Friday, June 24, 2011

700+ Races

I promised some time ago to blog something about my long racing history. I've hesitated, because really it's just a long list of statistics. Maybe I should just share the master file as a google doc or something. We'll see.

In the meantime, skip the rest of this post if you really don't care. I won't mind, really. There is no way for me to summarize over 700 races in one blog post. Nearly every one of them has some kind of memory attached to it, the best and the worst and all in-between. I really do love running races. I love the challenge, the camaraderie, I even love the early mornings and the pre-race jitters. I suppose you already surmised that, because 700+ races is, well, a lot.

The truth is that I've run even more races than that, but I only started recording them in 1978. Before that, I'd run at least couple dozen races in track competitions while in Junior High School. I have no record of them, but it's fair to say that I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to running. What I can recall from those halcyon days was getting my tail kicked by other kids of the same age who developed - physically - faster than I did. They all seemed so big and strong, and I was just a little tadpole next to them. It really wasn't until I was about 17 that I started to catch up physically (and actually had to start shaving, but that's another story).

My first recorded race was a 10k road race in Reedsburg, Wisconsin called The Butterfest Run. It had a popular reputation locally at the time, and many of the area's high school runners used it as a sword-crossing event mid-summer. I managed to record a time of 39:28 and finished in 37th place out of 104 runners - resplendent in my white cotton t-shirt and shorty-shorts.

The first race I ever won was in September 13, 1979, when I crossed the line first in a high school cross country meet run on my home course in Baraboo, Wisconsin. That course, now completely gone and made into suburban tract homes, was a bear, with two killer hills and one really steep downhill. I ran 17:51 for three miles, and beat the other 27 guys for my first-ever win. I think I sort of roared as I crossed the finish line, somehow at that young age it had seemed a long time coming. But it was also validation and redemption for that little boy who had been left in the dust only a few years earlier. Hard work had paid off. I could do this, and I could do it well. For an awkward teenager, that moment was enlightening and I guess I could say reassuring. You're gonna be all right, kid.

Since those early days, I have now managed to run at total of 706 races, at just about every distance from the half-mile up to 50 kilometers - for a grand total of 4493 miles of racing. I've raced on roads, tracks, trails, golf courses, and even in deep sand. I've raced at all hours of the day and night, and in every kind of weather you can imagine. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I've had some success, and of course I've had abysmal failures. I've crashed and burned out of marathons on more than one occasion, and simply had to admit that 26.2 miles wasn't going to be my forte. I've taken wrong turns and gone off-course. I've had races cancelled mid-way by horrendous thunderstorms, and I've had races in which I fell down more than once and still did well. In the end, at least to date, I've had my share of top finishes:
Together, that adds up to a top-five finish in 44% of my 706 races. I admit, most of those successful races happened years ago, and these days it only happens in low-key trail races.

My best times are also from years ago. Here's a summary chart of my personal records:
You can see that my glory years were in the mid-80s, and I've never quite been able to match those performances. Of course, matching those times can no longer be the goal as I approach age 50.

I can say that I still run races with the same combination of joy and determination that I had back in the 80s. I'm older, I'm slower, and I'm not trained as intensively ... but put me on a starting line and tell me to go, and I'll be off with all the effort I can muster on that day. I probably won't win, but I'll do my best.

If you don't write down your races, I suggest you start. It's a fun way to look back over the years, and to re-kindle some fond memories.

Do you think I can make it to 1,000 races some day? I can promise you this: if I fall short of 1000, it won't be for lack of trying.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Douglas, just found your blog as I'm a Harrier newbie, and whew, this is in-spi-ring. Seriously. 700+ races? Be proud, which you probably already are.


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