Last night was the Westminster Main Street Mile, the 30th edition of the downtown event, and the gang had decided to bum rush this race. We rolled 12 deep to Westminster, a town I'd never visited. The usual pre-race rigamarole was replaced with the affable feel of a summer youth race. There were literally hundreds of small children, behaving like small children, and then a handful of people who looked like they had come to do work. The Falls Road Dirty Dozen, as I'm calling us, warmed up and then changed into flats and trudged up the hill to the start. There were a few older guys who looked pretty serious, including, we came to find out, the course record holder (3:56); Luke Belford, a quasi-local guy who was 3rd in Sunday's Port to Fort; and a smattering of high school/college looking kids.
Based on the homework I'd done, I figured this course was up to 13 seconds faster than a flat mile. I figured right now I'm not in great shape, but maybe could run a 5:13 - so I felt like there was an outside shot at breaking 5 for me. When the whistle was blown to signify the start of the race, everyone tore down the hill, leaving me in their dust. Obviously, anyone who has seen me run downhill since my surgeries knows that a) I can't really do it and b) it hurts...a lot. Fortunately it was such a short race that I didn't have time to complain about it, and I passed through the quarter in 67. If I tried to run that on the track (which I don't think I could right now), I'd be so toast I would have had to walk the rest of the way.
At this point, I was still behind at least 3 girls. I knew I would not be able to beat Diane, I was actually handicapping myself at + :20 to her. Fortunately, I started to move up through the fading field, passing two of the girls and making my way through a few other guys. I hit the half in 2:22, and though that was pretty decent. If I could keep that pace, I would run under 5. The course flattened out from there, and then there was a slight rise before dropping again into the finish. I passed the 3/4 mark in 3:36, so breaking 5 was pretty sure now.
I passed one or two people right before the finish, and held off one hard-charging long haired guy at the line to finish 23rd in 4:50. Obviously it was super fast because of the downhill, but at + :13, that would be a 5:03 mile. Even if it was 20 seconds faster, that would be a 5:10. I would gladly take either of those. It sets me up well for a potential 5 minute mile at May 5th's Maryland Twilight Meet Alumni Mile.
Following the race I was pretty pumped. It isn't too often that I exceed my expectations, and I really didn't think I'd be able to run that fast. I didn't feel too wrecked, and my foot felt okay (does not feel great today, but I expected that). We cooled down by running back up the hill to the start, where Chrissie asked "how long have we been running" - to which we all replied "uhh...a mile". We headed over to McDaniel College, which is right near the finish line, and watched the DMR of Ed, Jordan, Arjun and Tristram (all of whom had raced the mile) run 10:48. Jordan pointed out that the last time he ran on a DMR, they ran 9:37. Yikes, that's fast.
The race was a lot of fun, and will definitely go on my calendar every year. It's a great subsitute for my workout for the week, and with the tri season opener on Saturday, I wasn't too pressed to run much more than that. Today and tomorrow will be pretty easy, and then Saturday race followed by Sunday long ride.
Oh, and I obviously didn't run the perfect mile. Ed came as close as possible, running 4:05 in a winning effort. Breaking 4 is clearly a possibility for one of our group in the next few years. The perfect mile, for me, would have been if the race course was reversed and we ran UP the hill.