I'm not going to make it to Weston.
I've known this for more than an hour now. My calf screamed it at me. And now that evil catcher car is threatening my secondary goal: running three 5Ks total before being eliminated from the race.
I had been been studying times and distance for weeks now in preparation for Sunday's Wings for Life World Run, described as a race where the finish line catches you. We get a 30-minute head start, then a car traveling about 10 mph sidles up to us. When it passes us, we're done.
I need to run a half-marathon in under two hours to wind through Sunrise and head west, meeting the the challenge Weston Parks and Recreation Director Don Decker put out to me on Facebook.
"At least make it to our town," he wrote.
Lolo Jones, who made the summer Olympics team as a hurdler and the winter Olympics as a bobsledder, is a celebrity runner, and I walk by her at the Red Bull tent before the race. She's talking to wheelchair racers -- the event is to raise money and awareness for spinal cord research -- so I just stand there for a second. I just wanted to say hi, but now won't be a good time.
At exactly 6 a.m. we dash out under the starting banner at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, one of three U.S. location in the 34-venue worldwide race. It's a nice crowd but not overwhelming. Although more than 1,500 signed up here, only about 900 will post times. The Tamarac Turkey Trot, for example, is larger. (World wide, there were more than 33,000 runners, about what turns out for the marathon/half-marathons events in Miami and Fort Lauderdale combined.)
I'm moving very nicely my first 15 minutes. Looking good, feeling good as we head north up Flamingo Road in Sunrise and wind back around. That pain in that calf will go away, I figure.
It doesn't. A minute later I am walking. Then trotting, then walking again. I might be the first person actually wishing that catcher car would hurry up and get me out of my misery.
Eventually I'm OK with a gentle trot, and at Mile 5, I'm at 51 minutes, a little slow. By this point Weston is not going to happen, so I just run hard for a few minutes because the sky is overcast and there's a nice breeze -- a perfect day for running, even on one leg.
I even pass an attractive, athletic woman walking with two people. But I don't stop, because what if I'm wrong...
"Was that Lolo?" I yell to the surrounding runners.
"Yep," one woman says. That's another missed opportunity.
Mr. Calf decides to cooperate a little more, and I clip past the 10K, 11K, 12K and 13K flags with a smile on my face -- until that darned throb returns. By now the catcher car is in sight if you turn and look real hard -- which I do only once.
At the 14K flag, I just gotta go all-out. There's six minutes left, I figure (six minutes per kilometer = 30 minutes per 5K). The car is closing in.
I refuse to look back. And I grin when I dash past that 15K flag. Within a minute, the car, in a most anticlimactic moment, rolls by. No more running! The official results at WingsForLifeWorldRun.com put me at 15.19K. (Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan will go about 1.5K farther -- congrats.)
I think that's Lolo up ahead! So I jog to catch up. It isn't.
"Sorry, I thought you were Lolo," I say to the runner with the perfect face and athlete's shape.
Guy runner next to her: "So did I!" She's nice about it. Takes it as a compliment.
We enter the BB&T ground via a main gate, with a sizable crowd of young adults stretched out on blankets. Many are dressed, well, to express their individuality.
"Lady Gaga here tonight," one explains. Oh.
Lolo eventually ends up at the Asics tent signing autographs. But the line is too long, and I prefer the egg-bacon-hash-brown wrap we get, as well as two treats provided by Mojo Donuts. I snag one Red Velvet, one Oreo. Coupled with the Gatorade, I think I ran 9.3 miles and gained weight. The whole expo experience is also a rare treat for those of us in the middle or the back of the pack: We hit the food lines first this time, while the fast guys are still out on the course.
Meanwhile, a bus drops off other runners, some of whom I was next to in my first 15 minutes, and feel like I would have stayed with had I been healthy. They made it to that town that begins with W. Some even did the full loop in the city, and were heading west on SR 84 past Markham Park.
But not me. This year, I am here. This year I am a slave to my calf. Maybe next year I can run free.
Next year... Weston.
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