Sunday morning my alarm blared at 6am – far too early to be getting up on a Sunday but I had a race so I pulled myself out of bed. I peeked out the window to confirm what I suspected. Yup, it was still raining. After walking and feeding Daisy I sipped my cup of coffee as I gathered the things I would need for that morning’s race – dry clothing to change into after the race, my race bib, etc. With everything packed I hit the bathroom because in all my years of racing I’ve learned the important lesson of going to the bathroom before a race. I learned that lesson the hard way during the Marine Corps Marathon (my first marathon) when I found myself making pit stops at nearly every porta-potty along the race route. So now I handle business before hitting the road.
Once things were handled I flipped on my computer to confirm what time the shuttles were leaving – I needed to get to old town Alexandria to hop a shuttle that would take me to Mt Vernon, where the GW Parkway Classic 10-Mile race starts.
Oh hell. The last bus leaves old town at 7am. It was now 6:50am and I had a 20 minute drive. I grabbed my things and ran out the door, texting David to tell him I was on my way. David conveniently lives near the end of the race which is also where the shuttle buses pick up runners. I made it to his place in record time, parked my car in his lot, then handed my bag off to him before running the two blocks to the area where the shuttle buses sat.
“Is there still a bus going to the start?” I asked the volunteer. He pointed to the bus near the front and I took off in a mad dash for it, fearful it would pull away from the curb. Thankfully I made it, joining the couple who sat waiting to leave. Two minutes later another frantic runner climbed onto the bus and with that the four of us were driven to the start.
Normally I wouldn’t want to be that late to the start of the race but it actually worked to my advantage this time. I arrived about 12 minutes early which meant I only had to stand in the freezing rain for 12 minutes, rather than the runners who had been there for 20, 30, or 40 minutes.
I stood at the starting line, moving in place a bit to keep warm but soon those twelve minutes were gone and the race was kicked off. I thought I spotted someone famous right before the race started but I shook it off, certain I was mistaken. After all, why would Scott Jurek be running a small race in Alexandria, Virginia? The man won the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run on his first attempt. And he’s won countless other ultramarathons, including Badwater which is considered one of the hardest in the world. There’s no way he’d be running a small 10-mile race. If he were they certainly would have announced it. So I smiled to myself at my silliness and surged forward when the horn blew.
I took off, forcing myself to not get carried away with my pace too much. The first mile is downhill and I clocked it at 6:53, a little faster than I wanted to be running. After that I slowed a bit, dropping back to the mid-7 minute miles.
It was just after mile three that I passed him. I looked closely at him, trying hard not to stare. This time I was pretty certain. Scott Jurek was running the race and I was passing him. I stayed with him for a moment, checking him out from the corner of my eye, trying to figure out why this world class athlete was running slower than I was. I shook my head. It couldn’t be him, there was just no way. Clearly the man I spotted and passed was just his doppleganger, his twin, his stunt double. There was no way that I was passing the Scott Jurek. So I smiled and just kept running.
The rest of the race passed with little fanfare. It was cold, it was rainy, and when the trees opened up the wind was noticeable. I turned the only two turns in the race (seriously) and headed into the 3/4 mile straightaway to the finish. It took FOREVER. My legs had no kick, I had no juice, no ability to sprint in. Instead I just focused on continuing to move.
Just before the finishing shoot I heard my name yelled out and spotted David and Kat cheering on the sidelines. David snapped this picture:
I kept pushing and finished in 1:13:57, which is a 7:23 pace. Definitely not the fastest I’ve ever run (I’ve done training runs significantly faster), but with the weather I’d still say it was a decent race. And really, if this picture doesn’t capture it how I felt upon finishing, then I don’t know what does. I never said running was pretty.