You’re pumping your legs hard. Putting all the effort you’ve got in your muscles, bones, and soul into this race. You’re running so hard that the edges of your vision are starting to blur and the pounding of your heart is faster than your footfalls. All around you other runners are in various stages of passing you, falling behind you, walking, re-starting their run, vomiting, or passing out. You’re ready to join each group of them.
Soon, you’re no longer aware of the other runners. You’re barely aware of yourself. Just your lungs. Which burn. Burn white hot and with an anger you didn’t think possible in your life. You look up to check your location, but you’re barely one third of the way in the race. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle.
This race seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the month. Hell, even up to the beginning of this week! After all, it’s easy to look forward to races when the temperatures are in the low 60s-mid 50s, and the weather is typically nice and dry.
When you lined up at the start line at the bottom of Straight Street this morning, the temperature was noted at 27F….with low winds…making it feel more like 19F.
After a minute of running you feel too hot inside your single layer long-sleeve shirt, ball cap, and tights. Flipping the mitten portions off your fingers reveals that, although you feel like you’re combusting from the inside, you’re not hot enough to justify stripping down layers. Also. This race isn’t going to last long enough to justify it either.
A short walk break, which offers no relief to the struggle of the race. It’s an uphill battle. Literally. No matter how fast you run. You are not going to avoid the hurt. You’re too deep already. The finish line is in sight. It was in sight the whole distance. After all, you’re only running 0.36 miles.
That’s right. three-tenths of a mile. 600-ish meters.
And that 9ish minute per mile pace you’re barely holding on to? That is killing you. Because the hill, she is steep. So. Very. Steep.
The Straight Street Hill Climb, your chosen torture this weekend, has a 30-something year legacy of challenge. Less than half a mile, barely more than a quarter mile, and all up hill on what is figured to be a 12% incline…on average.
3minutes 34 seconds after the race director pulled his car down to the start line and announced that the group needed to back up two feet to the start line and that the race would start on the sound of his horn, you cross the finish line.
You hurt. Your lungs more than any other part. In fact, you can ignore the shaking of your quads and the weakness that comes with that feeling because the bottoms, the actual bottoms, of your lungs are hurting.
The run has stopped. The pain has started. So has the cough.
I call it the straight street cough. And it lasts anywhere from 24-hours to one whole week after the race. It’s a cough that originates in the very, very bottom of your lungs.
All around there is a chorus of coughing. You are not alone in your suffering.
The race is billed as 2 minutes of self-inflicted torture. And the standing record for the course? 2 minutes, 1 second. Yes. That record was not broken today.
I swore to never do this race again as I headed to my car to grab some extra layers to stay warm in while I watched the next two races (They have a bike race and a dual-athlon…bike up, run down, run up). I made that same oath two years ago, the first time I ran this race. By the time I was congratulating the winner of the bike race (A good friend of mine, who made that ride look smooth and all too easy) I was happy I signed up and thinking about next year’s and how to train for this climb.
Despite the cold, and despite my lungs betrayal, I managed to snag a 2nd place finish in my division. Good enough for a pint glass and neat little medal. I’m still coughing. It occasionally still feels like the bottoms of my lungs hurt.
Thanks Doug, and everyone who puts this challenge on each year. It was a wonderfully painful and evil time.
As a joke, my husband and I tried to come up with some fitting tag lines for the race:
Straight Street….straight to hell
Straight Street….who needs two lungs anyway?
Straight Street….Undiluted Street
Straight Street…complete with cough
Straight Street… Dude, do you even run?
Straight Street…Dude, do you even breathe?
Thanks for reading!