One of my favorite racing events of the year is the John Carson 4th of July Road Race in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. (see a previous blog post explaining why I love this race) The 2013 running was the 12th time I've run this race and my time of 14:40 was one of my worst. It was exactly one minute slower than I ran last year. But I'm going to blame that on the heat and humidity, not my fitness level.
When I arrived at the start line the sun was already shining strong and the heat was shimmering off the pavement. The turn out for the race was not diminished by the weather. Over 2,200 racers showed up to run the 2 mile race. I was accompanied to the start line by 14 of my friends and family, including my daughter and sister. We were absorbed into the massive crowd at the start line, and I ended lining up with only my brother-in-law. While we waited, we bemoaned the fact that we were both completing our first event in a new age category, 40-49.
The start went off without much adieu. All of sudden the crowd starting moving forward. I had not positioned myself as close to the start as I usually do, so I didn't cross the start line for 10 seconds. While this race offers a chip finish, there is no mat at the start line. The first half mile was spent jockeying around little kids and people running side by side chatting (really??). Once I made the turn onto North Road I started to get into a rhythm. I knew my splits weren't great, so I didn't look at my watch at the one mile mark. Racers are different, but when I see a slow split mid-race I start to feel a little dejected, so I didn't want to know how bad my first mile was. Unfortunately, there was someone yelling out the mile time. I heard "7:30". Ouch!
Just after mile one the road starts a nice gentle downhill (see the course video for a full narration). I focused on turning my legs over as fast as I could and enjoyed running right down the middle of the road. The crowds were great, cheering and squirting runners with Super Soakers. There were even a few folks with sprinklers out creating a little patch of rain for runners.
Heading into the center was exciting as always. The crowds were 3 or 4 deep and everyone was cheering. Even though I felt like my lungs were going to explode, I tried to pick up some speed going up the final rolling hill to the finish line. I focused on the fire engine ladder dangling over the road like an upside down V, with a huge flag hanging from it. I knew the finish line was just after that. I managed a good sprint and passed a handful of runners at the finish. I was relieved that I managed to stay below 15 minutes after having such a slow first mile. Final time: 14:40 Average Pace: 7:20
While I'll hope for a cooler day in 2014, I know I'll be out racing no matter the weather. This race isn't really about a time in the end. It's about friends, family and celebration.