Last weekend I returned to the Gravois Kiwanis cross country 5K race at Jefferson Barracks County Park in south Saint Louis. You may recall I won this race last year. I won't lie, I did have it in the back of my mind that I could win the race again. Despite my previous first place finish, I didn't actually run that fast last year. And I think I'm in better shape now (even though I'm currently focusing on longer distances). So things looked good for me.
What worried me a bit last year was the large number of high school runners (which makes sense for a cross country race). The same was true this year. Though at the starting line I saw one runner who looked fast and overheard him say he was in college. Hmm.
I started a bit too slow and wound up at the back of a large pack of high schoolers (who typically start way too fast and slow down pretty quickly). I made my way around the pack only to find two runners off the front who were moving much faster. I settled into a swift pace and tried to work back up to them. Well, they continued to pull away. I had a reasonably good run and finished 3rd overall in 18:58, 40 seconds faster than last year. The college kid won and a high schooler finished 2nd. The two of them had a combined total age equal to mine.
And that was just the start. This race was two weeks out from Howl at the Moon and I needed to get one more long run in. So once I rehydrated after the race I continued running. I paused briefly for the awards ceremony, but I got going again after that. I finished the day with 20 miles. Now the taper can begin.