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Wild Rumpus Sports

A Not-So-Triumphant Return to the Track

On Friday night I competed in a track meet for the first time in more than 18 years. The last time I was at a track meet I set two PRs – one in the hammer (101’3″) and one in the 400 (57.5) – I was actually drafted at the last minute to rabbit the 800. How all that came to be is a story for another time.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on my return, but it actually felt quite familiar. Despite being in another country, and being alone, the feeling of being at a track meet is very much the same. There was the rush of adrenaline every time the gun went off to start another heat, the nervousness of checking out the competition, the frustration with the meet being a bit behind schedule.

And about that schedule – the 5000 m was schedule to start at 9:25 pm, and they were running a little late. I am pretty sure that is the latest in the day I have ever run a race. Still, after my warm-up and striders I was feeling strong and fast and not the least bit sleepy.

Despite a fast PR I was seeded a ways back in my heat, so I started on the outside and a bit forward, and ran with the other scrubs through the first 100 meters before joining the main pack. We all ran like we had something to prove, and I settled in to about sixth place and went through 200 meters in about 33 seconds. I tried to calm down, and we went through the first lap in just under 70, then followed the group through 800 meters in 2:23. That being a little slower than I wanted I accelerated just a bit and found myself in second place for about 500 meters, including hitting 1200 meters in 3:34.

After that my memory of the splits gets a little hazy. I was on pace for sub-15:00 for about half of the race, and I spent a lot of time bouncing between third and sixth place, with a varied cast around me. Toward the end the second and third place runners got away from me, and my pace fell off. I pushed hard for the last 800 meters and managed to get away from almost everyone else, but was passed with 100 meters to go and had no answer. I finished in fifth, in 15:10. Only one runner crossed in the 10 seconds before I did, but a half dozen did in the 10 seconds after.

Overall, I am disappointed. I don’t (a substantial body of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) enjoy making excuses, but it was late at night. And other runners were complaining about the wind. And I haven’t raced under 10 km in almost a year. On the other hand, running on a track is just plain faster than running on the roads. And I was right with the guy in second place, who just cracked 15:00, and I let him go. And if every race seems to be big wind, that is just silly (plus a big headwind gets balanced by a big tailwind on every track I have ever see).

So I had a not so good race. I am planning to race 10 km on the track in a few weeks. Hopefully that one goes better.

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