Race in a Run
The long run must happen. Nothing will stop it, especially not a race. So when my marathon or half-marathon training plan calls for a Sunday long run and I’ve registered for a shorter race, I just tuck the race into the long run, like a slice of cheese on a giant sandwich.
For one 5k race, I ran a 10-kilometre warm-up, ran the race in a personal best time and then just kept running past the finish line for another 20 kilometres. The downside is that I had to turn down the finisher’s medal and be an anti-social weirdo by skipping out on the post-race festivities. It’s an unconventional tactic, but I know quite a few other runners who do it.
Several years in a row, I ran the Sporting Life 10k, which is a point-to-point course f rom the north end of Toronto to the south, and then I would jog back up the route on the sidewalk to my car at the start, with other runners yelling the Planes, Trains and Automobiles line at me: “You’re going the wrong way!”
Things don’t always go so smoothly. I tried the same run-back-tothe-start technique at the Mississauga Half-Marathon, but instead of following the racecourse backward, I tried to take a shortcut. Bad idea. I got very lost, and my shortcut turned into a 30-kilometre cool-down from a 21.1 kilometre race. Without water, food or money, I must have looked like this: a stumbling, delirious, anguished-looking runner, wearing a race bib for a race that did not seem to exist, perhaps the only competitor in his own race of stupidity. But most of the race-in-a-run memories are good ones. On one long run, I bumped into the start line of a 5k race. I happened to have enough in my pocket for the $5 entry fee, quickly pinned on my number and made it to the start just as the gun went off. It was a small race and I won it. “Awards will be over here in 45 minutes,” the race director told me. I ran along the trail for 22.5 minutes and then turned around, arriving back at the start/finish area just as the awards were beginning. First-place prize was a plastic orange with my name inscribed on it in black Sharpie.
I hid my precious plastic prize under some leaves behind a tree, and set off again. Just as I finished burying my treasure, I heard some familiar voices. It was a few speedy guys who I know, just starting their regular 16k route.
I barely hung on with them. When I uncovered my hidden orange, I wished badly that it were a real fruit to eat, but I hoisted it into the air in triumph. I decided it was my award for a successful long run. That stupid plastic orange is one of my most treasured prizes.
"I GOT VERY LOST, AND MY SHORTCUT TURNED INTO A 30-KILOMETRE COOLDOWN FROM A 21.1 KILOMETRE RACE."