoit Samuelson and singing the national anthem, and I wasn't even at the starting line yet! I was with a master's runner who had flown up from Maryland for the race, and she was afraid we wouldn't make it. But we did. I found Betsy -- it was my plan to run with Betsy, unbeknownst to Betsy -- and lined up with about a minute to spare. Melissa Donais happened to be right there on the starting line with me.

At the gun, Betsy went out fast and I went with her. We ran the first mile right behind Joan Benoit Samuelson! I kept hoping there would be a race photographer there; it would have been my new profile picture. I was nearly stepping on her heels. But no such luck. The picture below is in the beginning of the race, but no Joanie visible.

We went through the mile in about 5:45. Joanie kept going, and Betsy slowed down. I stayed with Betsy. We got into a nice pack and I just hung on. At about the mile mark, Alan appeared -- he had parked the car, so he met me on the course. He started running my speed, but on the sidewalk, shouting encouragement and advice.

We went through the next few miles in about six minutes each. The pace was probably one or two seconds per mile faster than what I felt like running, so I would slowly slip off of the pack. "Ten hard strides!" Alan would shout, and I would painfully reel the pack back in. Here we are crossing the bridge back to Boston, about a mile from the finish. Betsy is in blue.

We hit the five-mile mark in 30:16. "Oh, that's a bit of a PR," I thought, having recently run a 5-mile race in 31:20. Then I realized that it was not 31:16; it was 30:16. Ordinarily I would doubt the accuracy of any mile mark that gave me a one-minute PR, but this was a national championship race, so it was probably correct. I'll take it!

In the last mile, the pack broke up and Betsy was well ahead of me. I was just fighting to not slow down too much, to not let people pass me. The woman in pink (not the New Balance Boston woman, the other one) was making a terrible racket, very noisy breathing. I refuse to be beaten by such people, but sometimes I can't help it. I did manage to beat her this time, though.

I turned onto the final straightaway, which was very long. I could see the finish line, and I could hear the announcer saying, "the women finishing now are running under 37 minutes." So I thought I would surely achieve my goal of 38 minutes. I ran hard. Near the finish line, I realized that Betsy was not running as fast as I was, so I could pass her! I kicked as hard as I could and leaned across the finish line. It was a photo finish:

The race results had me beating Betsy (and the woman in yellow). A few months later, I happened to look at the results again, and they had changed the ordering from net time (chip time) to gun time. Now Betsy was listed ahead of me! If you look closely at the above picture, it is clear that her foot crossed the line before mine. However, she apparently crossed the starting line before me, also. National championship races are supposed to be determined by gun time, so the current results are the correct ordering.

I was 55th at the national championships -- and I finished ahead of Melissa Donais! (She won all the races when I was in high school, and she ran for the hated Andover.) I also would have placed fifth on the New Balance Boston team if I had been on it, which is the team that won the race.

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