I've written about G before. He's my agency's rock star runner. He won the Capitol Hill Classic 3K last year. He did this after finishing the 10K race a few minutes earlier.
Wednesday he was mad at me, I could tell. We were heading to the monthly noontime club 3K race around the Tidal Basin and I was late in meeting up with him. We had only twenty minutes in which to run the 2.6 miles there.
He kept asking me if I thought we'd make it. I kept asking him how fast we were going. My answer was always, Yeah sure, they always start late. His answer was always, Oh, seven something.
As in a sub-eight minute per mile pace, according to his Garmin. My tongue was hanging out. A two and a half mile warmup at a 7:40 pace, for a 1.8 mile race that I would probably run at a 7:20 pace. That's not warm, that's hot. As in not. Not wishing I was making this run with the rock star.
And I was wrong also. My good friend Jay Wind, the race director, started the race on time for the first time since whenever because it was cold. We ran up as all the racers ran off.
G immediately ran right after them, but I stopped to peel off my windshirt. It was already sodden with sweat from the warmup.
I crossed the start line having given a significant head start to the sprinkling of octogenarians who always run this race. These are the guys I gun for in this uber competitive club race.
I'm joshing a little here, but I was behind by a few seconds. G was already out of sight chasing the leaders. Meanwhile I was knocking off women and boys and the elderly (ahem) right and left as we passed by the FDR Memorial and the nearby site of the future MLK Memorial.
I ran by another runner from my agency. I clapped him on the shoulder as I passed him and he grunted in acknowledgement. He doesn't usually come to this race. He's older and slightly slower than me so I'm always glad to see him there.
Now I was up among familiar faces. We ran up the hill on the course and I passed Jay. He's faster than me but I beat him occasionally. I settled down to a long pursuit of a young man ahead of me and the third-place woman ahead of him. I always overtake this woman in the last mile.
We passed the mile mark and I went by both of them. I drew the fellow along with me past the woman. Ahead was a racing doppelganger of mine, a good friend named Peter. He's about my age and although he is slightly faster than me, I beat him sometimes.
Peter is my yardstick in any race we're in together. We have a routine, like an old couple. I always pass him early, and then he comes up and passes me late with a sprint which I can't match.
Peter goes postal in the last 200 meters in those instances. I think he guns for me. But sometimes he doesn't come and I beat him. He's always very gracious, win or lose. He's got a great young daughter who occasionally runs with him.
There Peter was, 30 meters in front of me as we ran by the backside of the Jefferson Memorial. The last half-mile straightaway section was coming up. This is the awful time of this race, a time of reflection when you mull over what you're made of.
There he is. Go get him. No I'm tired. I can't.
Jay went by me. I drafted off him and went by Peter. I heard a charge from behind. The young man I had passed a quarter mile back was going postal and he sprinted by me. I let him go. I kept watching Peter behind me. With 30 meters to go he charged. He's definitely faster than me in this familiar routine. But in this race I dug deep. So close to the end! I booked.
Young Fellow 13:52
Me 13:52 (7:26), 33/53 overall
G finished 13th, whereas he usually finishes in the top ten. I hope he's still speaking to me.
Even though I was solidly in the bottom half of the field, as usual, I felt good about this run. I beat my doppelganger this time. Someday I'll tell you about the first age-group medal I ever won, which involved holding off Peter by 4 seconds, way before I ever knew he was my "odd couple partner," in some obscure race 70 miles from DC in the third race I ever ran. I thought at the time as I collected my medal, Oh, this is easy. It was five years before I ever won a medal again.