On Sunday, in the heat of the early summer, I ran the Newton 10k for the fifth time.
I ran past the fields and playgrounds were my son had grown up swinging on swings and sliding down slides, and along the streets that are my familiar training grounds.
I settled into an early rhythm of 6:00 mile pace, a heart rate in the low 170’s, cautious not to boil over, not to blow up, not to put myself into a world of suffering for the duration of the race.
It was hard to hold back.
I ran up the fractured cement section of Lowell Ave, watched the group of three leaders pull steadily away, then watched them tease apart, then watched as the leader disappeared up the road.
It seemed too quiet behind me. I thought I could hear footfalls. I suffered the paranoia of being overtaken. It happened. But only a few times and the third time was with the lead female runner and I pushed myself to keep pace with her and did so until the finish.
We ran along the rolling hills of Commonwealth Ave, past the Victorian mansions of West Newton Hill, rejoining Lowell and the long gradual downhill back to the start-finish. I was running even splits, give or take a few seconds either way, until the last two miles when the pace quickened and I dug deeper to stay with my partner. It was getting hot and I could feel the pounding in the back of my head and I was suffering more now but I also new the end would come soon enough.
I had followed my plan, run steady, suffered well but kept my strength and endured the distance. I kicked to the finish line, out of fear of being caught on the approach to the line.
I could hear my son yelling, “Go, Pop!”.
So I did.