Somewhere around the third mile, I lost Yellow Hat. He had been just off my left shoulder for some time, and I expected to use him to pace myself through the second half of the race. Then I looked up and saw him ten yards ahead, then twenty. Where was this kick coming from? Why wasn't I moving ahead with him?
It seemed like a good way to keep myself connected to my yearly physical exultation. Most of the time when I run, I go about three miles with the attendant potty stops for the dog. Once a year I sign myself up for a ten kilometer race, just to see how I stack up. I used to wear a watch to time myself, since I routinely had people asking me what my pace per mile was. I have often wondered how it could possibly matter, since the days of my competitive running have passed by decades ago. Now it's mostly about the exertion and the knowledge that I ran the whole way without stopping.
Today, however, was a little different. It was a cool morning and I was feeling good, even though I dragged myself and my family out of bed and across the Bay Bridge to run in San Francisco as the sun was beginning to peek through the morning fog. I left my wife and son at the start, where they took off on their own five kilometer odyssey. I turned to the right and picked up Yellow Hat's pace because it seemed about right and he had a way of navigating the crowded first mile that worked for me.
For two miles I took turns staying just ahead or just behind Yellow Hat. I have no way of knowing if he was aware of our connection. Mostly, we just picked it up and put it down. Over and over. Then came mile three. I could feel my left leg complaining about the knee that was repaired so many years ago. The ligaments were straining and turning my foot out, so I had to compensate to keep my stride straight. When I recovered my focus, Yellow Hat was gone. Going up the hill I looked for him, hoping to catch a glimpse aided by the angle of the course. I pushed on up the hill, swishing and gargling a cup full of cool water, but not swallowing any for fear of cramping.
By mile five I had resigned myself to never seeing Yellow Hat again. I saw Yellow Shirt ahead, and lengthened my stride to catch her. I caught her on the crest of the last hill on the course and never looked back. My mind did the simple math that told me I had less than a mile to go, and so I pushed still harder, hoping to catch Yellow Hat at the finish line.
That never happened. When all was said and done, I had run ten kilometers (6.2 miles) in just about an hour. I think I ran a little faster than I ran last year. I met my wife and son at the fountain as we had agreed, then we all went to grab our swag. I looked for Yellow Hat in the milling crowd, but I'm sure that he had already taken his bag of Power Bars and Propel Fitness Water and headed for home. Thanks for the race, see you next year.