Race Recap: Sandy Ground 5K for James Mattioli
It was a beautiful day for a race.
This weekend I was humbled to be a part of another race that tried to harness the good in people that has surfaced out of the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook. Each time I’ve been a part of one of these events, I am always amazed. Amazed at people’s spirit. Resiliency. Ability to rise above the awfulness that happened on that December day fifteen months ago.
Today’s race benefited the Sandy Ground project. This group has been building playgrounds all up and down the East Coast in areas that were impacted and damaged by hurricane Sandy. Each one honors one of the Sandy Hook victims. Today’s race was held in the area that the playground for James Mattioli was built, in Milford, CT. I was present last week as they started construction, and after today’s race there was a ribbon cutting. It’s already finished.
I headed down early this morning because I’d heard there were over 900 people preregistered, a larger amount than the planners had originally counted on. It took me a few minutes to find parking but all in all, I was able to park fairly close to the start of the race. I tried to be close because it was cold, but I knew it would warm up by the race start, and I wanted to be able to dump my fleece back in the car.
It didn’t take me long to find people I knew waiting for the race start. I met and chatted with a few women I knew until my good girlfriend and usual race partner showed up. She had brought her whole family with her; she knows James’ mother. It was nice to see so many families present today, all there to try and give something good to this family that has lost so much. I hope when these families come to events like these and see the outpouring of love and support, that somehow it helps in some way.
There was plenty of food and drink out prior to the race, which I was impressed with. Normally races don’t offer much besides water in plastic cups prior to a race. We all powered up and before long it was time to dump my fleece and head to the start. By now the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous late winter/early spring morning.
We lined up in front of the local firehouse, festooned with a banner announcing the race, and began. Everyone I knew got lost in the crowd, and I honed in and tried to find my pace. I had my tunes on, the sun was shining, people were happy, and I felt really good.
I mean, really good. Before long we were a mile in. I realized how much I was enjoying this run. We were in the coastal part of town…and the route was super flat. Very few hills anywhere. I ran past the water stop; I’d noted that each of my fastest races were the 5Ks where I didn’t stop for water. I normally run 3 miles at home without hydration, so I’d told myself I wasn’t going to stop.
I was still feeling good at mile 2, but it wasn’t as great a feeling as the previous one. I tried to adjust my pace because I didn’t want to run out of steam. I wanted this to be a good race. I had in my head the goal of finishing under 36 minutes; I’ve only had 3 races below that time. Two were 35:50 something, and the third was my PR time of 35:33 (which was a year ago this month). I hoped to get under the two, but didn’t think a new PR was possible.
The route meandered down near the water and I sighed. What a beautiful course. I love races near the water. I felt a peace come over me and just felt so fortunate, so blessed to be here. To have a body that can run, no matter how fast or slow. To have a family that understands this push I have to run races, to help charities, to do things for others. To have a life that includes so many wonderful people and experiences. It was a beautiful moment. I kept on.
Somewhere after mile 2.5 I noticed one of the women I’d been chatting with before the race was just ahead of me. She had said her goal was to hit below 35 minutes. I figured I had to be doing fairly well if I could see her, as she’d started out ahead of me. As we kept going, I realized I was getting closer to her. I wondered if somehow, I’d be able to pass her.
As we neared the three mile mark, she was in my sights. I knew that I’d be able to do it if she didn’t speed up too much. I heard the 35 minute chime in my earbuds and knew if I really pushed it I could potentially PR this race. I ran as fast as I could for that last 0.1 mile. I passed her, and saw the time clock read 35:38 as I crossed the line.
I knew it had to be either a PR or very close, since it took me a bit to cross the starting line when the race began. I stopped my RunKeeper, trying to tell myself that no matter what I’d run a good race. I was well below 36, which had been my goal. I was within seconds either way of the PR, which I hadn’t thought was possible. It was all good.
I met my friends at the finish line, chatted quickly, and had to run off to my daughter’s play at school this afternoon. I’d so wanted to stay and watch the playground be dedicated, and look to see the finished product of what I’d seen started, but I had to go back to my family and my world.
When I got home, the race results were already posted. And there it was, a brand new shiny PR:
It was a beautiful day for a race.