My friend Ken arrived at my house at about 7 am dressed in his NY Yankees t-shirt. I briefly considered how rude it would be if I didn't let him in, but since he got up at 5.30 (yeesh!) to get here... We drove to Greencastle-Antrim, which is about an hour away. We got to the high school where the event was being held at about 8:05 am, which is roughly when registration was supposed begin. It was a beautiful drive down, the weather was amazing (mid-50s, sunny, bright...a great day for a race!)
When I e-mailed my friend Randy (the event organizer) the day before about his projections, he had about 450 people pre-registered and was expecting another 50-100. I'm no expert, but 500 people for a two miler in it's first year seemed like an awful lot of people, so I was really excited and happy for him. It turned out that they had given away the extra 100 packets by the time we got there (Randy apologized[!] and said, "I'll try to get you a t-shirt." I got to quote Lance and replied, "It's okay. It's not about the t-shirt.") 8:05 am. 550 people. I looked back and people were still streaming into the lot. AWESOME!
The event was extremely well organized ; I'd expect nothing less from Randy, honestly. Plenty of voluteers were around to register people, there was virtually no waiting in line (I hate that) and everyone seemed to be on the same page and know what was going on. They had maps of the course, which Ken and I looked at and were assured it would be easy to follow, with volunteers at all turns. I'll spare you the suspense: it was, and there were. We went outside, did a couple warm-ups and waited for the start.
Ken and I were at the very front inside when the race started. We agreed to run our own paces, because he's in better shape than I, and has been running more regularly. My goals were to 1) finish and 2) do it in less than 20 minutes. The horn blared and we were off! One kid REALLY took off, and he looked strong. I ran to get out of the mix and it seperated nicely. People were very respectful and there was no jostling or bouncing. Nice. I went out a little faster than I had anticipated, but I kind of had to because I was at the front of the pack. Ken was right with me.
We ran around three-quarters of the track and then out the gate and onto a cross-country-style course. It was a little wet, a little slippery, but I was careful. Ken had begun to separate, and I let him go and began to run my race. The only tough part about that was letting a Yankees fan get the better of me. Because of my initial position, I was in a position to get passed, but not to pass a lot of people. I didn't realize this or have the ability to reflect on it during the race, but it was a little disheartening to have people passing me, without much opportunity to pass others. It was just a matter of perspective, but I did not have the benefit of that perspective. It's one of the things I learned from this race, and I think it will make me stronger for my next race. We ran into the woods...
I didn't know where the halfway point was, relative to where I was on the course, and after a while my mind started asking the question, "Where exactly is the halfway point, Fish?" I wasn't hurting, exactly, but I I felt I was pushing pretty hard and wanted to guage my effort and pace myself. This was harder to do because I was used to running on pavement, and the completely unknown factor of the course offered no clues. I began to question a little bit more, when I came to an opening in the woods and there was a girl reading off times--the one mile mark! She read off the times: 7:57, 7:58, 7:59...I ran the first mile in LESS THAN EIGHT MINUTES!
I knew, based on where I was physically, I would take longer on the second mile. But I resolved to leave everything out there. I could see the turn toward the stadium track area, which would mark the conclusion of the race. We were to run around the outside of the fence, then into the stadium, onto the track and to the finish. I was starting to hurt when I got to the fence. Then I saw Randy, and he yelled, "Let's go Rob! YOU CAN DO IT!" Talk about an emotional lift; it meant the world to me. I started pushing a little more, and picked a guy I wanted to catch and pass (a younger guy, probably late teens early twenties).
We came to the entrance to the stadium and entered onto the track. He was still about ten yards ahead of me, and I had about 300 yards to catch him. I began picking it up again and was two steps behind him when I felt someone coming around my right shoulder. We went three wide on the final turn, 100 yards to go, and I knew what was going to happen next. My sprinting instincts kicked in and the adrenaline rush was on. I left them both.
More importantly, I completed my first event as a cancer survivor. And, I did it in the name of my friend's son, Drew Michael Taylor.
Final time: 16:39
Ken and I went to change so we could play a round of golf after the race. In the locker room, there was posted an opportunity for students to come out to train for the Dash for Drew, to get in shape, and to run a race. I thought it was totally cool, and just the kind of thing Randy would do.