About the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile
Hartshorne is a storied race, taking place in the same Barton Hall where we meet Tuesday nights as MITHACAL MILERS. The race was founded by Jim Hartshorne, who earned a doctorate from Cornell in ornithology. In 1968, Jim was the national Masters Champion in the mile and founded our local Finger Lakes Running Club. He conceived of “master miles” — events for elite runners over 40 — and brought the first master mile event to the very same Barton Hall in 1968. The morning of the race this year, Amy and I had the honor of meeting Jim’s son Tom Hartshorne (read his profile in Runner’s World), who has been race director of the Hartshorne since 2002.
The web site promises something special:
The Hartshorne Masters Mile features fully automatic timing, introductions of each runner at the starting line, commentary on every heat, rabbits for the elite heats, and hordes of enthusiastic spectators. Don’t be intimidated! The Hartshorne Masters Mile may be an elite event, but it’s open and welcoming to runners of all abilities—no matter how fast you run, you’ll be treated like an elite!
Hey, that sounded good to me! I signed Amy and myself up a week before the race, as we’d done the workout option the prior Tuesday that presumed our participation. It dovetailed into an already busy day, but we’d make it work nicely. The kids were off to all-county chorus at 8a, we’d race later in the morning, enjoy lunch at Viva and then go take in the chorus concert at 2p. Then we’d all drive from Lansing to Lake Placid for a one-day ski trip to Whiteface. It was going to be a whirlwind, but with a properly-packed car, we could get it done! I was looking forward to the mile, after having raced a fast mile in last week’s track meet (albeit with untied shoes). In Adam’s pre-race overview, he wrote of the heat I was seeded in:
Equally tight will be the men’s Section 1 race, with Syracuse stalwart Tim Riccardi joined by three long-time locals: Gary Williams, Tom Mullins, and Keith Eggleston as the top seeds. But the estimated seed times don’t drop off much, with Scott Dawson, High Noon alum Chris Mansfield, Jean-Luc Jannink, Bob Swizdor, and Greg Green separated by less than 15 seconds. Look for a big pack in this race.
I knew I could hang with Keith based on our track meet times, and having done some training together. As we arrived at the mostly empty Barton Hall just more than an hour before Amy’s start time, Adam greeted us at the door in his suit and tie. He gave me some good information about my heat: one of the faster seeds had scratched (not racing). And, the fastest seed was not going to be racing at his seed time, but slower, since he was getting over an injury. Short story was, Adam thought I had a chance of winning it if I could keep up with Keith. It was just the thing I needed to hear, but it amped up my nerves all the more. The gym was set up for Cornell’s meet, scheduled for right after the masters mile, so the infield was choked with all kinds of flagging and apparatus for the field events. The scoreboard on the wall lit up with the names of those runners in the first heat. The voice of the official announcer reverberated through the space. I could tell this was going to feel a lot more official than anything else I’d ever run in.
Amy and I made our way to the registration table and picked up our numbers and our complimentary insulated mugs. The mugs were stamped with the name of the race and made pretty cool race swag. I’d never worn numbers like these before: they were adhesive, and one would go above my left chest, and one facing outward on my left thigh. This was so the race cameras could pick us up as we passed by the start. I was number 6, and so made sure I paid close attention to the lines under the number so I wouldn’t magically turn into a nine!
The atmosphere was really friendly, and I enjoyed talking to friends from MITHACAL MILERS and the Pete Glavin XC Series from the fall. There were a lot of familiar faces! Time passed quickly, and soon Amy was toeing the line for her heat. She had a fantastic race (read her race report at skirtrunner.com) and I enjoyed watching her eight loops of Barton’s track from the infield. The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers as the runners made their turns, and it was really cool to hear “Dawson” over and over as he announced the runners in the pack on each turn.
In the half hour leading up to my heat, I stretched, ran a bit on the outer lanes of the track and visited the bathroom a few times. The most fun, though, was watching the prior heats go off. It was exciting to see the shifting in positions as each mile progressed, and to see people exceed their goals when they finished their last lap.
They called my heat and I made my way to the start line. They announced our names as we stepped to the line. The starter gave us some brief instructions. Then with a POP of the starting gun, we were off! I rounded the first corner in lane one at the head of the pack, trying my best to keep the pace measured. I knew my race pace called for 42 second splits, so I was shooting for 40 second splits. At the end of the first straight, I heard the announcer talking about how tight the pack was, and I knew everyone was in a knot right behind me. Keith passed on my right, and I was grateful at that moment to know that we’d be pacing together from there on out.
