Next time same as the last. But at the zoo.

What are the odds that in consecutive weeks I would finish two separate 5K races in the exact same time as one another?

I’ve been wondering that since the moment I learned I’d finished yesterday’s Chicago-area Brookfield Zoo Run Run in 20:41—the exact same time I finished a local 5K near home the previous Sunday.

While the number of finish times I could’ve achieved for either race are seemingly infinite, as time itself is seemingly infinite, it sort of makes sense that I might finish these two similarly. If you look at it from the perspective that the races were so close together that as long as I maintained some sort of training during the week between, then it’s logical that I wouldn’t have enough time either to make tremendous gains or losses in that time.

Up until the last two weekends, I’d never run races in back-to-back weekends before, so I didn’t know what to expect time-wise or energy-wise. I run to train all the time, so the act of running in back-to-back weekends isn’t the issue. The issue is that I expend a lot more energy during races, so I wasn’t sure how my training leading into the second race, as well as its time, would be affected by my first race.

There were other variables that could’ve impacted my time in the second race—a different course, I was wearing different shoes, and the crowd was much larger—but at the very least, nothing slowed me down from the first of the two 5Ks.

The previous least amount of time between any two races I’ve run was 10 days, which happened earlier this year when I set a PR in the 5K on June 15 and then ran my first one mile race on June 25.
Those were two different types of races, with the second of the two being a shorter distance. I also had a weird foot cramping issue back in June between those races that stopped me from training for a good three days before the miler.

Bottom line: I can’t really compare those races to this experience.

As for this race itself, it was a fun one. Another one with Stephanie, who posted her second-best time (she set a PR during the previous week’s race), but also my first with an old college friend who also happened to take up running in the years after college.

Since it was a zoo-hosted event, it was very family-oriented, with lots of children participating. And even though there were nearly 1,800 runners for the chip-timed portion (there were another 1,400-plus for a separate non-timed fun run), a lot of the hardcore runners seemed to stay home, as the winning time was only 17:50.

The course was pretty flat, but with a lot of twists and turns throughout the zoo. The turns tended to slow me down, but I picked up speed along the straightaways.

It was one of those races where several times I became frustrated over the fact that it seemed like I should be nearing the finish, but continually wasn’t seeing it. I only finally realized I was nearing the end about two turns away from the finish line. That’s when I decided to make a run at some kid who’d passed me at about the 2.25-mile mark.

I’d been keeping up with the kid’s pace, but stayed about 15-feet or so behind, ever since he passed me, but when we hit that second-to-last turn, I kicked up my speed a notch and caught up to him. He noticed, because he sped up. Then I did. Next thing you know, we’re both sprinting full-out, neck-and-neck to the finish line.

I’ve never heard a finishing line crowd cheer like they were over me and this kid going at it in this footrace, but I sort of felt like we were putting on a show for them. And then about five strides from the finish line, the kid pulled ahead for good. I didn’t have anything left at that point.

But I did check the results afterward. Kid was only 13. Nothing like challenging someone 20 years your junior to a footrace. However, my chip time was five seconds better than his. Take that, you snot-nose punk!

In the end, I’m glad I did go for that last sprint against that kid; otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to say I put up identical times in back-to-back race weekends.


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