by Jon Lindenauer
"It is just a 5k though" I told myself, "What is the worst that can happen."
Historically, if I am legitimately answering the question of "what is the worst that can happen in a 5k race," I have seen a person projectile vomit from completing a 5k (that person was NOT me). I did not expect that for myself, but what was more realistic was prospect of getting to roughly the halfway mark and deeply, deeply regretting my choice to add another race. Over the course of my running / racing career there have been numerous races of varying distance in which I have wanted to drop out before the two-mile marker.
"There's going to be some fast people there," I was told. "You won't have to worry about having people to run with."
When I had completed the race in 2019 it had been an off-year. I had run a 15:39 to win and was ahead of the next competitor by nearly a minute and a half. In 2018 that same time would have only been good enough for fifth place. Without knowing though who had signed up I had a strong suspicion this year would be on the faster side. "Just one more" I said to myself, and so what was intended to be a short trip into Malta to get my hair cut resulted in my signing up for yet another road race.
Saratoga is actually known for another type of racing apart from the kind which involves horses. At the start of Silks and Satins 5K, which begins against the backdrop of the horseracing track, one might take notice of the many many young runners. Saratoga High School is known for producing very exceptional cross country athletes. One such alumni was at the race: Ryan Bush, who is currently competing in college for Providence. If I had not been familiar with Ryan prior to the race it would have been impossible to not know by the end. Every street corner, every clustering of people was "Yeah, Ryan! You got this Ryan!" I had thrown in a surge around the 1.25 mile mark and it became a three person race of me, Ryan and an outstanding Queensbury runner Ethan Carey - though the hearts of the Saratogians were firmly committed to their hometown hero.
As we wove through the Saratoga suburbs, I occasionally glanced back out of the corner of my eye at the turns. It sunk in that it was really just the three of us up front and it was only a matter of deciding our order. I thought of the horseraces. I had never seen one in person though I had seen countless races on television. Unlike with human races it is not at all uncommon for horseraces to come down to the final moments to determine the winner - winning "by a nose" in a photo-finish. At the about the 2.8 mile mark Ethan began a ferocious charge for the finish, with Ryan pulling ahead of me as well around 2.9 miles. That was very nearly the finishing order. But around the 3 mile mark I decided it wasn't over. I charged with everything I had and surged past Ryan. "He's going Ryan!" Someone shouted, "You've gotta go with him!" It was too late for that. I crossed the finish line in second.
In another departure from horseracing, I definitely take great pride in finishing second if it represents a major personal accomplishment (likewise for 3rd, or 5th or 10th etc.). In my first 5k of the year (the Running of the Green 5k in Rotterdam) I had finished over a minute behind the leaders; the lead pack had pulled away from me less than three quarters of a mile into the race. I wondered if I was maybe just not good enough and fast enough to stay with guys like that anymore. Compared to existential crisis as a runner, finishing second absolutely welcomed. My gauntlet week which consisted of a 4-mile, a 1-mile and a 15k race in six days was supposed to be the highlight of my summer racing season, however, instead that distinction wound up going to a 5k race in a horse-racing town that I signed up for roughly 14 hours before it took place. And - as far as I am aware - there was NO projectile vomiting.
Jon is one of our elite runners, a member of Willow Street, and a prolific writer of thrilling articles for The Pace Setter. While others train on weekends, Jon runs races instead (recently three in one week). He loves to travel to new sites to run new races and can happily tell you about the races’ highlights and the craft beers they serve.