ORN: 15km (9.3 miles), 1:17:52, 8:23/mile
Had huge fun today, Labor Day 2011, running the Blueberry Stomp 15K road race in Plymouth, Indiana. The race fell nicely into my fall race plans, helping build towards three marathons later in the fall. About a 90 minute drive away, it was easy to get to and offered a good distance. I had run this race in 2005 and was looking forward to running it again.
After a brutal heat wave last week, a massive cool front came through over the weekend and the temps were perfect for running. The thermometer read 53F at the start and could not have been much over 56 by the end. A refreshing breeze of cool, dry, Canadian air made us forget, for a little while anyway, the mean heat we've had this summer.
I wasn't quite sure what the legs would allow today, given a hard half marathon just two weeks ago. So, I decided to see if I could carry a pace of 8:50/mile and see how I felt. The weather was just so very, very nice, I did feel hopeful, though.
The race started right on time with what seemed like 500 or so combined 5K and 15K runners. In the first mile, I found myself running comfortably yet was surprised to see the first mile come along in 8:37. I tried to hold back the reins, yet miles 2 and 3 went by in 8:28 and 8:34. The 15K route made a large loop of country road past past some stately manors. Mile 4 checked in at 8:33. I was still feeling good, so decided to let the pace improve a bit.
Mile 5 and 6 were 8:20 and 8:31 and we were heading back to town, feeling good. So, what was possible?? I picked up the pace. Mile 7 and 8 were in 8:10 and 8:07. The last 9.32 miles went by at a pace of 7:59 and we were done. The final was 1:17:52, which eclipsed my former 15K PR (set on the same course in 2005...I don't often run 15K) by over 7 minutes. The aggregate pace was 8:23/mile and the entire race seemed to pass oh-so quickly.
The fun part of this race comes at the end, though. The running event is simply one part of the larger Blueberry Festival, a carnival of activities over the whole Labor Day weekend. The high point is a big parade on Labor Day morning. The start of the race preceeds the parade, though many folks had already staked out prime viewing spots along the way. Thus, we had a nice crowd on the way out. On the return trip, however, the parade was in full bloom, going south, while the 15K runners were strung out, running north, in a lane along the left side of the road. I decided to have some fun, giving official "parade wave" to the float carrying Miss Blueberry and her court (they got the joke) and doing an air guitar with guys on a float for a local radio station.
But the real fun was seeing a bunch of guys walking along wearing t-shirts with a huge "Joe" emblazoned across a silloutte of the state of Indiana. Turned out it was a campaign effort for Joe Donnelly, currently representing that part of Indiana in the House of Representatives but also hoping to make a run for the US Senate in 2012. In the moment, I mostly thought it was a cool T Shirt, for obvious reasons. Better, though, as I ran past the T-shirted dudes, I saw a guy in a tie-less white dress shirt shaking hands with folks on the side of the parade route. Man, I said to myself, that has to be Joe!! So, even with 200m left in the race, I peeled back and said to him "Are you 'Joe' "? He grinned and said yes. I ran up and shook his hand, telling him I was Joe too! I guess this meant we were both, simultaneously, shaking hands with Joe. In a nice bit of clarity of thought, Joe said to me "Hey, I'm messing up your time!" I appreciated his awareness of the moment. I pointed out I was not on the bubble for making the Olympic team and just was having fun. He got the joke and the political moment made us all smile.
It was huge fun to be able to run well on a perfect day. It doesn't always happen...savor it when it does.
Persevere. And give a politician a smile if you have the chance.