Sunday, March 18, 2007

A sort of homecoming at the Human Race

Two years ago on this very weekend, I found myself standing at the starting line of the St. Patrick’s Day Human Race 8k. It would be my first official race since I started running a few years ago.

So today was an anniversary of sorts. Two years and 27 races later, I am back at the campus of St. Thomas University to participate in my third Human Race.

St. Thomas University

Not to rip off a classic song title from U2, but it felt like "a sort of homecoming." I still remember my feeling of nervousness when I first set foot in the St. Thomas fieldhouse two years ago. I wondered if I was ready for this, if I was crazy for trying, and if I knew what I was getting into. Turned out the event and my performance far exceeded my wildest expectations and set me in motion to pursue more races. That is why the Human Race is special to me. This is where it all started. As long as I live in the Twin Cities, the Human Race will be a yearly fixture on my race calendar.

The St. Patrick’s Day Human Race is a very popular and rather historic event put on by the folks at The Sporting Life. In its 35th year, this race is regarded as the fastest 8k in the state, and it attracts many of Minnesota’s top runners. The course (for both events, the 5k and 8k) is a relatively flat out-and-back down scenic Summit Avenue past many beautiful homes and buildings. For many Twin Cities runners, this race truly marks the start of spring, launching us into the summer racing season.

I arrived early, milled around, and watched the 5k race that started first. I love the atmosphere at races. It is so much fun being here. And adding to the fun, I had an unusually high number of really hot female runners asking me for directions to the registration area, questions about the race, etc. Seriously, I was approached by at least a half a dozen. Not sure if it was my spiffy outfit, or if I looked like a tour guide, but it was astonishing. No phone numbers were exchanged, however.

Who could resist the charms of a guy dressed like this?!? :)

The race started, and we were led by a trolley car down Summit Avenue going east. I got off to a fairly slow start. There would be a crosswind hitting the runners in the face for the first half. And due to congestion at the starting line, I boxed myself in behind a pack of slower moving runners (which was my fault). But once I broke free of them, I made it through the first mile in something like 7:20.

Shortly before I hit the 2 mile mark, the men’s leaders came blasting past us the other way. There was a pack of 5 of them, and they were flying. Wow, do I feel slow! :)

With a lap around the block at the William Mitchell College of Law, we were heading back west on Summit. The wind was now sort of behind us, thankfully. I maintained my pace and kept on plugging away. After a slight uphill stretch, I reached the 4 mile mark in 28-something, and the course runs ever so slightly downhill from that point on, so it is clear sailing to the finish.

I crossed the line in 35:42 (you can see the results here), which was a good time for me, and only 29 seconds shy of my 8k PR. Anytime I can run a low 7-minute per mile pace over a distance like this, I can’t help but be pleased. Sure, I was more than 11 minutes behind the guy who won, but I also beat the Mayor of St. Paul, Chris Coleman, by almost 11 minutes, so I figure it comes out in the wash. :) A great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

A proud Irish Nissan Xterra at the St. Patrick's Day Human Race

Tonight I treated myself to some good takeout from a local Chinese restaurant (mmm...Szechuan beef, and chicken in garlic & black bean sauce!), and I am enjoying a nice glass of Cabernet as I type this.

I am off to a good start this year. Here is to a fun, enjoyable, and successful 2007 racing season, and here is to more anniversaries!

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