Wednesday, July 16, 2008

07/12/08: Moonlight Chase Four Mile

The Moonlight Chase is a four-mile race in Eldridge, Iowa, that starts at 9:00pm on the second Saturday in July. The nine o’clock start has its good points and its bad points: on this particular second Saturday in July, running conditions were downright reasonable by the time the starting gun was fired. On the other hand, if you’re casual about details – and some of us are! – and you show up at 6:45ish thinking the race starts at 8:00 because you don’t want to be rushed while registering, stretching, and otherwise checking out the scene, the extra hour of waiting can be excruciatingly painful. It’s a nice race and town and all, but it doesn’t warrant that much checking out.

A manic young dude started talking to me before the race. Eventually I realized that he was partially scoping out the competition - which meant that he was wasting his time on me, given that he’s fourteen years younger and maybe five minutes or so faster over four miles. I don’t know how he actually did (although I’m guessing 26:53); he said he was shooting for 25 minutes but I got the feeling he was more concerned with placing than time. He also expressed concern that there might be more cheating in a night race – people slipping off course and back on later so as to run a shorter distance – but I don’t think it’s too likely. For one thing, the course is lined with spectators so it would be difficult to avoid being seen.

I ran 30:06 which was good enough to be slightly disappointing in that I would have liked to be seven seconds faster. The course was lined with luminaries (except for one stretch where they had tiki torches instead) as well as spectators and the race organizers considered that a major selling point but as a runner I don’t think I’m in a position to fully appreciate them. When I’m running hard, or at least attempting to run hard, I’m not as aware of my surroundings as I might otherwise be. I did look up and see the moon at one point ; it was maybe three-quarters full. I wondered if they timed the race to match a fuller phase of the moon or if they held it the second Saturday in July even if the new moon fell on that day. I guess my mind wanders more than my gaze does.

Iowans being the chatty people they are, I talked to a couple of people after the race – the usual how did you do, isn’t this weather whatever type stuff. One common element, mention sometimes in passing and sometimes with laserlike focus, was the Bix. “I’m training for the Bix.” “I’ve got to be ready for the Bix.” The Bix may be the most prestigious non-marathon road race in the Midwest; I don’t think there’s anything comparable in Dallas. The Turkey Trot is large but I don’t think it’s a must-do for many of the more competitive area runners; the Dallas Half Marathon would like to be that race and is closer than the Trot to getting there but I don’t think it has nearly the same cachet. The Bix is run over a bitch of a course in the middle of the summer and people are beside themselves eager to run it. It’s a real measuring stick of a race.

Maybe I should check this Bix thing out some time. I missed it by a week this year.

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