My training buddy called early Saturday morning. I knew why. “Are you still running?” he asked. We were right on the line where rain turns to snow; it was 32 degrees, windy, and raining. “Yep,” I said. “I’ve actually trained for this one, and I’m not skipping for anything.” “I thought you’d say that,” he said.
I ran the first annual Red Gap Brewing Company Lager Jogger last year after only having trained a few weeks, and my time showed it. This year I started training in September. I considered the other three 5k’s I ran this fall to be preparation for the Red Gap. I felt ready, and I wasn’t going to let cold rain, or even snow, stop me.
After I picked up my packet, I stayed inside the warm brewery as other runners began to trickle in, bundled up and shivering. Despite the holiday atmosphere and the horrible weather, I couldn’t wait to get started. A minute seemed like ten.
I planned to run some strides to warm up, but after only three or four I retreated into the brewery and opted for jumping jacks and arm circles. Finally, the announcer called the runners to line up. I took off my wind pants and jacket and walked out into the rain in shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt, which made me the most under dressed runner of the day. By the time the prayer, pledge, and national anthem were over, I was shivering all over.
Another buddy, Garrett, asked, “What’s the pace today, John?” “Whatever you set,” I answered. Garrett runs the local gym and is in great shape. I knew he’d be the main competition and probably win. When the announcer asked the faster runners to move closest to the starting line, Garrett said, “Let’s start in the middle; it’s more fun to pass people than to get passed.”
The horn went off with the normal small group of people who started sprinting. Garrett started a comfortable pace, so I stuck with him. Soon, the only thing in front of us was the lead car as we climbed the hill on 5th street. Before we got to the mile mark, I realized the comfortable pace was no longer comfortable, but Garrett was smiling and chatting. I let him slip ahead, hoping to catch him in the last mile.
Around mile two, I heard splashing behind me, so I looked back. I saw a bearded man 100 yards or so behind; he looked old enough to be in my age group, so I knew I needed to discourage him from trying to pass. I flew down the hill just after mile two (flew like a hippo), which is also where Garrett picked up his pace.
One last, long hill to go. Mr. possible age group was, I assumed, watching for his chance, so I ran as hard as I could up the hill, which used up most of what I had left. Luckily, there was only about a half mile left, and it was downhill to the end.
I ended up finishing 2nd behind Garrett, which was alright considering he is 13 years younger. The guy behind me turned out to be two age-groups younger than me, too, but I was grateful to him for the motivation. We high-fived and had a laugh.
Our entry came with two free lagers in cans, which I saved for later. I knew the prize for winning my age group was a pint of the beer of my choice, and nothing sounded better than a porter, which I enjoyed more than any beer I’ve had in a long time.
After the race, everyone enjoyed the food truck, live music, strong brew, and happy faces. Regardless of placing or times, we all made the decision to race on a wet, cold morning rather than sit by the fire and drink coffee, and that made us all winners.