Running of the Bulldogs

I went to the annual Drake Relays last weekend and ran the 10K road race. I can say, I ran like a Bulldog*. Or more accurately, I panted like a Bulldog.

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The inaugural Drake Relays was held in 1910. So this was the 106th year of this event. It was a 5-day meet with competition in track and fields.

Over the years, hundreds of Olympic medalist have competed in the Drake Relays, like Bruce Jenner (yes, that’s him or now her?), Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Jesse Owens to name a few.

By the way, if you don’t know, Bruce Jenner is a former track and field athlete, and won a gold medal in Decathlon in 1976 summer olympics. So he (or she) was already famous before the Kardashian’s fame and way before the sex change.

Bulldogs stadium or also known as the Blue Stadium

Drake Stadium, home of the Bulldogs

Back to the Drake Relays, due to good sponsorships, it is also one of the richest athletic event in the US. For example, the winner of the half marathon was awarded $70,000 prize money, while the winner of the 10K was given $40,000. But I would never get that. Maybe if they have a prize for the slowest?

Even though these events attract elite athletes, it was also open for wannabe athletes like me, especially the road races. After all, if anybody can get an athlete’s foot, then anybody can be an athlete, right?

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For the past five consecutive years I have participated in the Des Moines Marathon (I ran the half-marathon, 21K) which is held every fall. But this was my first time to join the Drake Relays. And also the first time to run the 10K.

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As I came a little early, I had time to take some pictures. Then when it was time to line up, I had to find my place in the starting line.

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Oh, that’s the elite runners group, with the 5-minute-per-mile pace. That’s not running, that’s flying. I don’t belong there!

I had to find my place at the back. Way, way at back of the line, with the more than 10-minute-per-mile pace.

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Then I found this line. Oh, that’s not it too. That’s the line for the portable toilet!

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Finally, it was time to start. The half-marathoners were given a head start, while we, 10K runners were released 30 minutes later.

There they go!

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The first half of the course was a piece of cake. No, I am not gloating. It was due to the fact that it was mostly downhill. And of course, I took photos while I ran, so I can blog about it.

Here’s a photo of the course going downhill with some of Des Moines skyline in the distance.

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Here’s one as we pass by a sculpture park.

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But like the reverse of the law of gravity, what goes down, will go up.  So on the final half of the course, it was mostly uphill. That’s what took my breath away. Especially the dreaded and infamous “Bulldog Hill.”

The Bulldog Hill may have chased my breath away, but never my will.

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We had plenty of cheerers along the way. We even had a marching band inspiring us to push forward on the steepest climb of the course.

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After the hills, finally the stadium was in sight. I gave my final push.

When we enter the Bulldog Stadium, there was a crowd of people to witness as we finish. It does not matter if you were the first finisher or among the last, they cheer you on just the same.

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I really like the feeling as I sprinted to the finish line in those lined tracks inside the stadium. For a time, I felt like a real runner. This maybe the closest feeling I can get to being an Olympian.

Maybe I can be famous too like a Kardashian? Naaah!

 

(*Bulldogs is the athletic team of Drake University)

(**all photos taken with an iPhone) 

Oops, I Did It Again

No, I did not suddenly become a fan of Britney Spears. What I meant was I finished the Des Moines marathon again. Well, half marathon (13.1 miles). And it’s not really oops, but rather “whoopee, I did it again!”

This year I decided to keep away my camera phone and just concentrate on the running. Though I still took pictures before the race started.

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photo taken at the start line

I planned to run at around 11-minute mile pace, which is what I trained for, so I followed the 2:20 pace runner. That is if I keep the right pace, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I was doing great in the first two miles that I even overtook the 2:20 pace runner. However on the 4th mile the 2:20 pace group caught up with me. I must have been slowing down then.

I was still at par with the 2:20 pace group after 6 miles, when “nature” called me. I needed to pee! So I stopped at one of the many portable toilets lining the race course.

By the time I got out, the 2:20 pace runner was too far away already. Damn nature call! I didn’t want to burn too much energy to catch up with the group, so I ran on my own. Yet I was still keeping up with my training pace.

After passing the 10-mile marker, I was happy that I was still feeling great. Yeah, my bunions may be hurting a bit, but I could run through blisters and pain. Even though I never ran more than 10 miles during my training for this race, I knew that the sheer excitement and adrenaline rush could carry me through the last 3.1 miles. Just like in the past.

On the 11th mile, the motorcade with the lead marathon runners passed me. (Even though the course of the half and full marathon diverge at some point, the start and finish point are the same.) It was amazing to think that they have already covered 24 miles. That was way below 6-minute mile pace! Those athletes are really freaks of nature. And I said that in a good way.

Not too long after the lead marathon runners passed me, when trouble began. Leg cramps! It was not so bad, but I have to stop running. But I can still walk. I was still determined to finish this race, cramps and all, even if it means I have to crawl the last 2 miles.

On the 12th mile marker, the 2:30 pace runner and group passed me. I thought to myself that given the circumstances, I was still not so far from my projected time of finish.

I was working on my last mile, when the lead “physically challenged” marathoner passed me. He was “rolling” strong on his wheelchair to finish the 26 miles. That gave me renewed inspiration.

On the last stretch of the race, in front of cheering crowds of people lining up near the finish line, that I really wanted to finish strong. But whenever I tried to break into a run, my legs would cramp again. Certainly the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Or more aptly, the flesh was cramping! But I plodded on.

Finally I crossed the finish line. Time: 2 hours 35 minutes. Maybe not to the condition I wanted, but it was still sweet regardless.

I know I will be sore for a few days. Was it worth it? Definitely! Every single step (and cramps) of it.

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