By Will Geiken
The last time that I raced the Great Race was in 2007, when I was in the eighth grade. At that time I was still relatively new to running and managed to come away highly satisfied with an age-group win. It was nice being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Since then I’ve moved to steadily larger ponds and enjoyed the challenge of growing to compete with new, bigger fish. Meanwhile getting back to the old pond proved difficult, and I’ve missed the race in every year since due to it falling right in the latter half of the track season. Of course, I always maintained a small desire to go back and take the whole thing.
As luck, or a lack thereof, would have it, my being injured for the month of January this year set back my track racing plans such that I have yet to race on the oval. With my fitness slowly improving, the Great Race was an opportunity to run fast without the added strain that comes with racing on the track.
So, now a slightly bigger fish, I was returning to the old pond. But, as with the reintroduction of old species to former habitats, sometimes a few invasives tag along. In this case, the invasives happened to be my teammates and fellow competitors in the PA, and while the real reason that the Great Race was a highly contested event this year was it’s placement on the PA circuit, that tidbit of reality shatters the fish-pond narrative that I’ve set up.
The race got off to a moderate start at the front, with a small pack rising out of Saratoga and cruising over the small undulations of Highway 9 on its way South. Small surges in the first half narrowed our lead group to four runners as we hit the two-mile marker. Just after that point comes a long downhill, and it was that stretch where Scott put the hammer down. Despite my desire to go with him, my legs weren’t ready for the pace, and I was forced to watch as he and Darius pulled ahead. The upside of the surge was that it gave me some breathing room between myself and fourth place.
For the remainder of the race I worked at running just below my redline, which kept me close to Scott and Darius, but never close enough to be a threat. It also kept me well ahead of fourth and sealed my finish as we turned into town and rushed to the line. Up at the front, Darius waited until the last 400 or so before letting loose a burst of speed that left Scott chasing him to the line.
Just like my fish metaphor wasn’t a perfect description of the race set-up, my third place finish wasn’t a perfect result. However, like an age-group champion, I’m more than happy with how I competed and improved upon my fitness. It’s also nice taking the top three spots for the Aggies. Although I hesitate to make predictions this far out, I think I’ll be back next year as an even bigger fish.