At noon today I ran in the monthly Tidal Basin 3K race. There were about 60 of us mad dogs and Englishmen out there running in the midday August heat.
I haven’t been running too well this year so I have started doing track workouts. Last night I ran 8X600 at 2:50s (7:36 pace) with a 200M recovery jog. Those intervals about killed me so I wasn’t expecting to do well today.
I was thinking about the track workout as I passed by the half-mile mark in the 1.86 mile race. I was busy formulating in my mind how the prior evening’s routine had doomed today’s race so I could mentally quit and "walk it in" at an easy pace.
This monthly race has its own immutable rhythm. All of the regular males were ahead of me, along with at least one woman. Another woman, perhaps the second female, was practically on my hip. Suddenly my doppelganger, Peter, cruised by me.
Peter, who is about my age and about my speed, keeps me honest in this race. He is my conscience.
Usually he doesn’t pass me until late, after a mile and a half have been run. Then he puts me away with his finishing speed. Whenever I beat him, it’s always because I have built up too large a lead during the first mile and a half for him to overcome.
Today his pass was early. I passed him back. He passed me again. I passed him once more. Again he passed me. I returned the favor again.
This could seem to be a riveting battle if it didn’t merely involve a couple of middle-aged mid-packers in an obscure (but venerable–dating back to 1974) little noontime downtown race.
I passed by the mile marker in 6:55, about 10 seconds faster than usual.
I started casting covetous looks at the back of the septuagenarian who always goes by me early and beats me by a few seconds. Maybe today I would overtake the 71-year old and it would induce me to a sub-13 minute finish, a rarity for me.
This month’s race, unlike most months, didn’t stretch out interminably. It passed by swiftly and I was able to take deep breaths during its latter stages. Maybe the track work was helping, not hindering, me.
Two or three younger men passed me late, but the second woman didn’t, nor did Peter. The 71-year old finished five seconds ahead of me. I finished in 13:09 (7:03), a fifteen second improvement over last month.
Peter came in a few seconds later. I jokingly accused him of trying to disrupt the natural flow of this monthly race by passing me too early. He said he was trying something different, pushing it early so he could pass me sooner rather than later. It left him with nothing for the final stretch, he said. I told him his uncharacteristic appearance beside me so early in the race had induced me to run an extra-fast first mile.
He said earnestly, "You’re welcome," and we both laughed.