I had fell in Love with the University of Florida when I was in high school. There was a cross country meet at the University of Florida’s golf course, which is now called The Mark Bostick Golf Course. It happened to be a state and college cross country meet in which our school was invited to participate in. During my visit I got to tour the campus and see the surrounding areas. It was so exciting and the college atmosphere was electrifying.
My daughter, who loves to run, had told me about the event and at first I was hesitant but then thought what the heck. The reason why I was hesitant was that it was on a work night and the week before was a hard work week and this week was not any better. Because my daughter is a school teacher she has off for the summer so attending a racing event during the week was doable for her.
The thought of visiting the Florida Gators track once again was getting me excited. The first time I ran around it was during the time I ran the state cross country meet. My cross country coach at the time who’s name is Bill Opperman, had taken us to the track so we can see it. Bill had attended the University of Florida when he was a college student and had shown us a few running routes he use to run. I decided to go, which included my wife, son, daughter and son-in-law.
I did not know what to expect when I got there but knew from my past experience where it was and where to park. The track area now looks like a stadium, not as big as a football stadium but had covered bleachers, concession area and bathrooms within the stadium bleachers. It looked awesome! The first thing we did was walk around the track which was bright blue in color and had a sponge like feeling underneath our feet. My son had asked me what the long wooden hurdles was and I told him that they were for the steeple chase events.
It never occurred to me that he was not familiar with the different type track events that the athletes actually do. That is what makes track and field so exciting because of all the different type events a person can participate in or watch. My family and I started to go over to the sign in table. For $10, a person could run as many events as they wanted. This was the second annual event for the Florida track Club. The events a person could run were the 1-mile, 800 meters, 3k and the 4x400m medley. They also had events for the kids like the 100m dash and the 400m run.
The Florida Track Club also had a bounce house and face painting for the kids. I thought it was a complete event. The one unexpected pleasure was that right before the events started The Florida Gator’s mascots Albert & Alberta showed up. We had taken our picture with them and at one point of the 1 mile run Albert ran side by side with me for at least 50 yards. Because of my constant nagging achilles injury which seems to never go away, I did not know which running event I wanted to do.
I had worn a compression sock on my left calf and a copper fit compression knee sleeve on my right. When I jogged around the track for a warm up I didn’t feel any pain. I figured I would at least run the 1 mile and take pictures and videos of the rest of the races. One thing I did not think about is what to do with my cell phone during my run. My Cell phone which is a Galaxy 5 is kind of big and I did not want to leave it on the bench thinking it would be stolen so I just carried it during the race.
With my running at a minimal and me being a little over weight I figured I could at least run a 9 minute mile. I mainly came up to support my daughter’s running and to see the UF track. I wanted to work on my daughter’s pacing for when she runs the road races around the Ocala Florida area.
The time was close to when the events would start and people were coming in. I had recognized a few runners from the road races we attend and some were pretty fast. It made me think back to a time that I weighed 135 lbs and ran 3-mile races just under 15 minutes. I was in envy of the running physiques of some of the runners. You can tell that some of the runners were in great shape. The fun thing about this event was that age did not matter. There were young and old alike and had the same passion for running that I have.
The kids 100m race was fun to watch and some of them looked so small and the ages looked to be from 1-years of age (The parents carried them) to 8 years of age. The people who ran the event held out a finishing tape where the winner could run through it.
Now the 1-mile was next and I did not know what to expect and my whole family decided to run this event. I had forgotten how excited I get right before a race and I was up for the challenge. My only thought was could I finish the 1-mile before my calf or achilles tendons would give out.
The host, who was part of the Florida Track Club, walked around with a mike and had a good sense of humor. He was the one who was going to start the race. The host had split the runners up into 2 different heats. The runners who could run a 6-minute mile or less were in the second heat and all the rest of the runners (like me) were in the first heat. It was a little humiliating to think of myself as a below average runner but that is where I am today. After the host explanation of where to stand for the start and where to cross at the finish, he sent us off. I had started near the rear of the pack knowing I would be slow but before long I had started reeling a few runners in and finished the mile with a time of 7:30. Not bad for an older man who hasn’t trained much because of his injuries.
The funny thing was that I beat my whole family who runs all the time. I would have liked to video tape or take pictures as I run but its hard to do that with a cell phone while running. All in all it was fun, I felt tired but great and I did not finish last. The second set of runners were up and they all looked really good. I did video tape some of that race and it was as expected with the winner finishing around 4:30 and only a few runners were over 6-minutes. It was fun to watch.
The 800 meters was next and because of the 2nd heat I got to rest so I decided to run that also. My daughter did not like how she ran the mile so I told her I would run the 800 with her. I was actually thinking to myself that I hope I can finish it. I did not get the finishing time of the 800 but it was a joy to be able to run around the Florida Track. The nice thing is that no matter where you were in the race, first or last, there were other runners encouraging you to keep going.
After a 4×400 medley it was time for the 3K race. My mind was going back and forth whether to run it or not. I felt tired from my other runs and did not think I could even finish this race. The last thing I thought about is whether my calf could take it but rather my thoughts were mainly on if I could run this distance at all. My family stood on the sidelines thinking we were all going to watch this final event before we headed back home to Ocala.
Something inside me thought if I did not at least try no matter how tired I was, I would regret not doing it. I had remembered watching on Youtube the story of how the New York Marathon began and how the New York road runner’s club president Fred Lebow was not a very gifted runner but had always run in races no matter where he placed even if it was last. Fred Lebow was just happy to do what he loved doing the most which was running. With this thought of inspiration I headed to the starting line to begin the race.
I looked over at my family who was in disbelief and smiled. We were off. I started near the back of the pack and after a few laps I could feel my lungs and body giving out. I dug real deep and had a lot of encouragement from other runners and also my family. It felt a little weird being lapped by runners especially since I use to be the one lapping other runners. With 2 laps to go I was a bit confused and asked the timer how many laps I had left. At the end I did finish last but was happy that I not only ran the 1-mile that night but also the 800m and 3K. I actually thought I was going to loose it when a 8 or 9 year old girl would start to walk and when I caught up would run ahead.
This girl did it on a number of occasions so joke on me. I was glad that her parents probably said to her that she did so good that she beat that runner. There did not seem to be any medals, fruit or water on a table so after another good look around we had headed back home. Like I mentioned, I was really happy with my accomplishments that night and I hope that next years run will have quadruple the runners so I can hopefully run the 3 races again.