Gathering on the north side of the South Park Mall was the biggest crowd of runners that has assembled in Charlotte this year. Standing on the front line, my gaze turned to look over the crowd and the sea of runners extended all the way to Sharon Rd and covered both sides of the street. Like me, they were out for some exercise before heading to various ports of call and enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.
Surveying the runners around there were some familiar faces, Steve, Jason, Carroll, Kent, Dan, Richard, Tom, and Lana. Who I didn't see was Spada and who missed seeing was Donny. We are given our final commands and then we are launched on our way.
The opening ½ mile is mainly downhill beside the mall. My eyes are darting back and forth both to avoid running into someone and looking to see what other masters might be running. To my left, I spotted the distinctive singlet worn by Donny.
We make the first left turn and I am running a few yards behind him. Climbing the hill beside the mall, I feel a twinge in my glut, but that then nothing. We top the first hill and I am running just behind Donny and checking out the runners in front of me.
Just a short run on Fairview and we make another right. There is a long line of orange cones to keep the runners to the right. Stilling running off Donny's shoulder, I realize he is moving over next the cones. Literally, he is squeezing me into the cones so I cannot run beside him. Thinking to myself at that moment "did he just squeeze me in the cones". No, we cannot have that.
There is a break in the cones and I used the opportunity to accelerate around him. Let him chase me for a while. I knew he was coming off the Thunder Road ½ marathon last Saturday so his legs might not be fully recovered.
Thinking about it after the fact, Donny probably didn't even realize that I was right on his shoulder. Really, it was no harm, no foul.
We make the left and I hear people cheering: Billy and Jason. I don't know who else.
The pace quickens and my breathing becomes more labored.
We make a right turn and start climbing. My legs don't like the climbing. I feel like I am really slowing down.
We make another right on Colony. This is the new neighborhood section of the course. The course isn't steep but is a long climb. Well, it is a long climb when you are in oxygen debt. I felt like we never would get to the top of it. And I didn't want to push too hard for fear of running out gas over the last mile and ½.
Back on Sharon, I catch a couple of guys and a couple of guys pass me. I make the absolute worst mistake and look at my watch at the mile split: 5:54. Now, racing, I wasn't really taken into account that the last mile had been mostly up hill and I didn't think to look at the elapse time. The only thought resonating was "you have blown your race". With nothing lose, we turn right on Colony and I charge after the guys in front of me.
The course ends differently that previous years and we finish in front of Dicks.
I round the final corner and can see the clock in the distance. Wait, doesn't it say 27:44. Okay, maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me. No, it does say 27:47 and I realize I might be able to slip in under 28 minutes. I launch into a sprint. I am trying to cover more ground than my body is ready to cover. The clock ticks forward: 51, 52, 53. I am getting closer but not close enough. Maybe 20 yards from the finish it clicks over to 28 minutes. The air goes totally out of my balloon. I flash across the line; my Garmin records 28:03 for my finish time. By the far the fastest time that I have run in several years for an 8k race. Donny comes in some 20 seconds later.
After we catch our breath, we talk for a few minutes. Some simple kidding – "that my singlet was the wrong shade of orange". Funning that he should say something about it, I thought his singlet was the wrong shaded of orange. LOL.
All in all, this was my best Turkey Trot 8k that I have run in many years, yet, it didn't garner me a 1st MM Turkey Trot trophy. John Moss from CA ran away with the title. He ran 27:18. I have to give him major props. He is fast on Thanksgiving day.
Now for some rest and eating large amounts of Turkey.
Happy Holidays to everyone.
The Cool Down Runner