Two years ago I finished 19th in 13:20 (7:09) and took my age group. Last year I added the challenge of running a double and finished 13th in 13:40 (7:20), again winning my age group. (Right: The 2007 Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K course.)
This year the usual gaggle of kids crowded to the front at the start line. At the Go command, they all burst off down the road, receding rapidly. It looked like someone had thrown open the door to a dark dank basement and a multitude of bugs were scurrying away to keep ahead of the advancing sunlight.
A quarter mile into the race the street became really congested with pint-sized runners flaming out and veering unpredictably all over the roadway. This is the dangerous point in this race that calls for the exercise of caution.
I safely picked my way through the flame-outs and the real race started. There were a half-dozen little kids still ahead who never came back to me. They relentlessly ran to the finish line and I never saw any of them again. There were also five women up there and not a one of them ever came back to me either, including an eight-year old girl. And a 51-year old woman. Oh well. (Left: Last year in the 3K, I couldn't get away from all the street urchins.)
Also ahead was my doppelganger, Peter. A 3K specialist about my age with the same first name, he’s about my speed except that he’s slightly faster.
He runs every monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K race, just as I do. We’re like the Odd Couple with our familiar routine. He breaks off the start line, I pass him mid-way through the race and then he goes postal in the last quarter mile and puts me away. Occasionally, though, I put enough distance on him first that he can't catch me.
We’re good competitors and good friends. Back in 2001 in my third race ever, I won my age group and received a medal in a small 5K on a hot, humid day on a hilly course in the Shenandoah Valley. I didn’t win another medal for four more years. The person I beat out for that medal, by a mere four seconds, was Peter, although I didn’t know him at the time. Ours are special battles.
We had spoken before the 3K race, and I let him know that I had already run a 10K race that morning and he let me know that he had already run a 3K race that morning. Let the true games begin! (Right: The 2008 Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K course.)
As I approached Peter late in the race, I got picked off by a very polite 12-year old who greeted me by name as he went by. He beat me by 22 seconds. Last year I beat him by 22 seconds. What a difference a year makes.
This youth’s adult running buddy, another regular at the monthly Tidal Basin 3K, also came by then. He went on to finish ahead of Peter also. The exact routine that was unfolding is scripted in almost all of the 3Ks the three of us run in.
I passed Peter. A minute later he passed me back but then he didn’t put me away. He merely settled in directly in front of me. So I passed him again, and tried to run it in the last quarter mile. Nope, Peter went postal.
I can hear this coming. I have come to recognize the sound of Peter's breathing and footfalls as he approaches, and the change in his breathing when he really revs it up. He flew by and finished nine seconds ahead of me. I strained to bring it home in 13:03 (7:00) in 15th place, first in my age group again. I felt good about my effort, even though five pre-teenage boys did beat me.
When the results were posted, on a whim I searched the 10K results for everyone who finished ahead of me in the 3K, to see if any of them had run the 10K. I thought that I might be the first Capitol Hill Classic doubler to finish the 3K.
Nope, there was T, nine places ahead of me in 12:16. But he had run his 10K in 1:11:07 whereas I had run my 10K in 47:31 (7:39) so my total time was way better than his total time.
The real problem with being smug about this factoid? T is eight years old.