Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Becoming a Professional Athlete

On Saturday, I raced the 12th Annual Mahomet 5K. There was $100 of prize money for the winner and the race hadn't been won in under 17 minutes in several years, so I figured that I would try my luck. Of course, every time that I think that I can just show up and win a race, someone else even faster does the same thing, so I couldn't count on it being a sure thing.

I saw lots of fast-looking guys warming up--some of whom I know are fast--but as luck would have it, all the guys that I was worried about entered the half marathon instead of the 5K, which carried a $200 prize. I haven't been doing high enough volume training recently to feel confident racing a half, so I stuck with the shorter race. I didn't recognize anyone on the start line--and in a rare occurence in a 5K, people didn't even crowd the front line--and when the gun went off, nobody even attempted to go with me.

The first mile started downhill and despite the promises to myself that I would start out easy given the chance, I went through the mile in 4:54. Realizing how far ahead of everyone I was, I dropped the pace back to a nice, relaxed 5:50 for the remainder and cruised in to the finish at 17:16 a full minute ahead of the second place runner. Here I am pictured with my $100 check and first place plaque. Now that I've accepted a purse, I believe that makes me a professional athlete (at least in the eyes of the NCAA, for whom I don't have eligibility left anyway).

A gripe about the pace car: Somebody apparently wanted to show off his fancy old car from the 60's and drove it as the pace car for the 5K. The fumes from that thing were nearly unbearable! Just before the 2 mile mark, I caught up with the back of the half marathon pack that had started ten minutes before me and we had to cut across them to stay on the 5K course. The pace car had to wait for a break in the runners to get through and I ran up next to the car and yelled in "Stay behind me; your fumes are killing me!" For the rest of the race, the pace car drove behind me, but it didn't matter because the course was so well marked. Even the guy in second place over a minute back told me that he could smell the fumes. After the race, the driver of the car apologized to me...while sitting on his bike that he could have paced with. I guess the elites in marathons have had to deal with this kind of thing for a long time, but I can't see any reason why pace cars today in major races aren't hybrids, which would run on electric at running speeds.
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