Earlier this spring I ran my first trail run race, a 5-miler in Virginia atop a hill in the woods where an old prison used to be. I run at work at noon on the Mall with a coworker who was signed up to do the 10-mile version of this race but I could tell she wasn't going to be ready for it and I told her so.
I urged her to drop back to the 5-mile version so she wouldn't have a dreadful experience or worse, injure herself. I said I'd run the 5-miler with her if she did. (I told my friend she wasn't ready for 10 miles.)
She agreed. I signed up.
On race day I swung by her place and discovered that a) her niggling nagging injury was still present so she gave her bib to her husband, not a runner but a fit guy because he plays basketball all the time in leagues and b) a true runner, a friend. was coming with us. Okay, I'd be running with S, her non-runner husband and the friend would run off and leave us.
It worked out wonderfully. The friend disappeared at the start and threw down, like, a 34 minute time so he was way out of our league.
I ran with S, and the race started at the top of the mountain next to the abandoned prison (Lorton) and immediately ran down to the stream below. That loss of elevation would be made up for later. (S is on the right.)
S hung with me, and ran right behind me. The run shortly got into single track running on narrow footpaths up and down the forested or grassy hillsides and once we fell in with a group of runners after the first mile, there wasn't a whole lot of places being changed. We tried to get over as a courtesy for runners coming through.
Down and up we went. S was always right behind me, and I started to think I was holding him back. We passed the halfway mark at about 24:58 at a waterstop and I took a momentary break to drink some gatorade. I was grateful for the break because did I say, the course was up and down?
S took the lead. I hung on as best I could, but at the four-mile mark, I waved him on, telling him that "I'm not feelin' it today."
S wasn't having any of that though and he let me get back in front of him. Although he's a basketball player, he's fit and thirty years younger than me. He's also a gentleman.
So I was leading a string of runners at about our pace up and down these switchback narrow trails. At 4 1/2 miles we ran over a stream and I knew that meant a low point with a half-mile climb to the top of the mountain. I had my sights set on breaking 50 minutes and it was doable.
Up and up we wended. We debouched onto a grassy field with the prison above and ahead of us and my watch reading in the mid-49 minute range.
I was even with S, but I wanted to break 50 minutes. I ramped it up and surged past him. I felt terrible because, well, I was breaking past him.
It didn't matter. My time, despite my best effort, was 50:03. Maybe I took 4 seconds to pass the start at the start but I don't calculate like that. My time was my time. I beat S, or should I say his wife, by 2 seconds. I appreciated running with S.
It was a good race. I have run with my coworker and S before, during Cherry Blossom time, and S could keep up. I noticed that.
Maybe next time I'll break 50 minutes for a 5-mile trail run. (S and his wife on a cherry blossom run around the Tidal Basin in April.)