Following on the experience of running my first 5k race, I decided to keep my eyes open for another good event. I think the Bread and Honey title grabbed me as much as anything but after checking out the event’s website, I was convinced it would be a great second race. The Bread and Honey races had been held for the past 29 years as part of the Streetsville, ON Bread and Honey festival. The festival celebrates the history of mills, bakeries, and honey in this area just north of Toronto with (wait for it)… the joining of bread and honey in one tasty delicacy. The main event has traditionally been the running of a 15k road race, however a 5k was added recently. Between the two distances, the races draw about 1500 runners every year.
Taking part in this race would give me a chance to see if I could better my 29:10 time from my first race. I rationalized that as long as the course was somewhat flatter than the Daff-O-Dash, I couldn’t help but be faster. The weather network wasn’t calling for rain either! This would be my first chip-timed event and when I got to the race site, it was clear that this was a much bigger and more ‘serious’ event than the Daff-O-Dash. Over 40 minutes prior to start time, the combined crowd of runners and well-wishers was enormous. Some of the more seasoned runners were just getting back from running a 5k ‘warmup’ before the event itself – are you kidding me? It might not have been raining, but even at 7:30am, it was pushing over 20 degrees so the only warmup I would be doing was stretching (toes almost within reach!). The 15k and 5k had a simultaneous start, so there were about 1500 eager runners crammed into the chute on this small street in small town Ontario. With the music blaring (“…born to ruuuuun!”), and aerobics instructors trying to limber up the masses, the neighbours must be really understanding.
The gun went off and almost a whole minute later, I crossed the start line right in the middle of the pack. This feeling of running in the middle of a herd was still new to me, so it was quite exhilarating. Something tells me that rush never quite wears off no matter how many events you’ve done. And what’s this? I’m passing people! “Excuse me… on your left… on your right… coming through.” The street was absolutely clogged with runners, so I think more than a few of us had to step lightly on some lawns on our way up towards the front part of the middle of the pack. The route was mostly downhill on the way out, so I went with it and let my pace pick up (lesson not learned from first race!). Around 1.5k in, the course flattened out and we were running past more houses. Wow, spectators too! What’s this? Boisterous spectators enjoying a beverage or two at 8AM! I joked to a woman running next to me that it was pretty early for a beer and she responded “What the heck, it’s 5PM somewhere!” True enough. No matter your opinion on pre-lunch imbibing, this also meant I was actually having a conversation as I approached the halfway point in this race. Great! I must be doing okay even if my legs are burning and I’m reconsidering my “start fast” philosophy.
I managed to hold my position well past the turnaround point, but the effort was increasing steadily. By the 4th Km, my legs were getting weak from the final ‘climb’ and I thought, “What the hell am I doing this for?” accompanied by numerous colourful expletives; half of which were meant to spur me onward, the other half just reflecting the sheer pain I was in. So it happened again – I took a walk break. “Oh no you didnt!” “But it feels so good!” There go about 5 people past me, and about 30 seconds later I pick up the pace again and can smell the finish line. The walk brought my mojo back and when I crested the final hill and could see the finish sign, I put on the afterburners and made a mad dash for the line. Finish time: 26:50. I was completely exhausted at the finish and a tad demoralized about having to walk, but I honestly think the walk break might have improved my time compared to finishing that last kilometer with virtual cinder blocks on my feet. And what the heck, I can’t complain about a 2:20 improvement in just one race. I think that’s the answer that eluded me on the course – I’m doing this to better myself physically and mentally and find out what I’m capable of. Not every step forward will be a quantum leap over the last one, but you’ll never know without trying.