Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trail Note: The Best Race Ever

Well, except for the running part of it..

Last September, the organization I work for relocated to an office across the street from Gas Works Park. It also happens to be smack dab in the middle of the course for the Fremont 5K run and Briefcase Relay. My boss (who we'll call M), who ran the 5K last year, decided that we needed to field a few teams for the relay. The relay is 5-leg race where runners must wear "office attire" from the waist up and carry a briefcase containing a copy of the yellow pages as the baton. Those who didn't run were required (by aformentioned M) to cheer the runners on. We managed to field 2, 5-person teams for the race, after numerous team trades, reorganizations, consolidations and strategy sessions. (We had originally placed M as the lead-off runner, but every day she'd update the order placing herself later in the relay order. After she left the office we'd then return her to position #1. Then all of the other runners would position themselves in order to run alongside the person they thought they could beat or cajole into running slowly. This happened daily for about a week; it never got old...)

By about 4 pm Friday afternoon, work had stopped, the first beer was cracked open, and we started getting dressed for the race. Our office is very casual, but wearing the t-shirt that you might realistically have worn to work was verbotten. The men donned dress shirts, ties, and jackets with their shorts while the ladies all put on blazers, shoulder pads and all. It was like dress-up Friday and the first time I'd seen many of my co-workers in ties.

At the race start we had to check our teams in by showing that our brief case did indeed contain a copy of the yellow pages and was free of a strap (the rule was the brief cases had to be carried by the handle or clutched under the arm, football style). It was hilarious seeing all of the dressed up teams. Medical organizations wore lab coats, engineers wore hard hats, there were many blouses with bow ties, and there was a team comprised all of Elvises. There were also a few teams from local running stores wearing t-shirts; we called them cheaters.

I ended up being the first runner along with a friend who had run track in college, but was just getting back into running after a 15-year asthma-induced hiatus. We agreed that we'd run at a reasonable pace together for the first 1/2 mile, and then at a designated point take off into an every-woman-for-herself sprint to the handoff.

I have never enjoyed those leading minutes waiting at the starting line as much in my life. There were 36 of us in all, stretching in our dress shirts, ties, and jackets waiting for the gun. When it started we all sprinted off, not sure of how to pace a 1K distance. My friend and I quickly realized that we'd started way too fast, especially once we started climbing the hill that was in our leg. We slowed down, already out of breath by the time we were only halfway through our leg. While I managed to get to the hand-off first, the lead was quickly cut later on in the race and my team finished 26th, just over a minute behind the other team which finished 22nd (with a speedy anchor leg run by Jeff). One of the finishers as he was running in was heard talking into his cell phone "so, I'm running just a little late." A group of us later ran the 5K together in normal running clothes, but with the initials of our organization taped to our backs. It was great passing by the office where everyone was out on the deck cheering with funny signs and banners with funny puns linked to our mission. We're already trying to figure out better outfits for next year that better represent what we do.

All in all, a terrific race, one that I highly recommend to any group.


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