The Run for the Troops 5k in Andover was over before it even started. As soon as I saw Eric McDonald milling about the front of the starting corral, it was obvious who would win. I’m glad he did, too, because my previous race predictions hadn’t worked out so well.
The Jose Ortiz seen on the pre-reg list must’ve been some other Jose Ortiz and not the Jose Ortiz that runs for Whirlaway. Then the rumor that Pat Fullerton was running turned out to be false. Eric McDonald stepped up in their absence and made his mark on the race, and in the process put himself on our radar as one to watch out for on the Boston course in one week. Maybe now I’ll get his name right too. I momentarily confused him for the McDonald that won the Eastern States 20 miler recently, but that was Adrian McDonald. At least I had the surname right.
With the sound of the air horn, McDonald was off like a rocket and the race for second place was on. I had a feeling that would come down to myself and Kevin Alliette, but for the first mile there was a small pack of contenders. Mixed in there was a handful of high school runners who at first looked like they were out in front just to mess around but they surprisingly held the pace for just about the first mile and didn’t sound like they were laboring. Although one behind me sounded like he was leaving potholes in the road with each step.
The normal distressed feeling of a faster paced race didn’t pass, then I realized that there were some slight asthma-like symptoms kicking in (no big deal…just a touch of asthma). I knew I was in trouble already but just tried hanging on. We passed a clock by the first mile mark that read 4:52 for me, and I knew that wasn’t close on this uphill first mile. Alliette was about 5 seconds up already. I could hear one of the kids behind me proclaim “and that’s a new mile PR!”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t so. With the changed start of the race, the markers were off and it was a good tenth of a mile short. Both Kevin and I ended up with 3.0 mi according to our watches, and we both know we weren’t running in the high 4:40’s/4:50’s in that first mile.
A near missed turn about halfway through by Alliette allowed me to keep him in sight, which helped my motivation and also provided me with slightly more to write about here. Thanks Kevin! I locked on to him and tried to keep the gap from expanding as we made our way up the last short (but steep) hill. McDonald was long gone and I could no longer hear anyone behind me. We both opened it up and made up lost time on the big downhill portion of the last mile and I briefly entertained thoughts of getting Kevin there, but once we hit the flats of the last half mile he opened up his lead again (increased it even) and finished up real strong. Final results were 16:05 for Kevin and 16:19 for me.
So that meant I lost to couple of River Hawks. It was like college all over again. As for the first Hawk to cross, McDonald ended up with a 14:45 and some more confidence going into the Boston Marathon next week: “The goal today was just to get some last minute turnover and keep things hard without digging too deep. Running under 4:50 pace today (comfortably) gives me confidence that I can run my race plan at Boston well.”
Back in mid-March, Eric came in 6th overall in 68:21 at the New Bedford Half Marathon. Next week in Hopkinton, he said “the plan is to shoot for 2:25 or faster. Run 5:30 pace for the first half of the race and then hopefully get faster over the last 10 miles.”
He does appear ready to get under that 2:25 mark and it will be fun to track his progress.
For the ladies, the top female was Michaela Jones, a 15 year old young lady who ran a speedy 18:01 and finished 10th overall. Closest to her was Anoush Shehadeh, a 17 yr old who ran 19:18. Those are some pretty impressive times regardless of their age. Keep an eye for both of them in years to come. I would’ve loved to have gotten a quote from Michaela for this but I couldn’t stick around for the awards. In fact I only got something from Eric through Facebook, but something about searching for a 15 year old girl via social media seemed to sound like a bad idea.
If Michaela keeps running like this, we’ll have plenty more chances to properly interview her at future races.
For more on this event, check out:
‘Run For The Troops’ welcomes largest crowd yet
Note: Featured image on main page from the 2015 New Bedford Half Marathon and courtesy of Caitlyn Germain (SISU).