Monday, September 10, 2007

Roger Bannister Breaks the Tape

I saw in the newspaper (charming cultural artifact) that the Domain was hosting a charity fun run on Sunday, and there was going to be a 1k kids event before the main race.

I thought Eli 6.1 might be interested.

I was correct. He was so interested, in fact, that he slept in his "race outfit" Saturday night, and at 6:07 a.m. Sunday morning, with his running shoes already on, he walked into our bedroom and said "I'M READY TO RACE!"

Gloria's running now, and she decided to enter the 5k, so we all piled into the car and off we went.

As we were walking to the packet pick-up area, I tried to explain to Eli how races worked and what he'd be feeling. "At the start, every kid is going to sprint off as fast as he can," I said. "That's what you don't want to do, because all of those kids will be walking within a minute or two. If you start running more slowly, where you're not out of breath, you'll pass all those kids, and you can run faster in the second half of the race."

We walked about fifty more feet, and he said "Okay, Dad, your strategy sounded OKAY, but this is MY strategy. I'm going to start off running a little SLOWER, and all those kids who SPRINT off at first are going to get tired and walk. Then I'll pass ALL of them."

Gloria laughed.

I thought he would do pretty well--he's a fast little kid--but you never know how someone, even a young someone, is going to react in competition. It was okay for us to run with him--quite a few parents were running with their kids--so we all lined up together. There were about sixty kids in the race, almost all of them older than Eli, and we were lined up in the fourth row or so.

"Lots of pushing and shoving at the start," I said. "Pay attention and try to stay clear of other people. It will thin out really quickly."

"Got it!" he said, jumping up and down.

The air horn sounded and he took off. "Slow down!" I said, and he did, but he was still running at a good pace. Every kid sprinted off, of course, and he was way behind right away. He sped up after about fifty yards, but another "Slow down!" worked wonders.

Still though, he was running pretty damn fast for a six-year old. And he totally looked like he could keep it up.

This was the point where I totally lost track of Gloria. She was running with us, but she was a few steps behind, and I was just trying to keep track of this kid that was hauling ass.

Within two hundred yards, we started passing huge numbers of kids who were walking or had slowed way down. We hit the turnaround and he was in the top fifteen, and only two kids in front of him were anywhere near his age.

And he was still running fast. He had barely slowed down at all, and I could tell from looking at his face that he liked it.

He passed a little girl who was even younger than he is (who I assume is going to the Olympics someday), a few more kids, and he was somewhere in the top ten. There was one kid about thirty yards in front of him, and he looked like he might be Eli's age.

We had about two hundred yards to go, and I could tell Eli was getting a little tired, but he was still hanging in there. "I think we can catch that kid," I said, and he nodded, picking up the pace.

It was great to see the strain of effort on his face. He was working hard.

He sped up even more for the last hundred yards, and while he didn't quite catch the kid in front of him, he was easily in the top ten. I looked up at the clock as we passed the finish line and it said 5:06.

Good grief. That's 8:13 mile pace. I thought he'd be fast, but I didn't think he'd be that fast. I didn't know six-year olds could run like that.

He finished and said, quite dramatically "My legs can't WALK!" Then he walked through the finishing area and got a little medal.

Once we got through the chutes, he said "My LEGS are OUT OF BREATH!" and, after drinking some ice water, rubbed his left leg and said "I feel like I hang-glided forty miles--ON MY LEGS!"

Gloria still had her race to run, so after investigating face-painting and police horses and chihuahuas (the police horse actually nosed the chihuahua, which was really funny, because he could have inhaled that little dog up one of his nostrils), we hung out and waited for her.

Eli was very happy to know that his average pace was faster than his mom's.

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