Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lapped

"Belated congrats on the 5k PR. Great work. If you want to take it down some more, and not worry about course certification, have you thought about getting onto the track? You live in a college town (of sorts), so I'm sure there's some 5000s that you could run unattached in. Add up all the benefits of the track (spikes, elevation change=0, extra distance < on the roads) and you're looking at 10-20 seconds."

Evan made this comment after reading about how I was suspect of the actual distance of the last 5K I raced. Evan, there's one word that comes to mind when I think about stepping back on the track to race: Chuckie.

The year was 1988, and after suffering through the Divisionals I had earned my ticket to run the 2 mile at the Arizona high school State meet. I was a junior, and this would be my last high school race. Between editing the high school newspaper and the rock band I was now in, I knew I was going to be busy enough that I would pass on all sports except soccer for my senior year. I remember feeling a bit wistful during the warm up, but that feeling quickly turned to abject terror after being called to the line and listening to the race instructions. The official shouted something to the tune of "Any and all lapped runners will be pulled from the race."

The tallest runner in the field by far was a kid from Westwood high named Chuckie. He was a Native American who lived on the reservation, and the combination of his tall stature, very mature features and incredibly fast running led to rumors that he was at least 19 years old. The kid barely spoke a word during dual meets, but he systematically crushed every runner he came across on his way to winning every 1 and 2 mile race he ran. No one else in the state was anywhere near this kid's level. He tore through cross-country races in the same manner, and I had the misfortune once of listening to my dad's advice when he suggested I just go out hard right alongside the runner. I distincly remember running off the front of the entire field, shoulder to shoulder with Chuckie. He kept looking over at me, not saying a word, but smiling all the while and appearing to be ready to laugh. I was at an all out sprint to keep up with him through the first mile, and when he finally broke me soon after I suffered through what was at the time the worst two miles of my life as I crawled to the finish.

Now I was sharing the line with this goliath again, and my race plan of even splits and a strong finish was instantly changed to a simple goal- to finish my last race without getting pulled from the field. It's been so long I don't remember my exact times, but somewhere around 10:30 was probably my best. Chuckie was at least a minute faster, so it would be close. After the gun sounded and we had been running for a few minutes my heart sank as it seemed he was already 50 meters ahead of the field after only a few laps. Still, I continued on, trying not to pay attention to the sound of my dad cheering in the stands. This wasn't running my best effort, this was running as fast as I could to avoid being given the equivalent of a wedgie in front of my dad, the rest of my competitors, and the half-full bleachers. I was running to avoid embarrassment.

I finish lap 6 and I spy Chuckie about 200 meters behind me (or 200 meters ahead). I'm like that dumb zebra at the waterhole, legs seizing up with fear as everyone else runs away furiously. I should be OK, he can't possibly make up that much ground, even if I am already tying up. The track has slowly emptied as other runners are pulled from the field, and it's now down to about 10 of us strung out at various points behind the frontrunner. I hear the bell for the leader as I'm midway through the first straight of my 7th lap. He's fast but he's not that fast. I start into the far turn and I can see an official walking across the track at the end of the turn, his eyes on me as the runner a bit in front of me passes him. Chuckie is still at least 100 meters away, I should be good, but sure enough the official locks eyes with me and waves me off. I was devastated.

After yelling at the official for pulling me he explains they wanted to clear the last 100 for the winner. It makes no sense, I would have started on my bell lap at least 12 seconds before Chuckie hit the tape, but it isn't my decision. I'm in tears as I sit below the bleachers, and needless to say I feel like a complete and total failure.

18 years have passed since then, and I'm getting ready to possibly get lapped again. Take a look here. Judging by last year's results I might end up in the first half of finishers, but I'll finish with a smile on my face this time. Here's the link to this year's meet, I've entered to run the 5000 meters at 9:50pm on March 16 along with the fast college kids.

Training: 10 miles, 1:04:00, 6:24 pace

9 comments:

Eric said...

What an awful story. I can't believe they would yank a kid out of a race that you have to qualify to get into. If there are too many runners in the field getting lapped, change the qualification standard.

Yet another way the man is trying to keep the distance runner down...

Good idea about the track 5k. Are you doing the race you linked to?

Lawrence said...

An awful story perhaps, but a neat story in the retelling.......thanks for sharing the story of "Chuckie", he seems like a high school Goliath.........

Mike said...

Geez, now that I read it again that is a pretty awful story. I wonder whatever happened to Chuckie. I wish I could remember how to spell his last name. Eric, I'll be doing the race I linked to, though I'll probably be the only one without spikes. It should be interesting, as I'm usually asleep by 9:50pm, which is when the gun sounds.

Scooter said...

Mike,
I've got to say that in my high school career, I was lapped A LOT! We had some strong distance guys in our conference, most years at least a couple of sub-4:30 guys, and being a two-miler, when one of them would step up and pop out a 9-low, getting lapped was par for the course for me. I think that if I were in your position, I'd have kept running...their instructions were "you're pulled if lapped." You weren't lapped. My eyesight and hearing would have been severely impaired by my effort were I in your shoes.

Phil said...

High school antics suck. Now look at you. I can imagine you just smiling at Chuckie for the first 20 miles before you buried him on the last 10K.

Michael said...

I love the story, well written. I never ran in high school, but I imagined myself in your shoes. As much as I like to think I would’ve ignored the official and finished the race for my pride, I too would’ve stepped off in tears.

Good luck in March!

Blaxabbath said...

Yeah baby! Show those university punks what's up!

Omniscient said...

My advice is to run 75 seconds quarters for as long as you can.

Running on a track + competition + putting yourself in position to run fast= a PR

Evan said...

That looks ideal for you if they get similar people to last year. 75 seconds a lap and you'll be fine!