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#32 – Fun and Frustration at The Bridge Run 5K

15 September 2007

Continuing my quest for a 20-minute 5K, I spent the morning in downtown Grand Rapids to race in The Bridge Run. The event sports both a 5K and a 10-mile run with most of the fast runners racing the longer distance, but that was fine with me. Under clear blue skies and unseasonably cool 45-degree temperatures the 10-milers lined up at 8am for the start of their race. I watched from the sidewalk since the 5K folks started at 8:10 and it was fun to see the speedy runners up close – you know, the ones who can run almost a 5:00 pace for 10 miles!

Soon enough it was 8:10am and I was running due north through downtown. I’m still no expert at pacing myself so I could only hope that I was hitting the 6:30 pace that I was targeting. The entire first mile is a straight shot north along a closed road, so it was a neat experience to run for so long in the same direction without having to navigate any obstacles like curbs, intersections, cars, etc. Unfortunately I never spotted the 1 mile marker so I couldn’t gauge my pace, but I later learned that it was at the turnaround.

Heading south now, the route carried us back along the road a ways before veering west across the 6th Street bridge and then down along the riverfront pathway. The mile 2 marker was at the entrance to the waterfront where I arrived at 13:50, a very disappointing 6:55 pace. I tried to speed up but my body wouldn’t have it – either I can’t run any faster, or the preceding two miles at that pace had ingrained that speed into my system. Shortly after the 2 mile marker an acute side stitch manifested itself and I got that fizzy/weezy feeling in my lungs. I was pushing as hard as I could.

Finally the finishing stretch came into view – it was about 100 yards of brick-paved street with barricades just like a big race despite there being just 700 runners combined in the two races. Stepping on to the bricks I accelerated into a finishing kick and noticed that I was gaining ground rapidly on the guy a hundred feet ahead of me. Involuntarily my legs flew into a full sprint (yes, I’m competitive) and I passed him just ten feet from the finish line. While that final kick was satisfying, seeing the clock read 21:33 was very disappointing.

For the time being I tried not to worry and focused on the food – a post race spread of 100% organic sustenance! I ate half an orange, an energy bar, two fruit-leather-type strips, an organic soda, and some water and enjoyed every bite and every sip. Organic food always seems to sit well with my stomach and taste buds! I didn’t have much time to enjoy it though as the elite 10-mile runners were due to finish soon and I wanted to grab my camera from the car to get some photos. I wound up jogging the half mile to and from the parking lot and made it to the corner of the home stretch just as the race winner, 2001 Michigan Runner of the Year Kyle Baker, cruised past. I hurriedly yanked the camera out of its case and managed to snap a shot just after Baker crossed the line as the #2 runner pulled into view.

I hung out at the finish for a while watching a couple co-workers finish the 10-miler while I chatted with another acquaintance. After a while I wandered around the food tents just taking in the crisp, sunny morning and watching more runners. Then my frustration set in as I thought about my race. In March I ran a 21:07 5K but since then have run four races at 21:26, 21:37, 21:45, and now today 21:33. I was hoping that today’s cooler weather would help, but apparently such speed was not in the cards for me. Once they posted the results I was even more vexed – I just missed winning my age group by 10 seconds! It’s not very often that I have a chance to win anything in a running race and this one had certainly been within reach.

Well, I tried. I have to wonder, though: 1) Couldn’t I have run 10 seconds faster? 2) Will I ever approach 21 minutes again? 3) Will I ever reach my 20 minute goal? 4) Did running a marathon a month ago slow me down? Hopefully all those can be answered with “yes”. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll be doing more speedwork…

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