I headed into the Shamrock 5k with a plan and a lot of confidence. Unlike many races I run, I went into the race with the goal of winning. The time (a PR?) would come with the effort. I won this race last year, but this was because Baltimore’s favorite (running) son Dave Berdan didn’t show up in 2009. This year would be different. Berdan recently ran sub-52 at the very challenging 10 Mile Club Challenge and KLIMtel suggested that he was preparing for an all out assault at the Virginia Beach Half next week with a goal of qualifying for the US Olympic Marathon Trials (ie – 1:05). Needless to say, he would be in shape for the 2010 Shamrock 5k. I am in the best shape of my life, but still I had my work cut out for me. He owns this race. My plan was simply to stick to Berdan as long as I could…then, if I were near him, give it a go with a half mile left. Not very creative, but there was no other option.
The “G” word was barked into a megaphone and a police motorcade started to roll down Charles Street…4,500 runners followed. I got a good start but the pace was hot. There were a number of clowns sprinting the first half mile but I knew better. Soon, Berdan took off to my left and I tucked in behind him. I wasn’t going to let him get too far away from me. Former UMBCer Izzy Mehmedovic followed. Our trio bombed down Charles Street at an ungodly pace and I tucked back.
At the bottom of the hill I heard teammate Jake Marren on the sidelines screaming out encouragement. My legs felt worked and I was breathing considerably hard. Past Marren, I could hear Dave Berardi at the mile marker shouting “…4, 5, 6…”. I could only here one number and I wondered - were we 4:36, 4:46 or 4:26?
“4:28!”, screamed Berardi.*
Good God. My fastest previous first mile at this race was 4:34. Today I was 4:28 and I was in third place. I ignored the stats, soon found my legs and began to tear after Berdan and Izzy. But, Berdan was hauling ass and was pulling away. I was losing the war. I dug deep and tried to close the gap, but it seemed as if he was slowly increasing the real estate between us. Izzy had gone with Berdan and had put a second or two on me…but soon I saw Izzy falling back. I caught Izzy just before the (1.5 mile?) turnaround. Again, I set Berdan in my sights and for a few moments it seemed as if I was actually closing the gap. This turned out to be incorrect. I hit 2 miles in 9:28 and Berdan was at least 10 seconds ahead of me. Izzy about 7 seconds behind me. This was it. It was time to empty the tanks. I checked my fuel level and noticed the gas light was on. I was riding on fumes. With each subsequent minute, Berdan seemed to increase the gap by 5 seconds. He charged on ahead into the headwind like a bull and, unless something ridiculous happened, had solidified his win. I felt as if I had been going “all in” since the mile but still wanted to rally the legs for once last attack on the clock. Into the headwind I surged. As I made the right down Pratt I charged as hard as I could towards Market Street. I didn’t want to leave anything on the Baltimore asphalt. I again heard Jake Marren screaming at me. He shouted the time – 14:35, 36…40. I made the last turn and threw everything I had at the finish line with the hope of sneaking under 14:50.
I ended up running a PR of 14:48. I “half” threw up my arms in celebration – I obviously hadn’t won, but I had run a good time. This was 10 seconds faster than last year. Berdan scorched a new course record – 14:29 – and in doing so had put 19 seconds on me over the last 2 miles. The amazing fact is he basically did it by himself. After the first mile, he was running solo and chasing ghosts (like you do when going after course records in Mario Cart). I thank him for giving me something to chase. Major kudos to him. He owns this race.
I really love this race and the atmosphere that surrounds it. I will definitely be back again next year.
* Dave Berardi, the man who ALWAYS gives the first mile split at this race, notes how the mile marker is off by “10 seconds”. He also claims the 2 mile split is dead on. This seems to make sense. This means that my splits more accurately are 4:38, 4:50 (9:28), 4:50 (14:18). Given that you get a boost from the downhill in the first mile, these aren’t all over the place. This proves that I was able to at least hold pace after the second mile. In the past, I would usually fall off pace during the last 7 minutes of this race, but each year I am considerably stronger than the year before. There was nothing I could have done differently today aside from maybe going out a little bit slower. Though, if I had gone out slower, I wouldn’t have been in the thick of things early on in the race.
This marks my third PR in as many races. Next up is the 5,000m at the Raleigh Relays.