A year ago when I was new to the board of my agency’s Wellness Committee, having recently started the running program at work, my agency received a Congressional invitation to the Capital Challenge 3-Mile Race. It was forwarded to me.
This was the twenty-fifth consecutive running of this invitational race, held every year on the first Wednesday in May at 8 am. I remembered Bex telling me that she ran it the prior year. The invitational race’s concept is simple–in the spirit of collegiality a race is run where individuals race each other on teams competing with other teams within their particular category.
There are six categories of teams: Senate, House, Executive, Judicial, Print Media and Electronic Media. Each team has five members, one of whom must be a female and all of whom must finish. All team members must be on the staff of the team captain (i.e., no guest runners).
All team members score. Each individual’s place in the larger race is added to his team score, and the lowest scoring team wins. And the most important rule–each team must be headed by a bonafide chief. This means a Senator, a Representative, an agency head, a judge or a media bureau head. Chiefs are generally older, and they are often non-running folks. Some might say this is a sure recipe for disaster (like in Heart Attack). (The race sponsors always put on a nice post-race buffet. 100% of the proceeds from the race go to the DC Special Olympics.)
I put together a team at my agency. We were in the executive branch and last year we did pretty well. Our team captain won an award for placing in his individual category of Captains over 60. We finished 7th out of 28 teams in our category and 15th out of 113 teams overall. In the executive category, we finished one point ahead of the eighth place team and two points ahead of the ninth place team. We were way off the pace for sixth place. In other words, everyone on the team finished exactly right and we nailed it.
The results are always skewed by the service teams. Last year the Navy or Coast Guard teams took three of the top five spots in the executive branch. Five out of the first ten runners were servicemen. These are young guys from the service running teams who are stationed in DC, probably for this very event. Their team captains are usually some forty year old ship’s commander, not a sexagenarian agency head who normally runs twelve minute miles twice a week to keep the weight down. So the members of my team informally threw out three of the top results in our category and unofficially awarded ourselves fourth place.
Our rock star, G, finished in 19:14, in 43rd place out of 642 runners. The rest of our team finished in 122nd (M, 21:22), 162nd (A, 22:04), 165th, and 424th (26:59) place. (M leaving after the race. The race shirts last year were a distinctive mustard color, easy to spot on the Mall for several weeks thereafter. That's RFK above the treeline on the other side of the Anacostia.)
I have mentioned each of the staff runners by initial in previous posts. Yours truly came in fourth for our team in 22:09. Our woman, A, beat me by five seconds, charging by me the last hundred yards. I was injured at the time (hamstring, a miserable injury) and could not respond to her late surge. Remember me saying that the difference between seventh and ninth place in the executive category was a mere two points? Her late sprint undoubtedly secured seventh place for us. A did a great job and deserved her place three spaces in front of me. Everyone on our team did a great job, especially the team captain who stunned everyone with his excellent time. It was a PR for me by six seconds anyway.
The race itself was a delight. It was held in Anacostia Park in SE along the Anacostia River on a level two-lane blacktop. It was a one and a half mile sprint downriver, a tight turn around a cone and a run back to the finish. It was flat and fast, so long as you could get out of the crowded starting chute in good shape (the scoring is by gun time, not net time).
Everyone was happy. The Wellness Committee even had a little get-together later at which the Chairman presented the team captain with a commemorative token.
Furthermore, I am old enough to know who Jim Ryun is. He was the Kansan racing star at KU who for nine years in the sixties and seventies held the world record for the mile. It seemed like he was always on the cover of Sports Illustrated when I was growing up. He made racing exciting. His epic battles with Kenyan Kip Keino were legendary. Until he got thrown out with other Republicans last November, thanks to the Decider, Ryun was a congressman from Kansas. His Team Ryun always did well at the race, winning the House team category in 2005 and 2004. Well, here I was in the same race as the most famous runner in the world from my boyhood. I even finished ahead of him by 36 seconds. (I think he was running injured.) Talk about attending a dream fantasy camp!
That was last year. This year it all went very much differently from the start. I knew it would be much more uncertain but I thought I knew two things for sure. I would break 22 minutes finally, and I would give A a battle and hopefully beat her in the race.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Last Wednesday was a fiasco. It made me feel as low as I have ever felt about running. I guess I’ll tell you about it in a later post.