I even had “Galloping Gobbler” printed on my race bib, because I am the master of race names.
Lincoln Park’s 33rd Annual North Shore Turkey Trot 8k welcomed 5,000 runners, and though it was a much smaller race in terms of participants than the Hot Chocolate 5k, the sea of shiny Pilgrim-style buckles, drumstick-shaped hats, and folks dressed as corn on the cob milling around the start line hinted at a lot more than just potential logistical problems.
Ever seen corn try to run?
If you’ve ever seen a toddler try to run with a full diaper, it’s basically the same.
After taking about four minutes to actually cross the starting line at Cannon Drive just north of Fullerton, runners quickly fanned out in the street and separated from the walkers, jogging strollers and a handful of sweater-clad dogs.
Though there was some initial bobbing and weaving as runners did the usual angry birding out of the gate, pacing was definitely going to be the key to accomplishing my lofty sub 60:00:00 goal. With the erratic times I’d been averaging during my training runs (10:03 – 14:27 and 11:22 – 15:00) in the weeks before, I was more worried about losing steam before race’s end, or gasp, having to slow down to do the ultimate walk of shame. I was there to run and no matter how slow I got, wanted to cross that finish line at a decent clip.
Besides, meeting goals means pouring congratulatory drinks and eating all the pie later.
I hit Stockton and headed west toward LaSalle in good shape. I had struggled a little bit with the uneven terrain, but my pace was good, and though I’d lost track of Jeff (he came too) who keeps a much faster pace, I was feeling pretty positive about my form.
Then came mile three at the North Avenue ball fields.
The ground was soaked. All of the gravel along the path was unstable, the grass around it slick with mud, and to top it off someone ahead of me puked EVERYWHERE, making the whole area one gnarly mess. Runners were all over the place.
Even so, I was surprised to find I wasn’t slowing down much.
But, despite good juju, mile four WENT ON FOR DAYS. My legs felt like they had sloths hanging from them. Belmont Harbor came and went, and though I kept pushing forward, I had slowed down. A lot. Or at least it felt like I had. My vision had gone kind of wonky, almost like looking through a kaleidoscope, and though I could hear volunteers talking here and there, it all sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
At some point, I stopped looking forward as much as I started looking down. I think I was trying to will my feet to carry me faster. Maybe even to magic me to the turnaround. I knew it had to be close since runners were now running parallel to me in the other direction. My mind was wandering, and as I tried to regain some focus, I saw the turnaround just north of Diversy.
That snapped me out of my fog a bit, and as my brain continued to auto-pilot legs I couldn’t even really feel anymore, I picked up the pace. I continued to keep my head down, focusing more on moving my feet than how much ground I had covered, which was dumb, because the next time I looked up, the finish line was just a few feet away. I wish I had looked up sooner so I could have nudged things into high gear faster, but oh well.
In the end, it was a mad dash. I don’t know where the drive came from, but I ran for that finish line like Ryan Gosling was waiting for me.
I crossed at 1:04:06.7, and it was hard to stop. My legs wanted to keep moving even though the rest of my body was yelling FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND COVERED IN GRAVY, STOP!
Jeff came in with an awesome time – about 10 minutes faster than mine, and though I didn’t meet my original goal, I was close. WHICH WAS FINE, especially once I realized that I’d managed to maintain an average 12:54 pace throughout, an improvement over my 13:24 pace during the last race.
I’m thankful for the little things. Also, ibuprofen.
Photo credit: someecards