The morning of Saturday, September 10th was a beautiful early fall day, and a great day to run a 5k cross-country style race. This race was the inaugural Access to Success 5k at the Davidson College cross country trails. A2S is a recently incorporated not-for-profit organization started by former Davidson basketball star Andrew Lovedale to provide clothing, shoes, and other needed supplies to impoverished youths in Lovedale’s native Nigeria. While Lovedale could not be physically at the event, he did communicate with patrons real-time from Paris via Skype for the duration of the day’s activities. Another notable Davidson alumnus—NBA star Steven Curry—came out to emcee the race. Also in attendance were Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop, and freshly inaugurated Davidson College president Carol Quillen.
Due to the volume of runners, the men’s and women’s races started 30 minutes apart. Each race started from the Baker Sports Complex parking lot for spacing purposes. The route included about 200 yards of asphalt, a left turn onto the practice football field behind the sports complex, and then 2.6ish miles of fine gravel trail before finishing on the same practice field. I knew the route like the back of my hand because I had run several workout runs on these trails over the past few months. I was shooting for a 21:30 time, which would have paced me right around 7 minutes per mile.
|Bobby, Jim, and Chas|
The trails started with a pretty dramatic downhill, and then there were a couple of turns before the course popped out into an open corridor that was cleared of trees for power lines. This largely straight section had a series of rolling hills. Jim passed me here, but I kept him within sight. After the hills, at about the first mile marker, we took a right at a fork in the path to go under a canopy of tree cover. The middle mile of the race was mostly flat, but it wound around from side to side to make a squiggly loop. I gained ground on Jim and eventually passed him, but not without a fight. Having done mile repeats with Jim a month earlier for speed work, I knew he liked to hold on to his position very tenaciously. Today was no different. He bolted back ahead of me for 100 yards or so. Jim and I spent most of the middle mile like this—trading positions back and forth. We passed a few other runners in the process.
My pace for the second mile was 7:23, which disappointed me considering my first mile was 6:49. I still had energy enough for a late race kick, so I dug in just past the second mile marker and overtook Jim for the last time. Shortly after, the route took us back out into the hilly corridor and we reversed the path from the first mile. I could see three runners spaced out ahead of me on the hills, so I decided I would put targets on each of them to goad my pace. The first runner faded back to me fairly quickly, but the second runner had a very long stride. On the uphill that was to come, my shorter legs would give me an advantage over his long turnover, so I waited patiently. Sure enough, on the steep uphill leading to the trailhead, I made short work of this taller runner, and I set my sights on the last runner ahead of me. Had the race been 200 meters longer, I might have caught him, but I was glad he was out there in front of me to make me drive harder. My final full mile was 6:46, and my official time was 21:15, which was ahead of my goal, and good enough for a PR pace of 6:52 minutes per mile. Not bad for a trail race!
Jim finished with a 21:55 time, and Bobby had come in at 19:45, which was fourth place overall. The winner was a high school track athlete who ran a time of 18:09. The awards ceremony would not start until after the women’s race, so Bobby and I took the opportunity to work in a nice, easy, two- mile cool-down run through the beautiful Davidson campus. The jog brought back a few memories of my time there as a student ten years ago. After a short raffle and a brief address by President Quillen praising Andrew Lovedale, Stephen Curry, and all the supporters of A2S, Coach McKillop announced the winners and the awards of the men’s race. Bobby and I each won 1st place in our respective age groups. While there were no medals, our winning earned us each $20 in gift cards to Omega Sports—which I promptly spent on running gear after the race.
|Chas stepping up to claim his award|