Stats & Chats Returns by Mike Mackert
Hello fellow Reston Runners! Are you are having a great summer? The good news is that it’s only half over! I hope you’ve been able to join your fellow club members for the wonderful Annual Picnic/Pool Party, the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at Glory Days, or some of our weekly club runs and walks.
Our new website has been up and running for about 2 months now. We are listening to you and continue to add features to make your Reston Runner online experience better. One of those things is to bring back an old friend - Stats and Chats.
Stats and Chats was a feature on our website for several years but in recent times has gone a bit quiet. The column was written by a rotating cadre of club members who provided periodic reports of club runs and activities. The Reston Runners Board of Directors has taken up the charge to resurrect this popular column led by Club Secretary Anna Newcombe and Member-at-Large Molly Barrie. I’m here to kick off the new era of Stats and Chats with my experience from the recently completed World Police and Fire Games (WPFG).
While many of our members and readers were involved volunteering for the cross country and half marathon events for the WPFG, some may not know what all the fuss is about. The WPFG is a biannual event that offers police and fire professionals from around the world a chance to compete against each other. Fairfax, Va hosted the games this year and the hub, The Athlete’s Village, was right here in Reston at the Hyatt in the Reston Town Center. The Games attracted approximately 10,000 athletes competing in about 70 events.
Our previous 2 club presidents, Dennis Hays and Bill D’Agostino, contributed hundreds of hours of their own time to make the running events successful and thus, making Reston Runners look like champs! Thank you to Dennis and Bill on behalf of the Board and the Club!
As for my own experience, while I was late to the planning for the games, I did get a chance to contribute like many of you did for the cross country events. I was the Zone 3 Sentry Captain for the 10k race and thanks to our group of stalwart volunteers, nobody got off course in a particularly directionally challenging section of the course. Many of us then moved to another section of the Lake Fairfax Park and worked the 5k. I got to be a traffic cop and direct traffic as runners were crossing the road while at the same time, buses and cars filled with anxious rugby players were trying to make their way to their matches. By all accounts, the cross country races went quite smoothly.
A few days later I got to experience the WPFG from a different perspective - as a participant. Yes, I did surprise many of my Reston Runner pals when I showed up at the half marathon (the last event of the Games) to run the race. Being that I am a retired Postal Inspector (and federal law enforcement officer), I qualified to run. While my initial decision to run was more capricious (hey, why not run? It’s in my Reston back yard!), I have to say, I was feeling the weight of responsibility and expectation before the race started.
When I showed up at the start area wearing my Reston Runners singlet, there were RR volunteers in abundance. My anxiety of expectation was quickly channeled to pride and gratitude. Pride, that I’m getting a chance to represent my former agency, The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and also to represent my beloved running club, The Reston Runners. I was grateful for all the support and well wishers and for having the opportunity to participate in these games with so many dedicated police and fire professionals from around the world. It became an almost surreal experience and feeling.
As we began the race, I just wanted to get into a comfortable pace with a pack close to my own pace. I knew there would be many world class runners in the field and couldn’t worry about them. Considering the first 2 finishers did the race in one hour and ten minutes, I wasn’t too far off. I just had to run my own race.
While we could have had a much tougher day weather-wise, it was not an easy morning to run either. The humidity was high and the temperatures were rising. Thankfully much of the course was shaded and the sun wasn’t out in full force. Anyone who knows me, knows that heat and humidity are kryptonite to my runs but the conditions were the same for everyone so no need to squawk about it.
But soon, the race got a bit easier because at every intersection with a sentry and at every water stop and at every street corner around the course there were Reston Runners cheering me on. Talk about inspirational and uplifting! Whenever my energy was flagging or my mind was drifting there seemed to be another familiar face to give me a boost. Go Mike! Go Reston Runners! The runners in front of me must have wondered who the heck was behind them that all these people knew!? In fact a runner, who didn’t speak English, who ran near me for much of the second half of the race, came up to me after the race, shook my hand and pointed to my Reston Runners shirt and laughed because he had heard my name and Reston Runners so often.
In a cruel twist of fate, the last mile incorporated not one, but two uphill sections to the finish. Now we run a lot of hills on our club runs in Reston, and this one, courtesy of the half marathon course designer and designer of several of our hilly club runs - DENNIS, put in 2 uphill sections right within the Town Center proper. Coming up the second hill on Market Street to the finish there was a sea of blue WPFG volunteer T-shirts cheering me on! I felt energized and overwhelmed. What a feeling to have that support pulling you to the finish line. I know they were cheering on all the participants but to me, it felt like they were my runway lights to the finish line.
Although I finished with a respectable time and have run faster races, at the end of the day, it is the experiences that matter most to me. It’s meeting new friends like Gary from County Derry Ireland. It’s feeling the support of your friends. It’s joining other police and fire folks mourning the death of a Brazilian police officer who died in a cycling accident at the Games. It’s celebrating what makes us different and what brings us together. It’s being part of a robust community of runners and walkers that make up Reston Runners.