Sunday Morning. April 15th. B.A.A. 5k. I look down Boylston, all the way to Boston Common, and it is eerily deserted. I’ve made all my preparations. Up at 5:30 AM, coffee, something to eat, some stretching. Drive into Boston. Find a parking spot on Clarendon. Walk around a bit because I am so early.
Forty-five minutes to go. Stretches, easy run to warm-up, then some accelerations. At the start line, I’m surrounded by thousands of other runners. I work my way to the front, past the chubby couple at the 6:00 pace marker, past the runners dressed up as Power Rangers wearing sushi on their heads.
Three rows from the front, I survey the others. Everybody seems better prepared than me…and probably are. There is singing. God Bless America. The Star Spangled Banner. The quiet calm before the horn. Then, we’re off.
I try to keep pace with the lead group off the line, but I slowly drift toward the back. The plan is to get to my threshold, then hold steady there. Don’t go to the redline. Don’t tweak any muscles. Run steady and with good form. But I feel disconnected from my legs. They’re going one speed; my breath is going a different one. I can’t get them connected.
We reach the Boston Common. I climb up Tremont Street. At the first mile, my split is 5:37. I’m going too hard, especially for the hill.
At the top of Park, we turn a hard left, and start the long descent down Beacon. I try to let my legs go, let the momentum carry me down. But I can’t quite get there. I’m striking hard on my heels, not mid-foot, and I feel the shock transmit into my hips. I recover, my breathing now steady. Back onto flatter roads. Charles Street. Commonwealth. I find a rhythm. I feel under control.
At mile two, my split is 5:47. For the next half-mile, I feel brilliant. I’m running on air. My footfalls are whisper quite. I’m pulling back runners. Then my lips dry out and harden. My calves tighten up. My hip hurts. I’m thinking of the Tuesday Night ski races and how I was able to race over the edge. Twelve or thirteen minutes in and the brilliance starts to fade. The fatigue starts to build. I continuously try to relax, slow my pace to get on top of my legs again. I let more and more runners pass by. It’s okay. I tell myself this is just a training session.
My mile 3 split is 6:08. I’m within sight of the finish line and coasting in. It is the same finish the Marathoners will cross tomorrow. It is inspiring and moving, but it can’t come soon enough for me. I can hear the cheering. I can see the clock and I pick up my pace to cross the line under 18 minutes.
I finish with a time of 17:56. That puts me in 100th place overall, out of 5,253 runners. My pace averages out to 5:47 per mile. Not a PR, but one of my better 5k times. This a good sign given that I ran so conservatively, that I have yet to do much specific speed work. When I get back to my car, there are runners still on the course, so I change up and head out for a cool down run through the Common. It’s a beautiful spring day and there is no rush.