"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Five years of the Kevin Gatons 5k

I got a little lazy completing blog posts for a while, so I am catching up. From Memorial Day weekend:

In terms of my performance, the fifth annual Kevin Gatons 5k was forgettable, but in the larger scheme, the race was a success.

I ran, by far, my slowest time for the race in the five years I have run it. 15:36, 16:02, 16:08, 16:59 and 17:52; that's an unsettling trend.

Pat McGuire encouraged me to come to the first race, and from then I never thought about missing one. It was my sole reason for coming to Pittsburgh Memorial Day weekend this year, I had been to every race and wanted to keep that going.

Kevin was a Pharaoh Hound, but he was long gone by the time I joined the team. He was a frequent topic of conversation among the old Hounds when we'd go to Bootlegger's for wings after Thursday night 400s on the cinder track, taking on Braskeyan stature. I met him through both Coach A and Coach Wright when I was at the 2001 WPIAL cross country championships. Coach Wright tried to embarrass him by talking about his fast marathon times, but it didn't work because I didn't care about marathons at the time. I might argue that I still don't.

My mom and I got to the race at a reasonable time, but it was warm. I went out for my warmup on the course, and came back with 10 minutes to spare. After changing my shoes and running to the start, I knew I was in trouble. I hadn't even begun to cool from the warmup and sweat was pouring off of me. When the race started, I worried about the opening mile- it had gone out in 4:40 each year I had run it, only once with me pushing the pace. I tucked in an went with the lead pack, but four minutes in, I had enough. I pulled over to the side of the course and slowed down. I came through the mile in 5:09, but I had no intention of trying to keep that up. A course change meant an additional few blocks in the second mile, and I slowed down to a quick walk for a little bit. When I started up again, I decided not to let anyone pass me for the rest of the race, but the race was long done for me by then.

It's a great course, that Lynch Field 5k. The hills, turns and winding roads set up nothing short of a street fight. I don't remember where I dropped Pat in 2007, but I remember thinking that I could not take any of my lead for granted, because his familiarity with the course could make a devastating difference. It reminded me, in part, of my high school course, the most difficult refined cross country course I ever ran. McGuffey was difficult, but that was because we heard the coach with a chainsaw, cutting the course when we arrived for the race. I'd call the Lynch Field course one of the best overall race courses, in the variety, difficulty without sacrificing fast times, opportunity to show off the city of Greensburg, and the staging area in the park.

It's two days after the end of the high school track season in Pennsylvania, so it frees up a lot of distance runners who want to try a road race when they are in excellent racing shape. That is one of my favorite legacies of the race, and one I strive to create for the Run for Roch- the race is always fast and features some tough efforts. Fast runners made it a point to be there, and I hope that honored Kevin as a competitor and a coach.

I guess didn't notice the message on website earlier, but after the race my mom told me it was the last time the race would honor Kevin. The yearly hoopla evidently was too painful for Cheryl and the kids. Things like this can't go on forever, and five years is a good run. Honestly, Memorial Day has been really hot the last five years anyway, so it was rarely a day I could really enjoy the race or run really well. I am also relieved to have Memorial Day weekend at my disposal again, though I don't think I would have felt otherwise had the race kept going. It's just time to move on. Hound attendance was waning, too, as family obligations piled up. It was enjoyable, though to see Jim Hommes' daughter May win her age group in the children's races. Watching Mara and Mati Keen run with a crying Leah was also a treat, and having the children's races in general was a great component to the race.. It was race director Jeremy Lenzi's favorite touch:

"I'll always remember the kids' races in particular - this is mainly due to the fact that Kevin took me under his "wing" when he saw me at a local road race when I was 12 - I know the kids participating in our race are even younger, but know how much Kevin would have LOVED to see these kids battling it out."

Over the five years, the race raised $30,000 for scholarships for 10 students. Not a bad run at all.

Saturday I did 10 miles in Frick Park, and Sunday I just did an easy three in Schenley, seeing Moira and Wendy along the way.

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