Crazy Legs

Race in a Run

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Michal Kapral

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.


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