Friday, October 21, 2011

A Race to the Death

Author's note. This went into the latest MCRR Newsletter. I haven't been doing much actual racing lately, but it's good to think of these things now and then.

Have you ever had a Race to the Death? You know, a race where you're near the finish, and A) you are simply *not* going to let this runner coming up from behind pass you, or B) you are going to catch and pass that runner ahead of you before the finish, no matter what. *That's* a Race to the Death; you're going to beat that other runner, even if it kills you.

What's that? You mean you *haven't* had a Race to the Death? Actually, I haven't had all that many myself. I'm so well spent by the end of most races of any length, to care much whether I'm able to pass or hold anyone off. You can just call me, "Kickless Dan".

Having said that, I actually have had a couple (only a couple) memorable moments. Once as part of a relay in Michigan I had a sandy trail leg. I was being stalked by an Ohio guy who was even older than I. I ran faster and faster, trying to hold him off, but he kept pace. Finally the single track opened up to a two-track trail for the final mile and a half. He pulled up even, but I simply was not going to let him pass. We sprinted to the finish in what I'd call a tie. After we both collapsed at the exchange, we talked and over the years have became friends.

Some of you may know Joe Salwan. He's in my age group, and we've had a pretty good rivalry over the years. It all began at the 2000 Buckeye Half Marathon, where I passed him with a mile to go, but then, after some back and forth battling, he passed my in the final tenth of a mile in a final mad sprint to the finish. Yeah, he got me... that time.

Mayor Ladd Clifford usually beats me by exactly one minute. Whether it's 5K or 50K, Ladd gets me by that same amount. At one particular 50K we'd run most of the way together and I thought I could at least tie him when, with a mile to go he learned that he had the opportunity to catch Charles Elkins before the end of his 3rd (of four) loop, so he took off. Ladd not only beat me by a minute (again), but managed to catch Charles before he began his final lap - something we'd both promised not to do. So at that point he had two of us mad at him. I still haven't forgotten.

And then there's Dan vs Connie. To the best of my knowledge, the *only* times I've ever been able to beat Connie is when she is racing a week after a race of 100 or more miles. Competitive as she is, she still doesn't like getting beat, especially by the likes of me. So naturally I had to say some smart remark as I passed her near the end of a 5K after she'd run a 100-miler the previous weekend. The same thing happened on the brick road at the finish of the Twin Sizzler - smart remark from me, and Connie had done Western States just a few days earlier. The best one came at the Akron Marathon, a week after she'd run 141 miles at NC24. I passed her as she stopped at an aid station for some water (at about mile 20). "Don't you know how to run and drink at the same time?" I asked as I went by. We had recently practiced just such a thing. I managed to get a really mean look out of her that time. Never mind that Connie has absolutely killed me on other occasions (when she *hadn't* run 100+ the previous week); I got her those times, and she ain't getting them back.

Are you a runner or a racer? The experiences noted above to the contrary, I'm probably more of a runner myself. But I do love racing, and I love rivalries. I even love my rivals. They are what make it all so much fun, and most are my friends and MCRR members. Without them, what's the point in racing?

Most of all, I love a good Race to the Death.

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