Yesterday was my 10th year in a row running the California International Marathon. It runs from Folsom through 6 different cities on its way to the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. In previous years, there’s been major rain or freezing winds, but yesterday’s weather was perfect – high 40s at the start and high 50s at the finish with no wind at all.
Typically when I run, I’ll have a few different goals. I’ll set a time goal, an age group place goal, and a “beat Chris Pollack” goal. Chris doesn’t know me at all (we’ve literally never met) but he became my nemesis after unintentionally darkening one of the best moments of my life 7 years ago. In the weeks preceding the marathon this year I decided to simplify things a bit. I decided that I would leave age group place and Chris Pollack out of it and merely focus on the challenging but attainable goal of crossing the finish line under 3 hours. Some friends even suggested that my not focusing on racing someone that didn’t know he was racing me was a sign of maturity – I was growing up a little bit. That all changed at the start line.
The race was set to begin in 5 minutes. I was feeling great – loose, focused, energized. The announcer’s voice came over the loudspeaker, “Welcome, Runners!!” Everyone cheered. He then started to share a few details about the race and introduce the pace group leaders. “The 2:43 pace group will be lead by local legend Chris Mocko.” The announcer paused for scattered cheers from the crowd, then continued, “The 3 hour pace group will be led by 3-time Western States finisher, Kevin Sawchuk.” I was standing in a group with the rest of the 3 hour group and several people slapped Kevin on the back. Then came the words that changed my goals for the day and demonstrated to me that I’m not that mature after all, “The 3:05 pace group will be led by 7-time CIM finisher, Chris Pollack.”
Wait. What?! I turned around and saw Chris holding the pole with the 3:05 banner on the top – the pole that he would have to carry the entire 26.2 miles. The crowd fell strangely silent as we locked eyes. Just kidding. The silence and the locking eyes were in my head. The thing about these pace group leaders is that they finish at exactly the time on their banner. After a bit of quick math, I realized that if my race went as planned, I would be crossing the finish line over 5 minutes before the enemy Chris.
Forget the fact that he would have to carry a pole up in the air the entire race. Forget the fact that in order to pace a 3:05 group you surely have to be able to comfortably run 10-15 minutes faster than that. Forget the fact that he has no idea that we’re competing with one another. Forget all of that and simply focus on the fact that I kicked his butt yesterday. Thanks for the motivation, Chris. See you next year.