It was just me and my son Riley leading the 17th Annual Boontling Classic 5K runners west on Anderson Valley Way to the turnaround. As we hit the mile in 5:36, I said “Just like a training run”, and through heavy breathing he answered, “Yeah”. If he sounded insincere it was probably because our training runs are closer to 7-minute mile pace.
Yes, I was pushing the pace because I wanted to win and figured my best chance was to run that wicked kick out of him. You bet he's faster than me, hell, I'll be 55-years old next month, he better be!
He first beat me (and his older brother Eli) in a 200-meter dash at an Empire Runners All-Comers' meet in Santa Rosa when he was just thirteen.
But 3.1 miles is 25 X longer than 200 meters and I have 22 years of nearly continuous endurance training and over 400 races under my belt.
What does he have under his belt?
There was his accident. A year and a half ago he jumped off a roof, no doubt thinking he was invincible, and fractured both heels. He was on his back for three months, and then crawled around on knee pads, then crutches, and finally just enduring the everyday aches and pains of a multiple fracture that refused to heal.
He talked a lot about wanting to run again, but I had my doubts, I was just happy when he finally could walk and go back to work.
And then in February he started running. His right heel still bothered him, but he iced it and took days off, and kept at it. Pretty soon I had him on the Mendocino College track doing speedwork with me. He has a long, powerful stride that's quite impressive. While I'm up on my toes damn close to 100% effort, he's cruising at 3/4 speed.
As we passed the other runners on the return to the finish line I felt so proud running side by side with my 21-year-old son, especially after all he'd been through, and in one of my favorite local races.
With a half-mile to go I knew I had to crank-up the pace, run that awesome kick out of him, and hope he'd drop back and give up, be happy with second and first in his age-division.
It worked. I surged and he dropped, so I surged again and he fell back even further. A piece of cake. With less than a 100 meters to the finish-line I had thirty meters on him and knew the race was mine. As I came within view of the finish clock I was picturing myself accepting the winning plaque and offering some inspiring words for him...when I heard the crowd suddenly gasp, like in the Superman movie when out of nowhere Superman swoops down and grabs Lois Lane just before she hits the pavement.
Yeah, I'm literally one second from the finish and he shoots by me, winning in 18:12 to my 18:13. The first time he ever beat me at any distance longer than 200 meters.
I couldn't have asked for a better finish.
He said that after I glanced back the last time, he just took off as if we were running 200s on the track.
Then asked, “Dad, how come you didn't kick?”
“I didn't think I needed to”, I answered, but truth be told, that WAS my kick.
And that WAS my favorite second place.