I decided this week, that with almost 3 weeks of consistent running, albeit low volume, I would take a crack at the Melody Miles Road Race. There is a 5-Mile and a 5k version, and I toyed with the idea of running the 5k, just because I haven't put in a ton of runs over 5 miles. But as the time grew near, I figured I would just go for it (the 5-mile).
I have a history at this event, which takes place in my hometown of Hamilton, MA:
1996 (1st Melody Miles and my first race at age 19) - 33:16
1999 - 32:15 (7th of 82 runners - I remember being chased by an older runner over the last half-mile or so, and pushing myself harder than I had before to keep him from catching me; it was this race and my success in holding him off that drove me to pursue breaking 30:00 for 5 miles, which happened later that spring)
2000 - 28:03 (1st overall)
2001 - 30:09 (2nd of 98 runners)
2002 - 28:27 (1st of 103 runners)
2006 - 27:13 (1st of 82 runners; they had added the attendant 5k by this time, so the 5 mile was losing popularity)
2012 - 27:30 (1st of 63 runners)
2014 - 26:20 (1st of 53 runners)
This year was the 21st edition of the race, and the 20 year anniversary of my first road race.
I was hoping I'd be able to break 30 minutes and maybe 29.
I met Alex Vlahos, a former Ipswich runner of mine before the start and knew his recent training indicated a higher fitness level than my own.
I also saw fresh fifty-year-old John Ayers at the starting line, and it sounded like he was hoping to run sub-29.
The race started and I dashed to the front, hoping to avoid any exuberant youngsters in the 5k who I might have to turn in front of at the end of the Winthrop School driveway. As the 5 milers headed left and the 5k runners turned right (there were about 150 in the 5k), I talked with John briefly and allowed him to pass ("age before something-or-other").
John brought us through the mile under 5:40 and I felt like that was just about right. It was warmer this morning than it has been yet this year, so I didn't want to get too carried away. I was running about ten steps behind John and he looked strong. The first mile and start of the second mile climb a long, gradual hill, but it was in the shade and that helped us out.
Around 1.5 I pulled even with John and then past him. My second mile was just under 6:00, but we had climbed quite a bit. As I made the turn onto Woodbury St. at two and a half, I wasn't aware of anyone nearby, but couldn't be sure. I came through mile three in 17:24 (5:51 for the mile), and my Garmin 5k split was 17:59. The mile 4 mark was long (6:31?!), but 5 was short, so it evened out. I started passing 5k runners just before the 4-mile mark, and was starting to feel the effects of the heat, the hills and my first race effort in 10 months.
At 4.6, I saw my parents cheering, and I think they were surprised to see me leading. As I passed one of the 5k runners he said something like, "It's going to be a good finish," and I thought he must have been talking about someone being close behind me, so I picked it up and headed for home, crossing in 29:13. Alex was second in 31:27, and John was third, despite a couple pit stops, in 32:09.
Overall, I'm delighted at the outcome on a hot day, and went and spent my winnings on a new pair of New Balance at NE Running.
I said it would be a miracle if I made it to a starting line, and I even made it to the finish ahead of my competitors today. I'm thankful to God for yet another opportunity to train and compete. I can't help but be reminded of Romans 8:11 (although I did have to look it up) - "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." I felt like God was reminding me today that he can give me more life than I can imagine, and that reminder came in the form of a 5:51 pace 5-mile race at age 39 in 80-degree heat.