I ran the 19th annual Summer Kick-Off Fun Run here in League City on Saturday morning. The race benefits the James Glenn Foundation, named for a young man who died of an undiagnosed heart condition in 1991 at 19 years old. He was a student at Texas A&M at the time, and had recently graduated from Clear Creek High School. His parents have directed the race since its inception, and the proceeds have gone towards many scholarships over the years. This was the fifth time I’ve run this particular 5K and it’s always a fun race since it draws so many Clear Lake locals. His parents decided that this year would be the last race, saying “19 Years Old, 19 Years Ago.” I had to run it, knowing the race would be ending after this year.
The morning got off to a fun start when I went over to say hi to my friend and coworker Ray. Outside of work, he’s a volunteer firefighter with the League City Fire Department, and a bunch of them brought out their ladder truck and walked the 3K in full fire-fighting gear (which weighs 70-80 pounds, dang.) He said they were about to take one of the photographers up on the platform to take some overhead shots of the crowd, and I said “oh that sounds fun, I want to go!”
I was kidding, but Ray said “ok, go ahead.” Cool! So I got to ride up about 75 feet in the air on the platform! You could see all over Clear Lake — the only thing that seemed taller than us was the Endeavour high-rise on the other side of the lake. Unfortunately it was overcast, but on a clear day we would’ve been able to see all the way to downtown. It was also fun looking down on the crowd gathering for the race. (As a side note, I had to put on a firefighter helmet to get on the truck. The helmet alone was pretty heavy! Walking even 3K in full gear must be really tough. I’m impressed.)
We came back down and I had about 10 minutes to get over to the start line. I saw a bunch of familiar faces, including Jon and Waverly, my officemate Jerry (running his first 5K!), Alicia and her husband Brent, Helen (who’s training for her first triathlon at the end of this month!), Jake from my tri club, and more. I found a good spot towards the back of the pack and waited for the start. Soon enough, we were off!
I didn’t have any specific goal for this race other than to run strong and have a good time. Based on my ~31:30 run time for 3 miles at the Lonestar Tri a few weeks ago, I hoped to finish right in that 31-32 minute range. Since I wouldn’t be biking first, all I would need to do is up my pace just slightly to cover an extra tenth of a mile in that same amount of time. I was wearing my Garmin, but never looked at it.
The weather was surprisingly pleasant — a little humid, but the solidly overcast sky kept the temperature down, and there was a bit of a breeze. It was probably the best weather of any of the 5 years I’ve done this race. I started strong and hit the lap button on my watch at the 1 mile mark, which upon post-race inspection showed 10:11. I kept running past the water stop without grabbing anything. I felt like my pace was pretty steady, and I was consistently passing a person here and a person there as I ran along and others who had started out too fast started to fade.
The race is an out-and-back course, so the race leader came back past me right as I went through 1 mile. (So fast. Jeez.) I preoccupied myself by watching the growing stream of runners heading back to the finish, and shouted good wishes to those I knew. Soon enough, I hit the turnaround myself and headed back towards the high school. We had been running into a slight headwind on the way out, so I hoped I could go just a bit faster on the way back in since I wouldn’t be fighting the wind.
At the 2-mile mark, I heard the timer calling the time — 19:something. Since I was purposefully not looking at my watch, that was the first confirmation I had that my pace was actually pretty darn good! Like, less than 10 minutes per mile good! I forgot to hit the lap button on my watch, but post-race math shows my second mile must have been in the 9:30 range. And then? I stopped at the water station. Well, not stopped, but I walked for about 30 seconds to take a few swigs of water. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I would definitely regret this later!
I threw my cup aside and started running again. It was getting tougher, and I still had a mile to go, so I consciously kept my pace hard but not TOO hard. I tried not to think about hearing the 19:something call, because I really hadn’t planned to worry about my pace for this race…but I started thinking that I might be able to squeak in under 31:00 — in other words, under 10:00/mile. That was exciting. I honestly do not remember the last time I completed a 5K (or any run) under 10:00 pace. Definitely no more recently than 2008, and probably longer than that.
When I knew I had less than a half mile to go, I turned up the pace. Juuuuust a notch. I know from experience that when the course turns into the parking lot, there’s still a long ways to go. When I finally passed the 3-mile marker, I could see the finish line clock for the first time. It read something like 29:40 (I don’t remember exactly). I was so excited that I was going to finish under 31:00, and I gave the last 0.1 everything I had, even passing 3-4 people in the final stretch. The clock read 30:33 when I crossed the line, and my Garmin showed an even better 30:13. Later, after cooling down and getting some water and food, I checked the official results which listed me with a chip time of 30:05.
I was 5 measly seconds way from going not only sub-31:00, but sub-30:00!!
For most runners, that’s not a big deal, but for me? I’ve been running for almost 10 years now, and I can count the number of times I’ve run a 5K in less than 30 minutes on one hand. THREE. I’ve gone sub-30:00 exactly THREE times in my ENTIRE life, with a PR of 29:18.
Then I kicked myself for taking that quick water break at mile 2.
But I didn’t kick myself too hard, because I was still pretty dang excited.
(I’m not actually sure how my chip time is a full 8 seconds faster than my watch time. I didn’t think I sucked that much at hitting my watch on time. But whether it’s 30:05 or 30:13, I’ll take it!)
I don’t know if I’ll be able to break 30 minutes this summer since every race from here till October is likely to be a hot, humid, sweaty mess. But we’ll see.