So when I started running with Special K at the Armory in the winter of 2009, there was this guy. He looked to be in his early 60's who was starting to run, too. He and I ran and walked and worked up our endurance together, then the warm weather hit and I stopped going to the Armory, but I'd see him over at Meadowbrook Park on occasion. And every time he runs, red shirt and black shorts.
In winter 2010 when I started training for the half marathon, he was there, too. We were both noticeably slimmer and we ran the exact same pace. I know most 30-something runners would be appalled to know they were keeping pace with someone old enough to be their father, but hell, we were both improving. No walking and we'd keep it up. We must have been on the same training regimen.
When I ran the half marathon, I was so excited to see him. Now, keep in mind, Red Shirt Guy and I have never spoken. We've never smiled at each other. I wonder if he even notices me, the way I know him. He ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than me (I remembered his race number), since my foot was giving out.
Flash forward to February 2012. It's the first time I've been on the track all winter due to my broken foot, an unseasonably warm winter and random stuff that keeps taking place at the Armory (like the RC airplane fest) on weekends when I can run. I walk in at 9:15 a.m. An hour later than I used to. And guess who's there. Red Shirt Guy. He's noticeably trimmer. And he's gone from running a 11:45-minute mile pace for distances to a 10-minute mile pace. Want to know how I know?
I got behind him, like 10 feet behind him. At the first mile mark I was at a 9:45. What? I haven't run that fast since March 2010. Mmmm. Why is he getting off the track?
I hate running without people in front of me. I'd like to say this is my "strategy" when I run races, but really, running for me is 98 percent mental. If I get bored, it's a lousy run. And, well, even just noticing other runners gaits is enough brain capacity to keep me NOT noticing what I'm doing.
I didn't have high hopes of running long today. I have a lot of things to get done and, well, I didn't make it to the gym pretty much all week. I also missed Kari's circuit class on Saturday because I woke up with the worst sinus headache. But I figured I'd squeeze a 5k in and go home. Nothing big, but I signed up to run one on the morning of March 10th, so I might as well make sure I can actually run the whole stupid thing.
After Red Shirt Guy left the track, I continued around and I remembered I left my leaky water bottle on the coat rack horizontal after I hung it up. I swung by the racks, grabbed it and put it upright on a garbage can. I noticed he must have gotten off the track, taken a drink of gatorade (he's obviously doing the half marathon again, if not the full) and gotten right back on. So, I waited for him to pass me and then I fell in line behind him. Next half mile we were at a 9:48. And I have to admit, I wasn't feeling winded. I was actually quite pleased. Then he got off the track again. Wow, I used to fuel ever 4 miles when I did the half, so roughly every 45 minutes. Doing it every half mile seemed odd. And then I had a thought. Maybe I was the jackass "pushing" him. So I took off on my own and naturally, I got bored and I slowed down. 9:53... 9:55. My total 5k was just under 10-minute miles(9:58 per mile). 31 minutes has always been my average 5k. My PB which expires this March is 29:25. I hope to one day break that 30-minute mark again.
As for Red Shirt Guy, I'm guessing he can keep it up for the whole half marathon, since he didn't have a giant injury/defective body breakdown. He got back on the track half a lap behind me and he stayed there, without me charging up his heels or breathing hard from behind. I'm proud of him, and I'm sorry if I annoyed him today. And I hope that I'm able to get my shit together so I can run a half at a 10-minute pace. Things to work toward.