My first race
I can still remember the very first race I ever trained for.
It was gym class in either 91' or 92', which would mean I was either 6 or 7 years old. I'm fairly certain that in Minnesota, first or second grade is when you start having to complete the "mile run" once a year for gym class. For most students this is the least favorite day of gym class the entire year. Most days when you're 6 or 7 you get to play exciting games like big base and ships across the ocean, games at which I never displayed much skill. Mile run day however, was just my kind of fun. I viewed it as the only day of the year where I was better at something than most kids. Now winning the mile run in gym class doesn't exactly net you a whole lot of 'cool points' with the other kids, but then as now, I wasn't a cool kid anyway so any small amount of respect I gained from running fast was well worth it. For this first attempt at training to run, my father was my coach and I have fond memories of the two of us running together, plus the occasional other family member riding bike. As a runner now who occasionally trains with slower people, I can only imagine the amount of patience it took for my father to run my inconsistent 6 year old paces. We lived near a trail system that had either a 2mile loop, or a 3.7 mile loop from our driveway. At that early stage in my running, one mile without stopping was quite an achievement, 2 miles without stopping was worth bragging about to the gym teacher, and 3.7 miles, well that might as well have been a trip to the moon because I could certainly never run that far! On the day of the gym class mile run, my father advised me to drink a mixture of water and honey before the run for a little extra energy boost. These days with all the complex gels, goos, electrolyte replacement drinks, recovery shakes and whatnot that runners spend millions of dollars on, honey is an oft forgotten gem. Having ingested many of the fashionable items on the market today, I can safely say that pure, simple honey is the best tasting, biggest bang for your buck. Good advice dad! Well I downed my "energy drink", put on my hand-me-down running shoes and toed the line with all the other kids. The first lap was a sprint as all the kids tried to be first on the first lap, even back then I know I recognized bad strategy when I saw it. I hung back a ways and let them burn themselves out, which they did in grand style. Finishing the second lap it was just me and one other kid is class, Chor Moua. Frustratingly he would not die off like the others, this was supposed to be my time in the limelight, what was this kid doing?! I tried to surge past him, but every time I did he would surge to stay in front, a ballsy strategy front-running like that. He would slow down from time to time, but never enough for me to get a lead. I knew I could beat him, I just knew it, but how long would it take for him to break? Thankfully by the fourth and final lap Chor was used up, his surging and front-running had spent him and I put in one last surge for home and this time he did not surge to stay ahead. I passed him and ran clear and alone to the finish, victory! In retrospect is was a small victory, but a very formative one. It solidified my interest in running and in training, and interest that would take until my senior year in college to mature. Since that fateful day way back when, I have lost a great many more races than I have won, but I've learned something each time and now I find myself, as a 26 year old man, contemplating just as I did back then, how good can I be?