(Results) For several years now, I have had a goal: to win my hometown 10k. Now, one could argue that it's not actually my hometown (since I am From Away) and that it's not actually 10k (probably 6.25+). But nevertheless, ever since I won the Fun Run four years in a row back in my youth, my goal has been to come back and win the real race. Let's quickly review the history:
1996, age 10: My first time running the Fun Run. I asked my parents if we could drive the course beforehand so that I would know where to go. They assured me that I would not be winning, so I could just follow all the people in front of me. One mile into a 1.2-mile race, I found myself battling for first place with a 40-year-old lobsterman. We got to a T intersection and I turned left; he turned right. I quickly corrected my error and caught back up. As we sprinted down the final straightaway towards the finish line, he was able to get a slight advantage and beat me by a nose. I have a picture of this somewhere -- it is epic (but not digital). My prize was two lobsters from the co-op!
1997, age 11: I am ready for a rematch with my lobsterman friend. Unfortunately, he is not in the race this year. My brother (31 years old at the time) is running, and he slows down to run with me and then lets me win (we went 1-2). He gives his "first male finisher" prize to the kid who finished behind us. Our dad finishes sixth overall in the fun run. The prize was $10 to the grocery store.
1998, age 12: My brother and I return, but now for whatever reason there are lots of kids from abroad visiting the island and they all decide to run the race. I finish sixth, but first female again. (The prize was $15 to a local restaurant.)
1999, age 13: All the years kind of blur together. I don't know what happened, but I know I won four years in a row. (The prize was a size-large T-shirt from a local museum.)
2000-2007: I was always away for the Fourth of July, so I couldn't run.
2008: I came to the race hoping to win, and I led the first three miles, but then a woman passed me, and at five miles a girl passed me and ended up winning. Happily, she was from the island. A third woman tried to pass me in the last mile, but I held her off. Good thing, because she was in my age group! (And the prize was a $25 gas card, very useful.) I ran either 43 or 44 minutes -- the results got messed up that year and my record-keeping was ambiguous. The winner ran 42 minutes.
2009: This time, I was really in shape, and I thought I would certainly win. However, another woman was doing strides on the starting line! Danger. I held her (Susannah) off for the first mile, but then she passed me and ran away, running about 35 minutes. It turned out that she had been 4th at the Olympic Trials marathon and was the current national champion in the 50-miler. So I didn't really stand a chance. Running alone, though (not even with any men), I still ran 40:36, which was a 10k PR by nearly 1.5 minutes. (The prize was a 6-pack of Poland Springs water and a tote bag.)
2010: Now, finally, maybe it was my chance! Alan said, "last year it took the national champion to beat you, so you'll probably win." Of course, if Susannah had shown up, I would not have won, and if Elizabeth had shown up, it would have been a very tough battle. However, I did finally win it this year.
I was barely able to get onto the starting line, because it was full of young boys all jockeying for position. Alan gave me his spot and I lined up next to a girl in pink:
She took it out at the gun and, from my vantage point behind her, I could see that her shirt said "Manchester Invitational." This meant two things: first, she was a high school cross country runner, and second, she must be young, because the shirt was synthetic. Back in my day, they were cotton. We went back and forth -- she would surge and I would cover it. Then I would surge and she would cover it. She was running a very erratic pace, surging to get ahead of me and then slowing down. I did this for a few minutes, and then decided to put an end to it. I sped up until I had put about 20 feet between us. She didn't catch up. I hazarded a glance as we made a 90-degree turn and she was further back. A little before the two-mile mark, I looked back and there was no one.
Ahead of me were five men: Alan running with a Tufts collegiate runner, then two men that we had seen on our warm-up and thought were twins running together, and then another man close ahead of me. I stayed behind the fifth man and was happy to let him carry me through the tangents on the curvy course. A little before three miles, I felt myself catching up to him, so I passed him and ran on ahead, moving into fifth place overall. The rest of the race was relatively uneventful except for the usual tug-of-war between my desire to run the tangents and my desire to avoid the cars. I was fortunate that the walkers, who had a 30-minute head start, ran interference (walked interference?) for me on much of the course.
I got to the 6-mile mark in exactly 38 minutes, the same as in the MDI YMCA 10k where I ended up running 38:55. In Stonington, from 6 miles to the end you bomb down this steep downhill, make a turn and then kick for the finish. So it should have been faster than at the MDI. However, I finished in 39:31. So I think the course was a little long, or 6 miles was short. (It should be noted that my split from 6 miles to the end was the same as Alan's, so I was not lollygagging.) I was surprised to look at my popsicle stick and see a "4" on it, since I knew I was fifth! But one of the twins (?) had made a wrong turn and cut off maybe 1/2 mile of the course, finishing ahead of Alan, so he was disqualified.
By the way, it turned out that the girl in pink was running the Fun Run (they start together, and split at about 1 mile). She and her brother went 1-2 in that race. I won the 10k by over seven minutes. Like I always say -- "The key to winning races is choosing your races wisely."
I chatted with some people I knew; then we ran back along the course until we met my brother and sister-in-law, and we ran with them to the end, and then cooled down back to the car. (They ran about the same as last year, but a little slower.) Ironically, in our rush to drive to the parade, we forgot to go to the awards! After all those years of hoping to win. But it's really about the pride, not the schwag. Luckily the rest of the family was still down at the finish area and picked up our prizes for us, which were nice blue duffel bags with the race logo. Sweet! I even managed to get in a swim later in the day, and much fun was had by all.
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