Amy caught these video clips of me at the start, and after the first lap:
I took up a position just off and behind his right shoulder, which meant I was running between lanes one and two. Psychologically, I felt really comfortable in this position since I wasn’t behind him, but I wasn’t right next to him, either. I literally stuck to this position for the next five laps, though later I’d get some sage advice that I’ll adopt next time (see below). As the last turn of lap six came into view, I decided to abandon my post at Keith’s shoulder and make a break for it. It wasn’t my kick, but it was a nudge in that direction. I tucked into lane one and had a steady seventh lap in the lead.
As I came down the straightaway to start my eighth and final lap, I decided to crush it. At the same time, Adam yelled what I was thinking, “Go all out!” In last week’s training session, I had learned what my capabilities really were. Our workout of eight successive 200s with equal rest had us starting at I pace (46s) and progressing toward R pace (42s), with our last repeat being beyond R pace, running “all out.” In this training session, I ripped a 31.6s last lap. This was huge for me psychologically, since I knew that even though my legs were exhausted, I could push more if I demanded it from myself.
When I passed by the bell ringing to signify the last lap, I screamed out loud to spur myself on. My legs found another gear: specifically, being “chased by a bear” gear. I turned into the first turn of the final lap with arms and legs pumping in synchronicity, faster than I thought I could move them. I glanced rearward a few times as I rounded the ends of the track, but I saw no immediate threats behind me. I focused on working hard and getting to the finish with the best time I could muster. As I exited the final turn, I sensed Adam off to my left. He told me to go strong all the way to the end, and I did.
I crossed the finish in 5:23.91, good enough for first in my heat and a solid 11 seconds faster than my time trial from earlier in the season. I was beat up, but enjoyed high-fiving and congratulating the other runners in my heat as we clustered in a group at the finish. It was a tough race and a fast pace.
Shortly after the race, Joe Reynolds had some great advice for me. Learning from others is one of the things that I love about the group. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning, so I listened carefully to Joe, who had started running in his late 40s after focusing on rugby. First, he told me to ditch my watch. I lost fractions of a second each time I looked down, and each time I reached my right arm over to hit the watch’s lap button. He reminded me at that all the information I needed was on the clock at the start. True: in this race, even our 200 splits were recorded by Leone Timing, and the clock did tell me everything I needed to know. Truth be told, I didn’t actively check my watch during the race, since I couldn’t even read it well enough to use it. Its value was bound up in the ability to look at my splits later. Second, Joe noticed (how could you not) that I ran most of the race hanging out at the far edge of lane 1, if not in lane 2. I ran a lot farther than I needed to! He advised that I tuck in behind the lead runner on the turns, and come alongside on the straightaways. The benefits are twofold: you’re not running farther than you should, and it helps you get frustrated. “Frustrated?” I asked. “Yes, frustrated.” Joe said. “Frustrated runners can run faster.” He smiled, since he’s done this before. Like Adam’s said in the past about our veteran runners, I want to be like Joe when I grow up.
After mingling a bit more and watching a few more races, Amy and I packed up and headed to our favorite place, Viva Taqueria. Plates of Tres Amigos, refreshingly cool glasses of water and a few Purist margaritas graced our table for a quick yet delicious post-race lunch. The results were posted on the web site by now, and I took a look at my 200m splits.
They were not as even as I’d hoped, and I was surprised to see the first lap having taken so long. Adam would remind me that this first lap includes the extra 9.344 meters, since that’s how far we started behind the lap line to make a full mile. The next two laps made up for it by being a bit too hot. Laps 4-7 were right on the dot, just around 42 seconds (my R pace). And that last lap, the one where I drew on reserves I knew I had based on Tuesday training? Not as fast as the one in training, but a definite bear-inspired 200m kick. I’m in awe of faster milers, as this final kick typifies their pace for the ENTIRE RACE. Simply amazing.
I’m grateful to everyone who worked so hard to put this event on, including Adam, Charlie, Tom and everyone in the FLRC community who volunteered their time and effort. I’m grateful for the Jim’s legacy, and for Tom and his continued efforts to race direct this fantastic event.