I won a race! This Sunday, I ran the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Run/Walk. It was billed as a 5K, but the route around the Capitol and Mall and back to the hotel was actually just shy of a four miler. It felt good to be the fastest on that day and claim the prize!
I wasn't even scheduled to race this particular event. Originally, I was going to run a 5K in Manassas or Columbia per my coach's request to pick up a tune-up race for my fall marathons. But, my former boss who supervised me for two months asked me to run the 10K portion of the Nation's tri this weekend along with him on the bike and another former coworker doing the swim. But, I wasn't needed when the originaly runner was unexpectedly able to run. He let me know Thursday and by then my first two options were no longer available. On Friday, I met my mentor and former boss of four years at the Mandarin Oriental for drinks and remembered I saw on Run Washington that they were holding a race. It was around that time that I was offered a new job that I am pleased to be starting next week!
I showed up to the race bright and early with my number one supporter, Laura. She has been nothing less than stellar! About thirty minutes before the race, all the runners were gathered into a ballroom for "warm-up" which included jumping jacks. They were all dressed in the green shirt the race gave out while I was wearing my club's yellow singlet. An employee of the hotel that was racing told me the warm-up was mandatory - he had me for about a second before I figured out the joke was on me. I took my Asics outside for a quick mile to loosen the legs.
At the start line, there was the usual countdown and when the "G" word was shouted, I was quickly off the line and out in front. It was the second race I led at the start for a noticeable distance - the first was a club 10K where I came in second after surrending the lead on the final hill to a clubm member I would beat in the next 10 miler. I bounded from the MO behind the police escort and on to Independence where the escort ended when I was directed onto the sidewalk of the north side of the street. The course was "open" meaning traffic would not stop, but there were course marshalls to ensure we knew where we were running.
Around 7th and Independence, as I raced alone, I luckily caught the light and proceeded through. As I started to climb Capitol Hill, I took my first glance back and saw two chasers, maybe 20-30 seconds behind. I was a litttle sore from the 14 miler the day before, but knew I could hold my pace for a while. The first mile clocked in at 5:49, but it would certainly be my fastest. Climbing Capitol Hill left me with a 6:23 second mile, but I did open up a lead and dropped one challenger. Once around First Street, I looked at the distance and knew it wasn't a 5K and prepared for a longer race of up to 4 miles. That's the good part about running around DC so much - I roughly know distances.
I tried to bound down Capitol Hill and put more space between me and my pursuer. I knew the prize for finishing first would be worthwhile, and I did not want to surrender it. Near the Natural History Museum I did not hit the light perfectly, but I took a chance between cars by waving my hands and they gave me the right of way. I did not want to lose because the lights were against me. Around the American History Museum, I felt like he was coming closer so I turned onto the incline at 14th Street and shortened my stride and tried to increase my lead. It seemed to work because I looked back around 12th Street and seemed to be alone. That lead did not cause me to slow - rather I remained steady and set my eyes on the prize.
As I turned towards the MO, I knew I had my first race win in hand. I had led from gun to tape - something I wasn't sure I would ever experience again. I shouted out Laura's name so she could take a few pictures of me finishing. As I ran toward the tape, I broke it by flicking my hands across it, just like Steve Prefontaine did in his wins! All that was left was to be interviewed and go to the barbecue and awards ceremony where I was presented with my booty: a free night at the MO with breakfast! I don't know who was more excited by my win - me or Laura!
I don't run to be the first to cross the tape - I run to see if I can do better than I did last time. This time was a success in that style. Next up is a half marathon before my two fall marathons. I doubt I'll cross the tape first - but I hope I can do better than my last race.