Sunday, October 20,2013, Flemington , New Jersey
USA Track and Field National Masters 5K Cross Country Championship
For many years I have thought about running a National Championship. Since I turned 60 on September 1st, I felt that time was slipping away and I needed to do it soon. I have always been a competitive runner but have not competed on the national level since the early eighties.
On Saturday, my wife and I flew up to Philadelphia where we rented a car and drove up to Flemington, New Jersey. After an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast, we headed to Deer Path Park where the event was being held. It was a beautiful morning with temperatures in the mid forties and a 10-12 mph wind. I expected the course to be flat, but upon arrival, I found that not to be the case. As a matter of fact, the course was very similar to Daniel Boones' Cross Country course. It was chilly so I put on my wind jacket and started jogging the course warming up. About 5 minutes before the start of my race I asked Teresa to go to the car and get me some water. She asked me for the key, which she said was in my jacket pocket. I could not find the key and at that time we realized it was missing. All of you know the nerves and worries that affect you before competing in a race. We were 70 miles away from Philadelphia International Airport where we rented the car. It was Sunday afternoon and my thought was, "how are we going to get a key for this car"? My stress level just went out the window. Teresa said she would run back to the car and look for the key hoping it might have been lying on the ground. I watched her jog back to the car and the next thing I see is she is running back. I shout at her "did you find the key?" and she did not say anything but just nodded her head yes. That took a load off my mind and about 30 seconds later the gun went off.
I sprinted out, as the course narrowed about 200 meters after the start, as I did not want to get boxed in. At about 400 yards, the course made a sharp left and started up a hill. I put the hammer down and at a half mile there was no one with me. At this point, Teresa was supposed to be waiting for me to come by, but she was not there. I continued to run hard and at the mile and a half, Teresa finally showed up. I forgot to start my watch in all the confusion right before the start so I had no idea what my mile split was. I started the second lap listening for someone to come up from behind and catch me but that never happened. I was climbing a hill with three quarters of a mile to go and started slowing down when one of the spectators started shouting, " go for the age graded, go for the age graded". I did not understand what he meant but picked up the pace anyway. I came through the finish in a time of 17:16:69, which was later rounded off to 17:17. The second finisher was Tim McMullin, from Rochester, NY in a time of 18:24. I was shocked that I won in the manner I did and so was everyone else. I had beaten the second place finisher by a minute and seven seconds. USA Track and Field had written an article a week before the race naming the favorites to win the race and I was not mentioned. They had no idea who this guy was from East Tennessee who had suddenly burst on to the national masters running scene. By the way, this was my fastest 5K in several years.
Teresa was waiting for me after the finish and I told her that I was so relieved that she had found the car keys before the race started as it took a major burden off me and allowed me to run better. She then told me that she had not located the keys until after the race started and that was why she was not at the half-mile point of the race. She was trying to locate the keys. The keys had been turned in at the official's tent and that's where Teresa found them.
I later found out that I had the second fastest overall age graded time, which was 92.83% and that converts to a 13:54 5K. I received a check for $300 for my second place age graded finish and that's when I realized why one of the spectators was shouting at me to go for the age graded.
I want to thank Earl Brown, my running partner, for all his assistance getting me ready for this meet. Next year, I am looking at running the USA Track and Field master indoors and outdoor track championships and hopefully bring home some more national titles to East Tennessee and the State of Franklin Track Club. I want to also thank all the members of the State of Franklin Track Club who have been so supportive over the past year. It is fantastic to be around a great bunch of folks who are so positive and supportive of all runners.
Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Teresa, who has always supported me in my running. She doesn't mind getting up early to go to the races with me, making sure I have time to warm up, keeping me hydrated, taking the pictures and cheering me on.
Photo by Ron Campbell