The air became still- as if it was waiting for the stampede of runners to scream through the night on the track. I looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful night, clear. I looked around-there were some fast guys in this heat. We were the fastest of 3 heats. Each heat had about 30 runners. We lined up like soldiers ready to go to battle. #1...#2....#3........#12. I was #12, and lined up along the precise curve, as close to the line as possible without going over, my Saucony Endorphin spikes on my feet. I couldn't help but worry if my feet could handle this. Although I ran one workout with my spikes, I hadn't done a single race in them in over a year. I had to dust them off.
32 warriors fired off into the night....the battle was on...and it was fast. I started practically last. I do much better by taking just the first lap a bit easier, then settling into my rhythm. But I also got boxed in and really couldn't go anywhere. Dammit. Stay calm, I told myself, you'll get them later. I settled into the turn and just wanted to make sure I didn't get shoved or spiked or tripped. I went through the first 200m in 36. Good start, but needed to make sure I continued to press on. I didn't want to settle into 72's. I came out here to run 70's. Gradually, I worked into my rhythm. Frustratingly I had to go into lane 2 to go around some guys that already were starting to slow, but this was about competing! Catching as many guys as I could was the game. Laps 1 and 2 I was 28th place. Lap 3, 27th. After lap 3 I began to move up. I went through the first 1000m in 2:56, which was dead on 14:40 pace. On the 4th lap, I began to catch more runners, snatching 5 more guys and moving up to 22nd. By the 5th lap, I had moved into 20th, and split a few 69's in there. After the first 36 second 200m, I had run the following mile in 4:38. I was moving! Flynn yelled out my splits each lap...."69....70!"
That's it, just keep picking off people....
Halfway into the race, I moved into 16th position and stayed tough. Halfway into the 5K, you start to feel the pain. The aerobic capacity is working at its maximum, and your heart feels like it's going to burst through your chest. But I was used to the pain. I smiled. I thought, "Those 16 x 400's you did! The grind through the half marathon champs in heat and humidity. All those pool runs, the injury you went through last fall...all for over 14 and 1/2 minutes of pain and glory!" I thought back to the Theodore Roosevelt quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
9:20, 9:21!!!! Coaches shouted at their athletes as we passed through 2 miles.
By now I was moving back and forth between 12th and 13th position. Each runner I had passed I gave a surge in lane 2 to go by them. Surge, then settle, then press on!
Flynn yelled out to me with 3 laps to go: "You run 3:30 the last 3/4 mile and you'll run 14:37!!!"
My next lap was a 71. Dammit. Stay focused. You gotta WANT IT.
I saw the clock read 12:20 with 2 laps to go. Shit, I had to run my last 800m in under 2:20. Could I do this?
DON'T SETTLE! YOU CAME OUT HERE TO RUN in the 14:30's!! MAKE IT HAPPEN! FOCUS!!!! COMPETE!!!!
People were yelling and screaming all over the place at this point. The end of the battle neared....
Then I saw right ahead of me Stewart Reich, a 29 min 10K guy and 14:30 5K, so that was surprising to me to see him in sight. He had led the race for the first 2 miles and then faded. I then caught him nearing one lap to go. I found myself in 10th place at this point.
CHRIS!!!!!!!! Flynn cheered.
13:31. 1 LAP TO GO. I needed a 68.
Dammit, I did not come all the way out here to run 14:40.
You must give everything you have, absolutely everything, Chris. If you don't, you'll regret it. If you run 14:40 and give everything you have, that's all you can do.
"who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat....”
The last lap is a blur. This is the art of racing. There is something magical about digging so deep within yourself. It feels completely numbing yet at the same time you never feel so alive. It is a rare humble moment of feeling pure raw emotion and pain. It is a painful but incredibly powerful moment.
I finished in 14:39 for 10th place. I collapsed on the ground with exhaustion. What a feeling. I ended up 10th overall out of all 90 runners in all 3 heats.
I ran a near perfect 68 second last lap to get the 14:39. This is my best track race of my career thus far. I achieved this because I trusted myself, and my training. I also could not have gotten here without Terrel Hale's support and Georgetown Sports Massage. We have continued to work on getting me more efficient and as an artist myself I view Terrel's work as true artwork. But trusting my own training is how I got here. I went into the Swarthmore 5,000m invite with the goal of beating my previous PR of 14:49 and I knew I could do it. I knew this was possible based on certain workouts I'd done, but also just how I felt going into the race. I think the best workout I'd done that prepared me for this race was 5 x 1K in 2:58, 2:53, 2:53, 2:52, 2:52, all with 400m jog between each. That told me that going into the race 2:55/K was possible, which would put me at 14:35. I felt that was doable. I also did a workout in April of 16 x 400m, with 100m jog rest, and averaged about 69-70 for those. Each time I have PR'd in the 5K my cycle has been different. There are workouts I have done in the past that I did not repeat this time, and new workouts this time that I have never done before. The 5 x 1K I have done before, and I love that workout and it is a staple for performing in the 5K...for me. But I also give myself a lot of credit for the 16 x 400m-I actually think that is one of the most well thought out workouts I have ever done-particularly because of the 100m jog rest. I've done 400's before, but never with that short of rest.
I looked back at the race video, and I definitely had to do some running in lane 2 in order to pass people. I suppose if things were perfect and I was in lane 1 the whole time I might have run a few seconds faster. But the goal was to get into the 14:30's, and I did it!
Lap 3: 27th
Lap 4: 22nd
Lap 5: 20th
Lap 6: 16th
Lap 7-9: 13th
Lap 10: 12th
Lap 11-13: 10th
On to what's next...
The Trials of Miles, Miles of Trials.