At the start line of this smaller race, it became obvious that it was a truly competitive field. Former Olympian Tania Jones was there as were a number of runners from varsity teams in the area. A lot of teenagers were also running the 5K, and it was obvious before we even started to run that these kids knew what they were doing, except for how to double-check their laces at the start line. There, I thought about my goal again: try to finish as close to 21 minutes as possible.
I hoped that I’d be able to stick with my friend, Delilah. But, since my Spring Marathon, when I’ve been spending time trying to recover and make sure that my strained muscle doesn’t become an injury, she has been spending more and more time on the track and getting faster and faster. Shawn and Richard were also there but both are in a completely different league of runners. If I could keep my eyes on them for the first 500 metres, I was doing alright.
And I was – for the first 2000 metres. I learned at the OTMH run a few weeks ago that it pays to be a bit slower because the men cut through the crowd for me and I simply had to follow them. Here, I did the same thing; I let Richard break through the start line and and I laughed as he told 2 or 3 teens to tie up their shoelaces. I stuck with Richard as long as I could – long enough to catch up to Delilah.
I was a bit relieved to catch her and we ran neck and neck for a while. I also pulled myself ahead of Margaret, who is my age and equal to my own abilities. I knew Delilah was close behind and it would only be a matter of time before she was beside me again; sure enough, she passed me within minutes. I stayed with her and prayed that Margaret wouldn’t catch up to us. By the time we got to the 2K mark, I watched Delilah pull ahead and knew I had no chance of catching her.
For the remaining 3K, I focused on holding my pace, staying ahead of Margaret and, if I could, pass a few more girls on the course. Somehow, I managed to do both. I had eyes set on one more as we neared the finish line, pushed as hard as I could but just couldn’t grab her. (Days later, when finish line pictures were posted by Mike Cheliak photography, I could see that my speed was strong as I did pass a few men in the last part and I did get nearer and nearer to her; this 15 year old was just not within my grasp.)
I finished in 21:03 and was disappointed. I was the slowest of my friends, Shawn finishing fastest, followed by Delilah and, then, Richard. It was becoming obvious that I needed to take a break from running and let my leg heal completely.
With every race comes a message. This one gave me two. First, even with low mileage and a “strain”, I’m still a good runner, but I’m a frustrated one too; I can’t do what I should be able to. This leads to the second lesson: time off might be do me some good.
The Burlington race was just what I needed to think about where I’ve come from, where I’m headed, and what I need to do to get there.