Guest Blogger: Brandon Boucher
5:50 am: Alarm starts going off. I hit snooze. Five minutes later, the alarm goes off again. I swing my legs out of bed and get up. The Jack T. Farrar, Jr. Fill the Shoes 5k (my second race of thirty planned for the year) starts at 8 am. I have plenty of time. I check the weather and dress appropriately—a long sleeve Brooks shirt, with a base layer, shorts and a pair of warm up pants. I grab some juice and a scoop of Endurox for breakfast as well as a Honey Stinger Waffle. If you haven’t had one, the strawberry tastes like fruit pebbles with honey. 6:45 am: I am out the door and it’s a short drive to the race start. I grab my packet and race number and begin to warm up.
At 7:50 am, I start making my way to the starting line. Like all runners I look around at who is around me and who looks like they run fast. I’m sizing up the competition if you will. Then I recognize someone. “Huh, that looks like Mark,” I say to myself. “Holy buckets it is Mark.” Mark is one of my co-workers at Pacers. He is a sophomore at Hayfield High School. I call his name and he looks over to say hi. I point at him and then I point to the ground. We both chuckle, as well as 25 other runners that see my antics. This pleases me. We shake hands and I tell him good luck. The race director starts his final instructions and prepares us for the start.
The air horn goes off and a way we go. It’s a really small field—about 200 runners— considering the last two races I was in had a combined total of 40,000 finishers. The race was a two loop course through a neighborhood near the Kingstowne area in Alexandria, Virginia.
We take off and within the first quarter mile I am in the top ten. Then a really young kid passes me out of nowhere. He was fast! I don’t think he knew how far the race was but within the next quarter mile he was slowing down, back in the top ten. The race course started out with a fairly long downhill, about a half a mile. I thought, “this is great,” until I realize that the next half a mile or so will have to be uphill again and back to the start. It’s not bad; but my legs ache from the marathon the week before. Finally there was a flat patch leading into a turn back to the starting area to start lap two. Lap two begins with an out and back up a cul-de-sac. On the way back, I notice an El Camino parked on the side of the road. It looks very similar to mine back home. I smile, and race on. At this point I look and Mark is way out in front of me—it’s to be expected. He runs cross country for his high school and is used to running a sub-20 min 5K.
I start the downhill part of the course and I can hear the faint beating of foot steps behind me. Someone is catching up to me. Mile 2 comes and goes and the footsteps of a runner are getting louder; he is getting closer. My lungs are burning, and my legs are tired but I maintain my pace. I was holing about 7 minute miles to this point. I climb up to the end of the hill and make my turn to the flat. I have a little more than a quarter mile to go. The last part of the course is on a small bike lane off of Telegraph Road, and I have caught up to slower traffic of the 5K. I call out that I am passing on the right, and a couple with a stroller moves to the right. “Dang it.” I swerve to the left and make my pass. The runner behind me is right behind me now. A short time later he passes me. This displeases me. There is not long to go before the end of the race, I hang with him. I get my breathing under control and match him stride for stride. We round the last turn, and it’s a straight shot to the finish. I pull alongside my opponent, nay my nemesis. We start our sprint. We are even paced. I start to pull ahead, he drops off. The crowd cheers, all ten of them. I cross the line a few seconds ahead of the other runner. At the end of the finishers chute I see Mark; he must have finished a half a minute or so ahead of me. He looks like hell. I give him a high five and tell him I’ll see him at work later. I take a slow jog to the car and head off to work. I was 8th over all, first in my age group. Number two is in the books.
Stay tuned for more of Brandon’s 30 Before 30 race adventures…