Rites of passage
These things will happen to every runner eventually
Anyone who has competed in road races will tell you that there are certain things that you can only learn by experience. These happenings are inevitable, no matter how well trained you are or how many "how to" running books, magazines or online articles you have read. These events seem to defy logic or violate the laws of science. When they occur, you may have a sudden irrational thought that you have unwittingly entered an episode of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" or are being filmed for "America's Funniest Home Videos."
Probably the most agonizing example occurs at the end of a 5K race. Five kilometers converts to 3.1 miles. Logically a tenth of a mile, wherever it occurs, should be the same length as every other tenth of a mile in the race. Yet somehow this last tenth is always the longest. Not only that but this last tenth will grow to an even greater length if you are frantically sprinting to stay ahead of a fast finishing challenger.
Marathoners know the corollary to this phenomena involves miles. The first six miles are the shortest in the race. This discrepancy is made up by much longer last six miles before the finish.
While the tenth and mile lengthening phenomena is universal, only certain runners are blessed with the ability to forecast the weather. They will find that the hottest day of the summer will coincide with the date that they are hoping to run their fastest race of the season. The accuracy of their weather prediction has a direct bearing on how much this race means to a runner as well as how long and hard they have trained for it. If one of these weatherman runners makes a New Year's Resolution to dedicate his training to running a personal best at the Fourth of July Summerfest race, a heat record will inevitably be set that day. And weathermen runners who try to beat the heat by picking a spring or fall race battle incredible headwinds on race day.
Only once in most runners' career will a double-knotted shoe come untied in a race. Most young runners have shoes come untied; no high school cross country race is ever conducted without long laces trailing several runners. But this doesn't count since virtually all of these situations were created by ineptly tied and single-knotted shoes. You can be a double-knot or triple-knot specialist who checks your shoes at the starting line of every race, but it will still happen to you. There is nothing you can do to prevent this. Just accept this as inevitable and hope that when your laces loosen your fingers aren't too cold or too cramped to retie them.
The full story appears in the July 2012 print edition of Silent Sports. Don't miss an issue! Subscribe online, here.