Well, I guess you can’t be considered a real American distance runner unless you get smoked by someone of African heritage. Just back from Ridgewood where what I thought what would be a good time wasn’t good enough. Ran 4:24.75 for the road mile, good enough for second place behind Ar-ar Mohammed of Morocco (just a guess, based on his singlet that said “Morocco” that he was pointing to for the crowd as he was finishing me off approaching the chute…). His residence now is apparently Downingtown, but I have a hunch that he’s not in the market for a “Downingtown” singlet to demonstrate his hometown pride in any future races. I never like to lose, but like at Hartshorne I don’t know that there was much I could have done differently today that would have changed things (other than run a lot faster, which is easier said than done). Still have some work to do, but still have time to do it (hopefully).
Hotel was nice, easy drive up to the race site. Felt good waking up and warming up, checked out the course working my way up to the starting line. Point to point, a couple of shallow ups and downs with the final down working in the runners favor – total overall grade definitely a little downhill. Total field for the masters mile was only 8 or 9 runners – knew one of them from past USATF rankings (Birger Ohlsson) and one from last year’s World Championships (Elarbi Khatabi). I overtook Elarbi with about 100m to go to beat him in the 1500m last year in Kamloops, which turned out to play a role in today’s run. Elarbi is also “from” Morocco, now living here in the states. There was one other runner with the same situation, the aforementioned Mohammed, who I did not know before today. Apparently, according to what Elarbi told me after the race, their starting line conversation (in Arabic or Moroccan) was essentially Elarbi telling Ar-ar that if we were together at the end I would have a big finish. Team tactics – 2 v 1 – what was I to do?
Only complaint about the race was no 1/4 mile markers – a big deal for a track guy trying to figure out how fast he is going. They did have pace car with race clock which was a great thing, only without knowing how far along you were pretty much only told you how much longer you had to go to make the hurting stop. “3:09 – only 80 more seconds of hell….”. At the start a pack of about 4 or so stuck together through the (approximate) quarter mile, then I took the lead. Felt the numbers drop off, at about the half mile mark Mr. Mohammed pulled alongside me and eventually into the lead. I followed him through the 3/4 mark, with him looking over his shoulder about every 5-10 seconds or so – literally about every 10 steps he would take a full-blown look. “Still here” I was thinking – didn’t know whether he was getting desperate, or playing with me. Down the last decline I pulled alongside him, where he upped his “peeks” to about every 3rd step. I found out afterwards that he was making sure I wasn’t setting him up for a big kick like I did his buddy last winter – if he only knew that I was actually hanging on for dear life…
He had another gear with 100 to go that I couldn’t match. I had a “back row” seat to his enthusiastic finish of jersey points, raised arms, and fist pumps – to the victors the spoils. I guess like I always say about college football teams that complain about getting the score run up on them by their opponent’s second strings – “if you don’t like it then just stop them”. Maybe next time I will be able to represent a little better. 4:22.55 to 4:24.75 – a solid 10 yard win by him.
I did say that I would be happy with sub-4:30 and thrilled with sub-4:25. I can’t say with a straight face that this was a true sub-4:25 due to the slight downhill, but I can’t complain. I think that I still have some room to improve so I am not going to get spooled up about being beaten, but I could definitely see this guy again at 5th Avenue or somewhere else down the road and I would really like to be able to keep his arms down next time – hopefully by being in the lead.
So, $123.88 for the hotel room and $69.36 for gas comes to $193.24 – second place prize money of $200 leaves me with 5.5 hours in the car and a night in a(nother) hotel for $6.76 “profit”. I guess 6 bucks is better than no bucks – bought us a round of McDonald’s cones on the way home. All in all a good Memorial Day weekend – hopefully everyone took a moment to pause and remember those who have died in our nation’s service. That is real stuff, and makes running seem trivial when you really think about it. Hats off to those still out there, thank you for doing the work that allows the rest of us to have fun racing down Main Streets all across America.