On Thursday, June 17, 2010, I changed clothes at the end of the business day, donning running shorts, shoes, and shirt before heading to Chicago’s venerable Grant Park for the 16th annual Jim Gibbons 5k, a charity event honoring an esteemed Chicago newscaster who died of leukemia in 1994.
The mercury was hot that day (temps in the 80’s) with a blazing sun on top of us when I arrived at Grant Park shortly before race time.
However, I wasn’t daunted by the unfriendly running weather or the fact that I’d run in my first half marathon 4 days earlier.
The clarion call of destiny had arrived. Today was the day. It was sub-8 or bust; I would not be denied.
It took seven (7) running events in 2010 to gain the level of confidence I had before running my first Jim Gibbons 5k. By June 17th, I’d lost 50 pounds and knocked a minute-plus off my mile race timing in only 3 months.
Back in those early heady days of the post-Fat Brian era, all things were possible and overall improvement became almost a birthright.
Still, you had to run the race, confidence and high expectations meant nothing without results.
So I lined up behind the runners who had already positioned themselves up front and charged behind them when the event’s starting horn blasted.
However, the front section was heavily clogged due to event competitors who mugged for the television cameras as the the race’s start is annually broadcast on Chicago’s ABC affiliate.
Without even thinking about it, me and several other runners darted right and ran on a grassy seam to blast past the packed scrum.
8:10 registered on my Garmin for the first mile; not bad considering the packed start and I hit my stride with a 7:45 pace for mile-2, putting me just under sub-8 timing for the overall event.
Mile-3, however, was a slug-fest as the hot temperatures and bright sun started taking its toll, but I stayed with it registering a 7:50 for the split.
All I needed was a strong close and sub-8 was mine.
But Gibbons race officials were sadists and stationed the finish line on a hill. Seeing that, I ran with every ounce of effort I could muster, closing with a 7:00 pace for the final 0.10 mile.
My timing for the event was 24:23 (a 37-second Personal Record), a 7:51 overall pace. Sub-8 was no longer a dream; it was now reality.
As the 2010 event season moved forward, a once unthinkable timing goal began to cross my mind: sub-7.
It was just a matter of when and where.