Prior to Saturday morning, I had never run any sort of race other than a Marathon. Didn’t run track in high school. Never managed to sign up for a 5k, or a 10k, or any flavor of metric racing. Nothing against the metric system … I loves me some Canada … just never made it happen before I started marathon training, and hadn’t worked it into my training plans despite my best intentions.
I had visions of my first 5k being a stunning discovery of my inner Prefontaine – tearing through the course with fabulous short shorts … a blur of sideburns and 70’s mustache. Unleashing my inner racer, versus my inner survivor that emerges by the time I've dragged myself 26.2 miles from the start of what seemed like a good idea at the time. My first 5k did not exactly align with this vision. It was much, much better.
Those that subject themselves to my blog on a regular basis will recall the virtual 5k that my son and I completed a couple weeks back. From that experience my son expressed an interest in running a real-life 5k, and on Saturday that became a reality at the DennysChallenge 5k.
Contrary to its name, the DennysChallenge did not involve copious amounts of bacon. No Maple Bacon Sundaes. No bacon of any kind. Not even a stray pig. Really a missed opportunity to find out if in fact everything is better with bacon.
Actually, the race is a memorial race for a man named Denny who lost his fight with melanoma in 2009, and near the end of his life challenged everyone in the room to a fifty mile race. Last year there were 132 runners. This year there were 221. The event was very well organized and everyone seemed to have a good time. Kind of a cool feature was awarding prizes to the first 16 finishers, since they collectively covered the 50 miles that Denny had challenged his friends and family to race.
The boy and I got up bright and early, and did some pre-race fueling together – bagel with peanut butter and honey. I stretched and he teetered on the edge of awake and asleep, we got decked out in our matching shirts, sweatbands, and disoriented early-morning expressions, and off we headed to the race. We checked in, chatted up anybody who would listen, and soon we were off.
We started out running, which lasted about 3 minutes, then we alternated walking and running for the first mile. Fair to say my son is not a natural athlete with a great deal of stamina, so by the end of the first mile he was already hurting. There weren’t a lot of volunteers on the course, but the cool thing is that every one of them called him out by number shouting encouragement and telling him how great he was doing and what a good thing he was doing supporting the cause. He got a little embarrassed with the attention, but it gave him a little shot of energy every time it happened, which was so great to experience.
Mile 2 was actually surprisingly hilly, so the running decreased and the walking increased. He apologized once for going so slow, and I explained that it wasn’t about where we finished, it was about being there helping fund the fight against cancer, and about the two of us doing something together that was good for us and for others. That really sunk in, because he didn’t complain or apologize again.
Mile 3.1 was mostly walking, and unfortunately we were far enough behind that we didn’t really see any other people, which I think would have helped keep his spirits up. My wife and daughter were waiting near the finish taking pictures and cheering, so we ran the last .2 miles to the finish line. Our finish time was around 52 minutes, but the best part of the finish was him telling me how much fun he had, and that when he gets older he’d like to do a Half Marathon. It makes me proud to know that he probably wouldn’t even know about Half and Full Marathons if I hadn’t started training for and running them, so my example is fueling a interest in my kids. That’s better fuel for my training than any Gu could ever provide.
Overall a great way to spend a Saturday morning, and next time out we’ll be going to get three matching shirts, since my daughter wants to be a part of the action now. Happy Dad.