I got to run the Tar Heel Ten for the second time a few weeks ago. It’s one of my favorite races, mainly because it takes place in Chapel Hill. It’s usually near the end of April, so the dog woods and azaleas are blooming, and the course takes you through campus, down Franklin St, through some beautiful neighborhoods, and then into Kenan Stadium for the finish. Ten miles is a great distance, because it is not a sprint, like the 5K or even the 10K, but it doesn’t include quite as much pain as a half-marathon. I love it!
My goal this time was to run less than an 8:30 pace per mile, since that was what I did the first time. So I figured I would start with the 8 mile pacers and hang with them as long as I could, making sure that I finished well ahead of the 8:30 guys. It was not a smart plan, for two reasons. First, I was fighting a sinus infection and had a head full, and was still coughing some, too. Second, it wasn’t smart because I am not used to training at 8 minute pace. Most of my training is at 8:30, and when I really go for it, I have been able to get down to around 8:10 or 8:15.
I was starting to drag at around mile 7 or so, and that’s about the time that David Bainbridge caught me. He’s a good friend and a fellow church member. He told me he had been trying for about 4 miles to catch me, and I told him I was amazed that I was ever ahead of him to begin with! But, that was the problem; I started out too fast, which is a common mistake with runners. And by the time David caught me, I was paying for it. But we ran together for a while…until we got to Laurel Hill. The Tar Heel Ten is not just known for the beautiful scenery; it is known for the brutal hill at about mile 8.5. It is a steady climb, then a plateau, another climb, and then a downhill. You think you’re in the clear and then there is another hill to climb. It’s nasty. And to add an extra challenge, the race organizers time you on the hill! When you get your results at the end, it includes your overall time, and your “Laurel Hill climb-time.” Not funny. Anyway, David left me on the hill; I was dragging. But then after the hill was done, I looked ahead and there he was: waiting for me! I caught up and said, “David, you didn’t have to wait for me.” He laughed it off and said, “Hey, I wanted to run WITH you!” We finished the race together, as you can see from the picture. He’s the stronger, younger runner on the left, in the darker blue.
When I told my wife about it later, she said, “David was more interested in encouraging you than beating you.”
That about sums it up. Then I thought….if the shoe were on the other foot, would I have done the same?
I think I would. I hope so, anyway.
Thanks, David. You taught me the best thing I learned that day in Chapel Hill.