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August 6, 2012

The Worst Race of My Life…But It was Fun….

by Anne Paddock

Last week, my friend, Mark asked if I wanted to run “Race the Train” – an 8.4 mile race in upstate New York (North Creek) and since I’ve been running 8-10 miles four days a week this summer, I immediately registered although I briefly hesitated because the weather forecast was for hot temperatures on Saturday, August 4th.  With a start time of 9:00 am – late by running standards – we all knew this race wouldn’t be our best but the idea of racing a train sounded fun.

The day before the race, Mark e-mailed me and told me the temperature was expected to reach 85 degrees – but when I looked on, the temperature at start time was predicted to be in the mid to high 70’s – less than ideal but not awful. I thought about withdrawing but didn’t want to back out so we all met at 6:45 am on Saturday morning and drove the 25 miles to North Creek. Upon arrival, we got our race packs and boarded the train that would take the runners and spectators to the starting point – 8.4 miles away- before racing the train back. With only 321 runners, there was plenty of space on the train. We arrived at the starting point – a big red bridge – and my husband took a picture of us (top photo) before the start. We all looked really happy but we didn’t stay happy long. At left is a picture of Mark, myself, and my husband before the race.

The race gun blew at 9:15 and the first two miles were uphill. I immediately knew this race was going to be one long, hot miserable experience ….and it was. I was running 9 minute miles and not that embarrassed about it as the heat was unrelenting. Although I don’t normally run side to side, I ran wherever there was shade and when a spectator had her garden hose with ice-cold water spraying out on to the street, I ran through and savored every cold drop that hit me. At the 6 mile mark, I was at 56 minutes (averaging 9:20 miles – OMG, I thought…I have never run this slow…not even at the Palm Beach Half Marathon last December when it was 80 degrees) but I wasn’t going to be running any faster in this heat. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and repeating “sustainable pace” in my head.

About 1/2 mile from the finish line, a woman came from behind and started running with me but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She stopped to walk for a few minutes and then caught me again about 50 feet before the finish line. I ran through the finish line at 1:18 and immediately walked over to a car and slid down the side where there was the only shade in sight. My dear husband was by my side in about 5 seconds handing me water.

I was the last one in our group to finish (and I didn’t beat the train). The fastest in our group was Kyle, a 17-year old (at the far right in the top photo) who finished in an amazing 57 minutes and placed 10th overall.  My friend, Mark who is a great runner, finished the race in about 1 hour, 8 minutes averaging 8 minute miles – not surprising given he did a race a few weeks ago and averaged 7 minute 30 second miles. The other two guys Ames and Paul – well they finished in 1 hour, 14 minutes, and 1 hour, 16 minutes. Ironically, I came in 3rd place in my age group with the second place winner the woman who caught me the last half mile and found a burst of energy to cross the finish line 4 seconds ahead of me. It’s ok though…she deserved it. I was the turtle who just wanted to finish the race.

Afterwards, we all decided to go out for pancakes (I really wanted ice cream – chocolate with chocolate sprinkles would have been fabulous) and the car thermostat said the temperature was 99 degrees but fell to 87 degrees once we started driving- one of the hottest days of the year. Breakfast was delicious but we all decided we’re not running the race next year if the temperatures are predicted to be this hot….lesson learned.

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