Monday, July 14, 2008

Boilermaker 15K

A road trip to the Boilermaker 15K this past weekend with eight other RVRR people was a peak running experience for me this year. The drive is about 4.5 hours to Utica, New York. At check-in on Saturday, there is an expo in a campus setting. At the expo, there is a "Runner's Forum" where running experts and luminaries answer your questions. The panel included Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Katherine Switzer. At the conclusion of the forum, I approached Frank Shorter and asked him to sign a copy of a 1972 Life magazine with his gold medal Olympic finishing photo on the cover.

After the forum, the induction ceremony for the National Distance Running Hall of Fame took place. This event is very inspiring for any distance runner and should not be missed, despite the lure of touring the F.X. Matt brewery. RVRR's own Amby Burfoot was inducted, along with Priscella Welch and Johnny Hayes. Hayes's induction was posthumous, of course, and was presented by Frank Shorter. Hayes was USA's first Olympic marathon gold medalist in 1908, and Shorter did a great talk about uniting both his and Hayes's gold medals for the first time. Priscella Welsh broke new ground for women and masters runners in her career, proving the abilities we can maintain at world-class level through our masters years. Amby sang praises for the community of every runner we are all a part of, as he always has in his life and writing. After this ceremony, I asked Frank Shorter to sign a copy of one of his books, Olympic Gold. He told me a story about how the massacre at the '72 Olympics psyched out so many athletes and destroyed their potential performances. Mike A. spent some time speaking with Bill Rodgers, who was glad to advise him on race strategy for Boilermaker's course. One of the great things about speaking with these running superstars is the sense that they are immediately your friend, not full of themselves, and would go out on a run with you then follow it up with a beer.

On Sunday, the experience of the race can be compared with a big city marathon, with less pain a better party at the end. There are eleven thousand runners and the entire 15 kilometers lined with enthusiastic spectators - there is a competition for the best cheering community, voted on by the runners after finishing. There are two bands and three water stops per mile. There are dancing girls, llamas and sheep, ice cubes and ice pops, and lots of signs telling you how much farther to the beer.

The beer is at the finish line that pours you into the huge parking lot of the F.X. Matt Brewing Company. It was a little after 9 A.M. and thousands of people were drinking the free Saranac beer, dancing to Nick and The Nice Guys, and having the biggest runner party in the world. I was sloshed and sober again by noon, when the whole thing shuts down. On the drive home, we waved to other Boilermaker runners at every Thruway service area, when we stopped to leave some recycled beer behind.

Running this race with a broken toe manipulated my experience of the race. I have run this race three times before. I was forced to run slower this time because of the pain in my foot from the broken toe. This made me enjoy the spectators a lot more, and allowed me to really see the course a lot better, because I wasn't concentrating on trying to run a fast time. I ran spot-on seven minute miles, even though I was in shape enough to run about 6:30 miles. I suppose I shouldn't complain about that, considering that I could run it at all after breaking a toe five days before the race. Yes, I am stupid because this is causing me to change my stride and possibly get me injured some other way, and I am not helping the healing process.... But I only own one life - so on on, I say!

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