This was a fun race. It was well organized and well marked. It was the first race I had done in quite awhile, and I think it was a good one to get back into racing a little bit.
My family dropped me off near the start line a little over an hour before the race start. Before my race, they had an invitational for Mattoon high school cross country, so there were several teams warming up. I got checked in, got my number pinned on, and walked around a bit. I did about a mile warmup, did some stretching, and used the restroom. The high school races started a little after that. They were doing the same course as us, which was apparently a course they used for the invitational for several years in the past. It had moved to a grass course at Lake Land College, but they moved it back here a couple years ago when they brought back the homecoming parade in 2019. It is part of the homecoming festivities, and the parade started about 15 minutes after my race started.
I made my way to the start line and started sizing up the competition. There were a few younger guys that looked like they could be trouble and some that looked about my age. I did some strides and more stretching and got ready to go. The starter was Craig Vergin, a 3-time Olympian in the 10,000 meter and 2-time World cross country champion, so that was really cool. The race started and there were about 4 guys who separated from the pack pretty quickly. After about a half mile, there was a guy in front of me and another behind me, and that is basically how it stayed the rest of the race. I think the guy behind me is a teacher at the high school because of some comments people said and the abundance of cheering he received. I wanted to stay under control for the first mile and not get out too hard and hit the first mile in 5:53. The guy in front of me had started to build about a 10 meter lead on me. It was a bit windy, and I knew I needed to maintain contact with him and try to get on his shoulder, but I couldn't muster a surge to get up to him. The second mile is always the hardest for me, and I knew I needed to focus to keep my pace, but I dropped off quite a bit hitting the second mile at 12:24 (6:31). The guy in first had increased his lead a little bit but was still within striking distance. I started to pick it up to try and catch him. I got about 5 meters from him before he looked back and saw me with about a half mile to go. By the end he had built the lead back up to 10 meters. I probably could have pushed a little harder and made it interesting at the end, but I just didn't feel like pushing myself. I don't have the same competitive drive I once did. I was well ahead of the 3rd place guy and didn't feel like killing myself. I finished in 18:04 (5:40), which was a pretty good last mile at the end of the race.
My goal was to go under 19 minutes, and I almost got under 18 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised with the result given my low mileage the past few weeks. I really didn't know where my fitness would be for a 3 mile race. I had done some tempo runs at 6 minute pace but never for anything that long. I ran about a mile cooldown before the awards ceremony. They did awards for the high school races first. The winner for the boys was in the 14:50s, and the girls was in the 17:50s. I didn't get anything for second, but I got a medal for first in my age group and got to shake Craig's hand. After the awards, I ran back to the start to get my stuff and then back to the car to meet my family for about another 1.5 miles.