I used to watch Ekiden, long distance relay races very popular in Japan, and ran some when I was in high school. 30 years (!) later, I ran another with fellow San Francisco Track and Field team members (Pictured from left to right – Andy Bundy, Chris Hastings, Aaron Castillo and me). It was a fun and friendly race under the cold and cloudy December sky at Lake Merced in San Francisco. Each leg took the runner around the lake – 4.5 miles of mostly flat paved trail, popular among local runners, joggers, walkers, dogs and such. There were about 300 teams, mostly from Northern California. Some of the teams were serious about this, while others took it very casual dressing themselves in all sorts of seasonal fun attire. We took the spirit of the holiday by each wearing a red Santa hat with the team uniform, and knee-high compression socks. Frontrunners San Francisco sent impressive 18 teams, a few of which ran very fast times.
Both Andy and Chris compete in triathlon, so they run 4.5 miles all the time and are not discouraged by the distance. However, Aaron was a bit uneasy about it. He is a great decathlon and he does not like 1,500m event that he has to run at the very end of the competition. But he is a good sport and wanted to have fun running the relay with us. As for me, I wanted to target 28 minutes, which is about 6:15/mile pace. Chris went first, followed by Andy, Aaron and me.
After Chris took off, I went into a queue for the potty which was very long an it took me about 20 minutes to get to a potty. While in the queue, the first team came in after 22 minutes or so. Fast! It’s 5 minutes/mile pace. Well, I knew about the fast teams’ pace from the last year’s results. After done with my business, I went to the exchange area and looked for Chris to come in. He came in after 29 minutes. Then, Andy took off. I asked Chris if there were any surprises on the course and he said it was pretty straight forward and no surprises. He did mention that he did not seen mile marks except for one. Andy came in after about 30 minutes. After Aaron took off, I started to warm up by jogging for about five minutes and doing a few strides. Aaron took about 36 minutes. While I was waiting for Aaron, I saw a few Frontrunners go by. I wanted to catch up at least some of them.
I knew Bruno, a Frontrunner, was about 300 meters ahead, wearing a yellow T-shirt and I thought that it would be good to catch him. He was easy to spot. My first mile was a bit over paced: 6:06, which is OK considering the adrenalin of the race and all. The first mile had gradual uphill or upbump, rather, which made the second mile slow down slope. But I did not increase the pace much. If I could keep the pace, that would be great. If I slowed down, I could still make 28 minutes. I neared Bruno slowly and caught him at about 2.5 mile mark (I did not see any mile mark). Before and after that, I passed several runners, but I did not see any other Frontrunner until I saw Robert in the final half mile or so. The half mile was a bit of up slope but I had a lot of energy left. My calculation during the run said it was not possible to make it in two hours total but potentially 2:02 something, so I increased the pace considerably. But by the time I came into the goal area, I saw the clock passing 2:03. Oh well.
Between my watch and Runkeeper, it is safe to say I ran 27:23 or so. There are no official time for each leg, but the official total time was 2:03:03. Overall, it was a great race and I had a lot of fun running with the team and seeing fellow Frontrunners and others. After the race, some of us went to the brunch at the golf course across the lake. Great day!
4.5-mile laps per Timex watch
Official results found on All Sport Central.com.