In December of 1983, I ran my first road race. It was the inaugural running of the Christmas Rush 10k in Kent, WA. I was 16 at the time and, frankly, didn't run very fast (46:28). I had just finished my first season of Cross Country and was still very new to running.
Fast forward to today, for the 27th Annual Christmas Rush 10k (and 5k run/walk). My race number was 834...which gave me a chuckle, since I first ran it in '83, and it was my 4th time running it. Anyway, it was 27 degrees as I lined up at the start. This year, the race directors went with an out and back course, rather than the usual loop for some reason. More on that later.
My goal was to go out a bit slower than I did in my previous 10k (when I went out at 6:39). Mission accomplished, with a 6:49 first mile. My legs felt good, but even that early, I was having problems with my breathing. My lungs felt very tight, and later in the race, I felt like I was breathing through a straw. Due to the cold and stagnant air, the air quality has been pretty bad this week. I'm beginning to think that I'm sensitive to that, or maybe I've got mild asthma. I ran mile 2 in 6:58. At about this point, I got tired of fighting my heart rate strap, which apparently wasn't tight enough. It finally dropped down to my stomach and became useless. Mile three clocked in at 7:01. At 20:46, I was still running at sub-7 pace, but was starting to feel some fatigue. At the 5k mark, I tried to hit my lap button on my Garmin, but pushed the start/stop button by mistake. It took me nearly a mile to realize this. I could already tell that this probably wasn't going to be my day, but for some reason this took even more wind out of my sails. I guess I rely too much on that stinkin' Garmin.
So I had to run the rest of the race without having any idea of my pace or heart rate. There were volunteers at the mile markers, but, for some reason, they were calling out times that were nearly 2 minutes slower than the actual time.
At around mile 4 1/2, the consequence of having an out-and-back course reared its ugly head. The 5k runners and walkers started 10 minutes after the 10k runners, and here is where we ran head-on into them. There was a sea of mostly walkers, many with strollers and little kids darting all over the place (and people talking on cell phones, for crying out loud!), and us 10k-ers had no choice but to dodge and weave through the mob as best we could. It would have been a good idea to have several volunteers along the 5k course reminding them to stay to one side of the path. So that was basically strike 3 for me, mentally. I pretty much cashed it in and quit racing. My pace slowed quite a bit. My initial goal was to run under 44 minutes, but by now I expected to cross the line in 45-something. I managed to come in at 44:47. Better than my first 10k this year, but 41 seconds slower than my most recent. I obviously don't have all of my mile splits, but my first 5k was 21:31 and my ugly second half ended up being 23:16.
After the race, I walked by the booth of our regional running magazine (Northwest Runner). One of the guys (the editor, I think) noticed my 1983 race shirt and asked to take my picture. He said it'll probably be in the next edition of the magazine. He was really impressed to see a race shirt that old. I didn't notice any other runners with old shirts. I definitely got some quizzical looks & a couple of questions about it.
So in summary, I'm a bit disappointed, but relieved to be done with my shorter races for awhile. I'm ready to move up to longer challenges, but it was fun to come back to where it all started.
[EDIT - This was actually the 5th time I've run this race: 1983, '84, '87, '91 and '09]