There are few places in the world of sports as hallowed as Hayward Field. Fenway Park, Churchill Downs and Placer High School come to mind but there are few, if any others. And, in that context, my family and I traveled to Eugene this week to run a mile on Pre’s home track – a place with ghosts all its own.
The race was between Craig Thornley and I -- one mile on the track, no pacers, no whining and no excuses. Two legendary runners were in attendance -- John Ticer was there as the official timer and Meghan Arbogast was there with the awards. The winner would go home with a USATF National Team hat and the loser would go home with a bottle of shampoo. And, the loser would also run Western States with a shaved head (in my case) or a full head of hair (in Craig’s case.)
Craig made no secret of the fact that he intended to stick to my tail for the first two laps (regardless of pace) before taking the lead and burying my sorry ass over the final 800.
And, that is pretty much how it turned out.
Off the gun I took the lead and ran the first 209 in 38. That felt good and I was happy to hit the 409 in 75. From there I dialed it down a bit not wanting to re-live last year’s catastrophe and we hit the 809 in 2:33. At that point Craig puffed by on my right and began to open a bit of a lead. I tried to hang on as best as I could and we rolled into the 1209 at 3:48. The race was on! While the string was getting stretched it was not broken.
Craig opened a pretty good gap down the back straight and by the 1400 mark he had the race in the bag. However, I was not feeling completely clapped and I thought I might be able to make it interesting. As we passed the Bowerman Building with 100 meters to go I felt him coming back to me ever so slightly. Channeling my inner Chris Solinsky I moved into Lane 2 and began my closing sprint. I heard Meghan telling Craig I was gaining on him and I even noticed his slight look back with 20 meters to go.
In the end, he beat me by 1.6 seconds (5:06:00 to 5:07.60) but I, clearly, had won the war. Given the fact that I have an 8-hour lead in the 10-year bet, the sheer fact that Craig was only able to take 1.6 seconds off me in the mile is further testimony of my dominance. That said, Craig was a gracious host in the post-race party that lasted in excess of 5 hours (what a great sport that a 5 minute race can be followed by a 5 hour party!) and we reveled in the ridiculousness of two washed up ultrarunners running a mile just for bragging rights on the day before Thanksgiving.
Best of all, we are now officially excited to begin training for WS 2011 which, for both of us, will be Finish #8.
PS -- I ran a Turkey Troy 5K on the day after Thanksgiving and was psyched to clock a 16:59. Not exactly Solinsky like but still pretty good for an old, washed up ultrarunner. Time to get ready for Squaw!