So last weekend I ran my third Vulcan Run 10k here in Birmingham. I believe this was the first race I ran here, and this would have been my 5th time had I not taken 2 years off to run a somewhat longer and larger race called the TCS NYC Marathon. If you’ve read my boring blog you’ve probably heard of it. Anyway the first time I ran it I was a winner of the coveted “Top 200 Finisher” shirt that I always see people wearing around town, finishing 194th overall in a personal best 48 minutes and 8 seconds. Although it was the fastest I can possibly run a 10k that effort was only good for 4th place in my former old man group. But I didn’t care about the podium because I had that shirt! My only goal since has been to get another.
This year was the 45th anniversary race for the Vulcan Run. I imagine the race must have changed its route a few times or more over the years, but I know for sure that the race I ran in 2018 and 2019 is different than the one I ran in 2015. As I recall the former course started and ended by Boutwell Auditorium but since I was new in town I don’t remember much more about the race except pushing from the start to get that shirt. The new course, necessitated by a lot of roadway construction, starts and ends by Sloss Furnaces, an historical landmark and a photographers dream. Last year they actually held the after party on the grounds of Sloss which was really cool. This year we were locked outside and the festivities were held beneath an overpass which was kinda bleak. The course itself winds its way through various Birmingham neighborhoods and is mostly uphill for the first 3.5 miles or so, then is mostly flat save for a potentially race wrecking climb over a roadway bridge near the end.
In 2018 I finished in 220th place despite running a respectable pace of 8:07 which was a bit of a comeback for me having slowed considerably after 2 years of TCS NYC Marathon training. Although I didn’t qualify for that elusive Top 200 shirt I was able to win my new old man group so I got the gold medal signifying that accomplishment.
My speed continues to recover this year and I posted my 2 fastest months of 2019 in September and October. I was feeling pretty good that I could beat last years’ time and hopefully knock off an extra 20 people to claim that Top 200 prize. Also, this race was being designated RRCA state championship and I dared to dream that I might get a 10k Senior Grand Master title to go with last year’s RRCA half marathon crown.
It was pretty cold at the start and I got off to an awkward start because my legs were actually so cold that had a little trouble even feeling them at first (am I running yet?). But I warmed up quickly and soon I was running at a nice clip while unzipping my shirt and pushing up the sleeves to cool off. During a downhill straightway I tried to estimate how many people were in front of me. I decided it must be around 200 even as I recognized that I had no ability to determine that number on the run. I was feeling strong rounding the corner to the finish and I felt that I must be ahead of last year’s pace so I was surprised to see the clock at 50:50 as I crossed the line. My chip time was 50:42 – about 13 seconds slower than last year. I went directly to the tent hoping that this year’s field was somehow slower than last year’s and that I might still have earned that shirt but no such luck. Although I managed to cut the number of finishers between me and 200 in half versus 2018 I still found myself out in the cold without a Top 200 shirt to keep me warm. As a consolation I did make it to the podium beneath the overpass finishing 3rd among the old men this time. Needless to say no RRCA state championship was won by me.
So that’s the story of the Vulcan Run 10k, 45th anniversary edition. A little worse, a little better, no shirt. We’ll try again next year, unless I’m lucky enough to be back in NY.
PS they took some real nice photos too – I almost look athletic in this shot!