I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural B.A.A. 5K on April 19th, the day before the Boston Marathon. The event promised to offer "offer a fun and competitive course for athletes and - for those who have always dreamed of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line - a 'non-qualifying' chance to do so."
The day before the race we spent several hours at the expo and walking around downtown. After dinner back at the B&B I tried to rest my legs and feet as much as possible. I got organized and laid out my gear before hitting the sack early.
(This was my first time using the Chronotrack Timing System. No problems!)
On Sunday morning I was up bright and early for a light breakfast (I couldn't stomach anything) before heading downtown for the race. We arrived at the site around 7, an hour before the start. After milling around, using the port-o-potty several times (nerves!) and a half-assed warm-up, I lined up in my corral about 20 minutes before the gun. I positioned myself about half way between the 7:00/mile and 8:00/mile signs.
Kathrine Switzer introduced the race and announced that she would be running with us. I went about my business (trying to calm my nerves and focus) as a woman wearing bib # 11 made her way into the corral right beside me. I remember noticing her bib, but only realized after the race that I had been standing beside Ms. Switzer! I couldn't see her at the podium but my girlfriend had snapped a few photos and sure enough, she was wearing bib # 11.
Before long, someone pulled the trigger and we were off. I quickly discovered that I should have started closer to the front as I spent the first several hundred metres dodging much slower runners.
Despite the crowds (3500+ runners), I was able to settle into my pace quickly. My goal was 4:36/KM (=7:24/mi).
The first section of the route took us along Boylston Street, around the Public Gardens and Boston Common.
I skipped the water station at the first mile marker and felt relieved to be a third of the way there.
We faced the only hill (up and down) as we headed toward Commonwealth Avenue. My pace slowed as we climbed the hill but I was able to make it up on the downhill.
I was really starting to struggle and doubting whether I could keep my pace up all the way to the end. Thankfully, the second mile marker came into sight (I skipped water once again). My legs didn't want to carry me any further and I was gasping for breath, but I dug deep and reminded myself of those mile repeats I had completed a couple weeks before. 'Just one interval,' I said to myself, 'You can complete ONE INTERVAL.'
I glanced at my watch and saw that my average pace was below target. I was going to do it! Unfortunately, I had neglected to compare the distance shown on my watch with the mile markers on course. As it turned out, it was way off. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
We finally turned back onto Boylston Street. The finish line was in sight and the crowds were cheering like crazy. At this point I really felt like I couldn't possibly run another step, but there was no stopping now.
I crossed the finish line (the Boston Marathon finish line!) in 23:46. A wave of disappointment and confusion washed over me because my Garmin showed an average pace of 4:33, 3 seconds faster than my 23:00 goal. It also showed a distance of 5.22KM. Ugh! The worst part was, I missed a PR by 10 seconds because I had been paying too much attention to my pace and not enough to my time in comparison to the actual mile markers. Lesson learned!
I didn't allow the disappointment to stick around. I knew I had run a strong race and pushed hard through a crowded field, and 4:33/KM is a pace unheard of for me. I happily collected my medal and loot... and secretly vowed to run a 23:00 at my 5K coming up in July.
The B.A.A. 5K is one of the most exciting and well-organized events I've been a part of and one that I will definitely run again. Overall, an unforgettable experience.
Hartwell Half Marathon is tomorrow! It's a local event with just a few hundred runners. The course is an out-and-back - mostly uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. Should be interesting!