December 3, 2016: Eastside Beltline 10K

2013 result: 55:45, my first 10K race

2014 result: 56:48, my worst 10K race

2015 result: 51:44, 6.07 mi, est. 53 min pace

I love running on the Eastside Beltline.  I appreciate what the Beltline has done in revitalizing this part of Atlanta, and I like to support the ongoing Beltline project by running this race each year.  But my history with this race has been mixed.  My first 10K race was on the Eastside Beltline, which was only my third race overall, and I was thrilled to finish in well under an hour.  In 2014, the weather was wet and cold and miserable, I twisted an ankle on the rough and muddy trail in the third mile, and could hardly walk after the race.  The 2015 race was run on a beautiful, pleasantly cool morning, but when I finished in seemingly record time, I discovered that the route was quite short. 

This year, I waited until a few hours before the deadline, 3 days prior the race, before deciding to register.  After the November 12 marathon, I had resolved to take a full month off from running races.  But my recovery has been remarkably rapid.  I think that the quality of the training program, the emphasis on stretching after runs, and the relatively slow pace of my marathon, all contributed to my recovery.  I managed to skip the Thanksgiving 5K race in my mother's town, simply cheering Bonnie on her race (and taking a lot of photos), but once I was convinced that the weather would be dry today, I couldn't resist the urge to run a competitive race. 

The Atlanta Track Club had their annual breakfast and awards ceremony early this morning, beginning at 8 am.  I ran a lap around the track club office (about 1.5 miles), and enjoyed a light second breakfast with a few friends, but left before the awards ceremony so that I would arrive at Krog Street Market near the south end of the Eastside Beltline in time for the 9:30 am start.  As I lined up for the race, it seemed that the crowd was larger this year, and I began further from the front of the pack than I might have chosen.  

Before the race, I hoped that my number was not inauspicious.
After a local high school choir sang the National Anthem, the airhorn sounded with only a few seconds delay, signaling the beginning of the race.  It took at least 30 seconds to walk to the starting line.  Then it was so crowded for the first mile of the race that it was hard to get up to a decent pace.  That kept me from starting too quickly, but an 11 minute / mile pace was far too slow for a 10K race.  I ended up running a few hundred yards on the dirt shoulder so that I could make better progress past the slower runners.  Finally after about 3/4 mile, I reached a clear space so that I could run my pace and on a relatively straight line.

Even 1/2 mile into the race, the route was still quite crowded,
evidenced by the runners on the grass adjacent to the Beltline.
With the cool temperature, about 45 degrees and 60% humidity, it was an ideal day for running.  I felt strong and fast, but knowing that the northbound direction of the Beltline was downhill, I was careful not to tire myself out in the first two miles.  I didn't feel comfortable taking walk breaks in the beginning, and wasn't moving fast enough to really need them in the beginning, so I ended up running the race with only three walk breaks, about 30 seconds through each water station, near mile markers 2, 3, and 4.  I slowed down just a bit in the third mile, on the unpaved section, but made it through this rough patch without incident.  The third mile ended with an uphill jog on Westminster Drive.  This was not included in last year's route, which I had thought was nice until I had finished and had learned that the race route was too short, so this year I was happy to see that the first half of the race followed the certified route.  I covered the first three miles in 8:40, 8:26, and 8:39, and about 26:50 for the 5K split. 

The USATF certified route. 
The outbound section had been gently but steadily downhill, so the return trip would be uphill.  Fortunately I was feeling very strong and was able to slightly increase my speed in the fourth mile, winding through Piedmont Park.  To my delight, I gradually closed on many of the runners just in front of me, passing them one by one.  At the mile 4 marker at the south end of the park along 10th Street, I saw that I had covered mile 4 in 8:21, around 34 minutes elapsed.  I was on pace for a 53 minute finish.  

Throughout the race, I saw a few people running with their dogs.  I was a bit envious of the dogs.  Each of the dogs was running at an easy, relaxed pace, looking around, enjoying their four-footed jog, panting a little as dogs do, but much less exertion than revealed by my own heavy breathing.  Occasionally I passed a dog, being careful not to get caught up in the leash.  And occasionally a dog passed me, followed by their human, pulled along by a leash.   

The route that I ran.
This seems to match the certified route!
Re-entering the Beltline, I slowed for the final water station, then concentrated on speeding up.  I could feel the gentle uphill elevation, but I felt strong and was passing slower runners from time to time.   Reaching the mile 5 marker on the North Avenue bridge (8:22, 42:30 elapsed), I resolved to push as hard as possible for the rest of the race, knowing that I might cover the final 1.22 miles in 10 minutes if I could run an 8 min / mile pace to the end.  Just behind me, I heard a woman say to a friend, "Ready to go?"  I had a feeling that they had resolved to kick to the finish at that point, and sure enough, within 15 seconds or so, one woman passed me on the left, then a second woman passed on my right.  I wasn't able to match their pace, but I kept the two of them in sight for most of the rest of the race.  

I recalled in previous years feeling tired in the final mile of this race, but today I found enough energy to keep pushing myself.  Best of all, I was still passing other runners, and I was only rarely passed.  It was a shame that I was wearing a cap, so I couldn't taunt them with a view of my big, beautiful, bald spot as I increased my lead on those younger runners!  

Reaching the underpass for Freedom Parkway about 5-1/2 miles in, and then the underpass for Highland Avenue at about 5-3/4 miles, I told myself, less than 1/2 mile to go, and concentrated on running as fast as I could.  At the mile 6 marker (8:25, 51 minutes elapsed), I knew that I wouldn't set a personal record today, but I had enough reserve to finish strongly.  At the end of the Beltline, the route leveled out as I turned left onto Irwin Street, then a right turn onto Krog Street, heading downhill.  As the finish line came into view, I saw 52:40 clock time!  I had to work hard to cross the finish line before the clock ticked over to 53 minutes, but I managed it.  I nearly had a mishap after crossing the finish line, as my back foot was clipped by a dog who didn't realize that it was OK to slow down after crossing the timing mat!  But I finished the race without injury and without being too tired.  Indeed after stretching I felt completely recovered.  (The post-race Krispy Kreme donut and chocolate chip cookie from ZoĆ«'s Kitchen may have also helped.)

Coming into the finish 
The dude in the green jersey roared past me.  He looks happy!
My watch showed 52:23 and 6.19 miles elapsed.  That was a little short of 6.22 miles but I was willing to concede that my watch might not be completely accurate, and I felt that we had adhered to the certified route.  

Official result: 52:19, 284th out of 1372 finishers, and 18th out of 55 in my age group.  
Average pace, 8:25 min / mile.  That was my second-fastest 10K race! 

It's safe to say that I've recovered from the marathon!

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