I decided to try something different last night. I ran a race put on by a local club, in a park near me, in the evening. I figured it would give me some idea what the DCRRC crowd is like and whether I'd want to join. And, I hate missing any races that are just a few miles from my house.
The registration was $5. I got no shirt and the timing isn't exactly perfect, but it was a great, no-frills experience. I showed up within 15 minutes or so of the start, parked, and followed the obvious runners milling about the parking lot to the starting line. A small crowd had gathered, maybe 60 people or so, listening to Ed Grant (President of the DCRRC) say a few words. When I approached him right before race time and asked him who to give the $5 to, he simply held out his hand and that was that. Nice.
As an aside, the DCRRC seems to be mostly populated by odd looking people. I know that is a crappy thing to say and it isn't like I'm freaking Brad Pitt. But, well, what can I say? I saw some ragtag running clothes, some floppy old hairdos, and some of the strangest running styles I've ever witnessed. I guess that is what hardcore looks like when it comes to running.
There was no gun or anything like that. Just a voice saying "GO!" and we did. I glanced at my Garmin and I was running pretty fast in the first part of the race. I felt very strange too. Maybe I was running too hard (6:00-6:30/mi for most of the first mile) because I was dizzy and felt out of sorts. I thought I might puke or pass out or something and I was having difficulty focusing on the fact that I was running. I was a little worried as to what might be going on, but I began to feel more normal as I continued on. I mean normal in the sense that I had my wits and knew what I was doing. Physically, I still felt off. I went from fast and dizzy to an exhausted and progressive slow down until the end of the race, with a finishing pace somewhere around 7:30/mi, I think. The overall pace was 7:22 or 7:23, so maybe I was even slower than that at the end. In any case, I felt increasingly tired and I began to cramp up with a bad side stitch. I keep saying it was a fun race, but I really felt like garbage for most of it. I had no second gear after the first mile or two and just tried to hold on. I kept hoping I'd catch up with the runners in front of me, but I couldn't make up a single foot on them no matter how hard I tried. I just didn't have crap in me.
I did say it was in a park. Did I say that it was mostly on a dirt trail? And that it rained all day and had started to rain again right before the race? You can imagine what happened then. It was a complete mudfest. The trail surface was well packed, so it wasn't too hard to run on or maintain footing. But, there were a lot of soft spots along the edge of the trail and loads of puddles throughout. I quickly gave up trying to jump over them or dash around them and I just started running right through, hoping to not step too deep into the water as I went. My socks and shoes were completely soaked and I could feel the extra weight as I plodded along. My legs were splattered with mud up to my knees and my clothes were pretty damp from the rain and the sweat.
Given the short distance, though, it didn't last too long. As I crossed the finish line, they handed me a blank card and called out my time. I walked over to the back of a Subaru Outback, filled in my name and age, marked my time on the card, and handed it in. Race over. It was kind of cool to not have a ChampionChip or any fancy mats and to just do a race like they used to do it (well, like DCRRC still does).
In the end, I'm somewhat disappointed with my performance, but not the general experience. It was short and fun and I'd do it again.
DCRRC Paul Thurston 4.5 Mile Race
Fairfax Station, VA
August 21, 7:00 PM
Gender Place: 26/48
Overall Place: 28/67