This past Sunday was the Utica Boilermaker 15K, which I have run every year since 2001. In 2006, I ran under an hour for the first time, and ever since then I have tried to equal or surpass that feat. My times have ranged from 54 minutes on an uncommonly cool day, to 59 minutes after bopping around Europe for two and a half weeks prior to race day.
This year, I knew I was not in stellar shape, but wasn’t too concerned about my chances of breaking the 60-minute barrier. After all, I ran 58 minutes two years ago after having emergency abdominal surgery in May and not being able to run a step for almost a month. So despite my lack of heavy training this spring, I was looking forward to hitting my 14th year of running under an hour.
I drove out to Utica with Dan Sackett and Linsday Rynders on race day morning. There was a 20-minute delay due to an incident on the course, so when the gun went off, my legs felt tight and sluggish. I ran the first four miles conservatively, as I always do, and ran the first 5K in 20:12, knowing that I would negative split the next two. The mile up the golf course hill was 6:44, about what I expected, then I opened it up on the screaming downhill that is the fifth mile. I usually can split 5:30 on this mile without any effort whatsoever, but could only manage a 5:44 this year. That’s when I knew that my fitness was really lacking. Still, I kept it under 6:00 for the 6th mile, and maintained a good pace up the second hill in the 7th mile. I ran 19:17 for the second 5K, and was now about 30 seconds under pace.
The last 5K was a grind, as it always is, but I surprisingly felt pretty decent. Usually I am completely spent by the last mile, but I was able to put forth a good effort and pass a lot of people around the 9-mile mark this year. Somehow I even found an extra gear and was able to outkick four or five guys in the final 200 meters. I crossed the finish line with a net time of 58:15.
While I am proud of my result, it struck me that this is even slower than I ran in 2017, the year of the fateful gallbladder incident. In fact, this is my slowest time apart from the year I went to Europe and only ran a few miles in the weeks leading up to the race. Could it be that father time is finally catching up to me? I’d prefer to think it’s simply from not running more than 30 miles per week in the past year. With any luck, I can get a little more consistent this next year and run faster than my sub-60 average next year (56:42).