Executive summary: Michael Hooker Memorial 5K in Chapel Hill, N.C.; 22 minutes, 20 seconds, fourth overall (no age group awards, only awards to the top three men and top three women.) Highest overall finish in a race since finishing third overall at the Dogwood 5K in Mebane, N.C., years ago.
Slightly longer version: A day short of two weeks after running the Tobacco Road Marathon, I ran my second 5K in as many Saturdays.
My love for the University of North Carolina campus drew me to the Michael Hooker Memorial 5K, and the $15 registration fee clinched it. It also started right next to one of my favorite buildings in the world: Carmichael (I'm sorry, I'm not going to call it Arena) Auditorium (left).
I know this race will be a little different when I walk up to the table and am told, "hey, you might win, there aren't that many people registered." Look, I'm not that fast and certainly am not used to hearing that sort of thing. I must look faster than I am.
Turns out that there were only about 35 runners in the race, but the strangeness of this one doesn't stop there: We are directed to run on the sidewalks for all of the race except for about a half mile on a smaller road on mile 3 and a short part of mile 2, and the only police support was at three street crossings.
With so few runners, it is easy to evaluate the competition. Most of the runners were college age and I'm almost certain I was the second-oldest runner.
I love the course, which goes by Boshamer Stadium, up Stadium Drive past Kenan Stadium and goes past Alexander Dorm (right), where Jean and I were living when I met.
I actually lead the race for the first 2/10ths of a mile, which makes it easy for me to figure out how many runners are in front of me. One mile into the race, three people have passed me. Nobody else passes me the rest of the race and I never can quite catch the guy who finished third.
It is one of the rare 5Ks where there actually was a short stretch on a curvy part of mile 3 in which I can't see a runner in front of me or behind me. This sort of dynamic usually is reserved for late in marathons or half marathons.
A week earlier, I ran a 22:41 on a much hillier course at the Great Human Race 5K in Durham. Last week, I ran two solid just-a-hair-above 7-minute miles for the first two miles, then the daunting hills pushed me to a 7:29 third mile.
Today, I run a similar first mile at 7:03, but shoot up to 7:21 for the second mile and pull down to a 7:16 third mile. I really feel like I could have run a better time if there had been more runners and more of the real feel of most races. But I know that all three of the guys in front of me were younger, so I have my age-group locked up (or so I think.)
Unfortunately, I don't ask the question about race awards until AFTER the race. Had I known that they only were giving awards to the top three overall, that extra motivation would have possibly given me another gear to try to catch the third-place guy. As it was, I think that guy beat me by about 25 seconds, so it probably wasn't realistic.
This comes after finishing second in my age group at the Great Human Race and finding out later that I was only nine seconds behind the guy who won my age group. Again, had I known that I possibly could have found another gear.
This really was one of the oddest races I've run. How else can you explain me being in first place at any point?