We sat in the shade on Washington Street, resting on cool cement ledge against Coca-Cola Field. My parents and I talked about Jimmy Griffin, former mayor of Buffalo. I was a kid when he was mayor and not really tuned into politics, but I remember him as a guy who didn’t filter what he said, which seemed to get him into trouble, but tried to do the right thing by the city. Whatever his political faults, he really cared about Buffalo. And he cared about baseball, which is why my parents and I were able to rest against the downtown stadium and why I was able to make a living writing about professional baseball in Western New York.
We talked about the late Jimmy Griffin as I contemplated doing a short warm-up before the Run Jimmy Run 5K. This has become one of my favorite races, one I do every year. OK, perhaps part of the charm is that in its first year there were only about 120 runners and I won an age-group award. That kinda lures you back again and again, even though with now 400 runners I no longer challenge for a podium spot. Which, in the grand scheme, is just fine.
The race benefits the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY, another reason I’m happy to keep the race on my “must-do” list. Plus it starts at Coca-Cola Field and ends in the outfield with an opportunity to get your picture taken at home plate which, no matter how many times you’re on the field, is just plain cool.
The race started at 10 a.m. and by that time the day was already warm and the humidity was annoyingly high. I did about a half-mile warm up and knew it was going to be a hot, muggy race for me. The summer heat has not been easy on my training and I’ve been struggling to reconcile my honest effort with my slower paces. So instead of really having a “goal” for the race I had an intention — run hard. The outcome would take care of itself any in the grand scheme wouldn’t matter much anyway.
A race bonus: I ran into some friends I haven’t seen in some time, including former running buddy Sue. (Former because we now live at opposite ends of Western New York and my inconsistent work schedule doesn’t accommodate things like group runs.) We’ve seen each other at our worsts — and at our bests — and that kind of history and support goes unspoken. But it’s nice to have.
After a blessing by a priest (whom my mom discovered was once a Bison baseball intern and was the mascot Buster Bison) we were off to wind through downtown Buffalo, out to the Erie Basin Marina and back to the ballpark. My watch was set to show me miles, not pace, and I ran hard but steady the first mile. I picked it up a tad for the second mile, mostly because I wanted to be done with the marina which is long and sunny and hot. That’s where I passed a handful of people who took to walking, because it was hot and humid and pacing is hard. Really hard.
The final mile was my slowest and I knew it in the moment. I consciously backed off just a tad because I knew the incline around Canalside and then up Washington Street was going to hurt. Once I crested, I turned on the gas and pushed as hard as I could through the finish line, dry heaves and all.
It wasn’t near my best time, but every race is not about a PR. In fact turns out I ran exactly what I was hoping to, giving me a boost of confidence as my marathon training continues.
Of course the best part was after the race when my parents walked around the field with me. My mom has struggled with her breathing after some health scares in the past and this year walked easily around the yard. That is better than any 5K finish time.