Whew. It's been awhile since I last did a big-ish 10k. I had completely forgotten how much fun it is.
Part of the uniqueness of this run was getting there. I had to rely on the public transit system, and it actually worked out fine. Except I felt kinda funny sitting there in the bus in my running garb, and until we got closer to where the race was happening, well, it was just me and what looked like a lot of folks heading off to early morning jobs on Sunday. They didn't look pleased.
There's a wonderful gathering of excitement when you get close to the starting line. First you start seeing people dressed for running. There are the showy folks - the people who have all matching-branded and color coordinated clothing, sometimes their scrunchies or iPod holders even match the color scheme (I should also mention that this is very much an iPod environment. I felt slightly out of place with my just-as-good-and-even-better-at-some-things-no-I'm-not-being-defensive Zen Micro V.) Then there are the people that you can't tell if they are there for the run or not. Some people are just dressed casually in a tshirt and shorts, with shoes that might or might not be running shoes. These folks interest me. Are they too cool to wear clothes that actually work well for running? Did someone run off with their luggage? We all got a nice ultra-light tshirt for registering. Why then?
As you get closer, you start seeing folks wearing their number bibs. Now you can really categorize people if you care to. Blue bibs for the 10kers, yellow for the 5kers, and pink for the elite runners. I'm still not sure what all that really means except that they all run faster than I do. It might be that they get priority to go to the front of the pack before the gun. Lower numbers for the early registrees - they usually know what they are doing, well, at least more than I do, cause I forgot about the whole thing.
At the starting line is where it really gets exciting. The 5k start was 30 minutes before the 10k, and I got there right in time to watch them start off. They even had an MC-ish sort of fellow up there doing the countdown. I had forgotten that they did that. It's really cool to watch a mob of people go from standing to surging forward.
After the 5k started, they started passing out the bunny hats.
They were basically a foam headband with big bunny ears sticking up in front. Genius. They were sponsored and tagged with advertising. Normally, I hate wearing advertising for people, but hey, free bunny ears! I think their strategy was to pass the ears out to the hot ladies and take pictures of them for some promotion, but they were handing them out to everyone. They, um... didn't ask for my picture, but I happily wore mine for the whole run. I should mention that it is a bit spooky seeing your shadow with demonic horn-looking things sticking out from your head when you aren't prepared for it. It's ok. Only ears.
As the time to start got closer, we all moved toward the line. They had signs marked with minute/mile times staggered out from the front: 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 etc... There was a bit of polite but nervous jockeying to get near the correct time based on what you thought you might run.
After people had basically settled in, everyone started stretching a bit, well, as much as we could stretch with people crowded all around. Everyone chatted nervously while waiting and wished everyone else a good run. An unhappy-looking collagen-injected woman in front of me didn't care for my bunny ears at all. I think she said something along the lines of, "Oh, I guess you have a sense of humor." Feh.
Then the countdown (given by a "celebrity" who actually said, "Go win. Run fast.")
5...4...3...22222.......11111111.....(no kidding. She stumbled over actually pronouncing the numbers 2 and 1. Was she being funny? Was she just trying to slow down to sync with an official clock? No clue. Maybe I don't have a sense of humor after all, bunny ears or no)
Oh, and the gun wasn't a gun. It was an air-horn.
If you haven't been in a big run, you might not know that you can't actually run when the horn goes off. Only the people at the front can actually run. Everyone behind them kind of does a wobbly shuffle-hop, shambling toward the line. It takes a while. It's all okay though, because they gave us little tracker buttons to put on our shoes to give us official times. Our times only start when we actually cross the start line, and by that time, the shamble had turned into a rumble.
It was a bit frustrating, but I really loved the start of the run. Runners took over the entire street - both lanes from sidewalk to sidewalk. Later on, we only had one lane, but for that moment, we were the traffic. The game of watching people (more entertaining than the actual run some of the time) began. Unhappy humorless women took off with a bit of a sprint. I liked that. She would burn out quick and I would pass her about a mile into the run. A lot of people do that. You get so excited that you run way too fast in the beginning and don't have anything left at the end. I forced myself to pay close attention to my pedometer to keep from going faster than the 8 minute/miles I had budgeted.
Slowly the group unclumped. The truly speedy were gone almost immediately. I would only see them after they made the u-turn and were coming back the opposite way. After they were gone, I started beating people. Well, that's all in my mind. Plenty of people were still passing me, but it's all a mind game, right? I picked out someone who was running nearly my pace and took up place behind them. Then, eventually, I would pull out in front of them, congratulating myself on my victory in a race that the other person knew nothing about. I was able to keep this game going for the whole run.
There were a couple people who I dueled with for a mile or two, but eventually I got past them all. The one who gave me the most trouble was a very attractive (at least from the back) woman with two long, crazy, hypnotically twisting braids. She passed me early, and I think it took me 3 miles to get passed her for good.
The other fun game was to chase down the other bunny heads. Unfortunately, there weren't too many in front of me that were really catchable, but each one I saw on the horizon was a moving target. Especially the one worn at a jaunty angle by a ginormous mountain of a man. His ears stuck out to the side about a foot above my head. But I passed him.
The end of the run was beautiful. There was a really strong tailwind and a very slight downgrade. I had been picking up my pace slightly. I could see people falling out and dropping back into a jog, but I actually had energy and legs left, so I lengthened my stride and picked up the pace into a quick run for the last half mile and a sprint at the end, weaving through the people in front of me. Over the music from my earphones, I heard the MC with the PA system call out, "And here comes a guy with bunny ears, sprinting for the finish, let's let him hear it!" I did.
48:42, but I can do better.