Just about everyone who went to college has a certain pride in their school. That college spirit fills you up during your years on campus, and stays with you long after you leave. Most of us probably weren't college athletes, but we certainly cheered them on. And we like to stay active now. That's why the Big 10k is such a great concept.
Saturday was the third running of this annual 10k and 5k. Obviously there are a lot of Big 10 alums in the Chicago area. The first year drew about 10,000 runners, which is amazing for a first year race. Last year was a little larger, and this year they grew to 15,000. That ranks it up there with some of the biggest races in the city.
While I grew up rooting for Big 10 schools, I went to college at Drake University, in the Missouri Valley conference. And since last I checked, the Missouri Valley doesn't host a 10k, so I jumped at the chance to run this one. Alums of the different schools were able to choose a dryfit t-shirt in their school colors, then wear it during the race. I chose the generic blue shirt they offered for the 'Big 10 fan'. But I did hang out with a couple of friends from Northwestern, just to try to be legit!
We lined up in the 'A' corral based on our previous 10k times. We were anticipating a good effort, though not really a 'race' effort. And that's kind of how it went.
The race started on the road just southeast of Soldier Field, travelled to the west side lanes of Lake Shore Drive, until we turned around and headed back on the Lakefront path.
Nearly from the beginning, my friend Tom and I commented on how amazed we were that there seemed to be so many young, fit runners in this race. I guess we really meant that there seemed to be so a lot of people faster than us, and running how we like to remember ourselves a couple decades ago!
That seemed especially true as we got into the last mile, a time when we are normally bearing down for the finish, and passing other runners. Instead, in this race, we noticed how a number of runners, seemingly effortlessly, passed us. Several of them looked like recent college athletes, though not necessarily track or cross country runners. It was a sobering experience for an old guy like me.
We crossed the line at about 46:00 minutes, and realized we'd run close to 7:30/mile pace. That's not especially fast for us, but it was pretty good as a 'tempo run'. I tried to refrain from thoughts about what I might have run back when I was closer to the age of some of the folks that passed us in the last mile. But suffice to say it probably would have been nearly 10 minutes faster. But those days are long gone.
After we finished, I watched some of the other runners cross the line. Most had big smiles on their faces. They seemed to run in groups with other alums from their schools, and their school pride was evident.
They also hosted a 5k after the 10k and I would venture to guess that a good portion of those who ran are not regulars on the running scene. This might be the only race they enter all year. But they were there Saturday, proudly displaying their school colors and reliving their college glory days.
This race is the brainchild of the Big 10 network, which obviously has a stake in promoting the conference. I believe they have hit on a big winner with the Big 10k.
I only wish I'd thought of it first!
See you on the roads......