Madison’s Crazylegs 8k attracts a quality collection of some of the state’s better runners. Running against faster runners not only gives the race the excitement of real competition (a competition I’ll never win but which is fun regardless), it pushes your performance to levels nearly impossible to achieve if running solo. I came in 20th last year running what felt like a fast 27:19 (slower than my 10k PR pace but whatever), and was fairly certain I could go faster this year.
With 20,000 runners behind us on wet, cold Saturday morning, I launched at the start with a tight pack around the Capitol square, down Wisconsin and over to Langdon. Despite nearly tripping several times due to congestion and slick roads, the wind was at our backs, the first mile was predominantly downhill, and I could tell the pace was hot.
With the leaders already creating significant separation, I slipped into a small third pack as we split 5:07 for mile one –maybe my fastest mile ever–and charged up the Observatory Drive hill. It’s a brutal hill, but it gives after it takes, with an extended gradual decline towards the hospital and turnaround point. Despite a mid-mile split nearing 6 minute pace, I split the mile in 5:25 after gassing the decline.
Despite feeling fairly awful from mile one onward, I dug in and tried to stay connected to the small pack, which was thinning. I pressed the long, gradual downhill, focused on a kid I beat in a half last year who had me by 25 meters, and ran solo through the turnaround and mile three in 5:24.
The light wind we had at our back the entire race was now a slight headwind as I found myself a few yards back from two runners I’d trailed for the majority of the race. For the last two years, mile four has easily been the worst of the five. With a bit of wind in our faces and a smidgen of uphill towards Old University Avenue, I focused on getting the damn thing over with. I slowly moved past one of the fading two runners, splitting mile four in 5:33. I was fairly shocked it was that fast in all honesty. My legs were dead and I felt sick at this point, and I wouldn’t have been surprised at something significantly slower.
With the prospect of the pain nearly over, I started picking it up with a little less than a half mile to go, inching by a very fit masters runner on Breese Terrace. I turned the corner and took it across the 50 yard-line of Camp Randall for a final mile of 5:24.
Final finish time was 26:55, good for 15th place and 3rd in the age-group. I actually felt worse this year than last, but cut 25 seconds from my time. Hopefully this bodes well for this weekend’s Door County Half Marathon.
For a cool down, I ran back to run the final mile with my dad, who’d made a special trip to Madison for his first ever Crazylegs. V finished shortly after, and we all hovered in the corridors of Camp Randall, drinking our two free beers in 40 degree temperatures, avoiding the inevitable run home in the cold and damp.