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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The First Race I Ever Won, Was At Age....Wait For It....51!

During my early to mid 30's, I was the fastest in my career at races from one to four miles. In the NorthEast Ohio area, during the late eighties and early nineties, there was a population numbering 2 1/2 million, and there were a lot of competitive runners. In that period, I finished two races second overall, and five races third overall. Never was able to pull down a first.
When I got my tin parachute and was able to retire early out in Mesquite Nevada, I spent three months doing back rehab, and started trying once again to get into racing shape. I did a few races in St. George, and finished those races near the front and in first or second in my age group. In the spring after turning 51, I entered a 10K that was part of a half and full marathon in the Valley Of Fire park between Mesquite and Las Vegas. There were about 130 folks in the race, and everyone started out together. This was a very rough course where you went rolling uphill into the gale force winds. I got to the turn in 3rd place, and lo and behold, I turned to come back bye myself. I started counting seconds against the competitors coming at me, and then looking back to see if anyone else turned. I had a 1:20 gap on the next person to turn, and going downhill with the wind was just what my big ass body likes....I ended up winning in 44 minutes and change, and winning bye two minutes. That is where the race picture is from. I repeated the win the next year, in even crazier windy conditions where I got to the first mile marker in 8 minutes and 20 seconds and thought I was gonna die. I was able to go again at the turn, and won a second time bye a similar margin. But neither of these was my favorite win in my trifecta.....that came in the fall in between those two wins and occurred right in beautiful mesquite nevada.
The race was a 5K scheduled with the opening of the new city center on east mesquite blvd. It was a very warm late september morning, and about 45 people lined up at the city center. About a dozed high school cross country runners, a bunch of walkers, and a guy in a racing wheel chair. The race left the city center and went downhill for a third of a mile, and then went westward bye the new middle school and out toward what would become a new section of the cities bike path. I was right behind three cross country boys, and about a quarter mile ahead of them was the wheel chair guy. Now I had run this course a few times in prep, and new that when we went back north for a section, it would be on sandy dirt, and then across a narrow wooden foot bridge, along a bit more sand, and then back toward the city center on a couple of side roads. It went past the house of my friend Jim Otto, and he and his son planned to be in their driveway in chairs to root me on. All of a sudden, I had a terrible terry moment, and thought, if I can get ahead of the chair before the bridge, I might have a roadblock that I could take advantage of to get a lead. I started sprinting ahead of the high schoolers, turned on the dirt, and saw the chair guy struggling in the loose dirt and sand. I got to the bridge about three strides before his chair got there, and he got stuck and couldn't get his front wheels up on the bridge. The three cross country runners had to stop and push him up on the bride, and then it was so narrow, had to wait until he got over it, and then had to push him out of the way, as it was just as sandy on the other side. Bye the time they got past him, it was like a traffic jam, and there were about twenty folks all bunched together. I was a good half mile down the road bye then. I came bye the Ottos, gave a wave and cheer, and Jim yelled "where is everyone else" and I screamed "trapped bye a wheel chair". A few minutes later I crossed the finish line in first. I turned around and cooled down bye seeing where everyone else was. The weelchair guy recovered and finished second, and the entire group of cross country runners finished together. Their coach was all pissed at how slow their time was, and they all started bitchin' about the chair guy, and calling me a cheat. The coach said "oh, he cheated bye being smarter than you"? I got my name listed in the paper as the winner, with the reporter saying how amazing it was that a 51 year old was able to beat a cross country team. That was my favorite race ever, and I knew I would have made terrible especially proud.....

1 comment:

TerribleTerry said...

guy was probably drowning in quicksand and you ran right on passed.