by Jack Huber
I’m on the starting line for a 1500-meter race at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. The track is soaked after a brush with a passing thunderstorm. Lightning remained far enough away to allow the meet to continue. The clock across the top of the jumbotron on the far end of the field reads 3:00 PM. 18 hours until I have to be back in town for the Delmar Dash. No time to think about it now. The gun goes off and we’re racing. The race starts fast—62 seconds at the quarter—but it slows dramatically as we cross the halfway mark. The bell sounds and I see 2:56 on the clock. I'm going to need a fast final lap if I want to get close to my best time, but I’m feeling better than I expected. I move up a couple positions on the bend but now I’m in a tight pack of kickers on the back straight. A slight elbow to the runner on my right opens up a gap and now I have room to open up my stride. I move into the lead with 200 meters to go, and I can feel that nobody is going with me. I pour it on over the last turn and cross the line in 3:53.56. It’s the quickest last lap I’ve ever had—56.97 seconds—and I’m rewarded with a two-second personal record.
I soak in the win as I jog around Bucknell’s campus for my cooldown. The sit-and-kick style of racing spared my legs from any immediate cramping. I’m feeling good for the moment, but I still have a four and half hour drive ahead of me. By 10 PM, I’m back in Albany. I tried to stay hydrated throughout the drive to prevent my legs from locking up. The strategy worked for the most part, but the whole-body fatigue is starting to hit me. My alarm is set for 6:30 AM, and I fall asleep with five miles of racing ahead of me in the morning. I’m starting to question my decision to sign up.
I make it to the middle school an hour before the race. It’s the first time I’ve been in the building since I graduated as an eighth grader in 2014. I do my warmup alone in the streets of my hometown. I finish up with some strides on the cinder track behind the middle school.
On the starting line, I look around to see what the competition looks like. I’m hoping there’s nobody who wants to take it out fast. The 1500m of the previous day still hasn’t hit me yet, and I’m starting to wonder how far I’ll make it into the race before the fatigue starts to wear me down. The race begins and I move into the lead with Pete Rowell and Chuck Terry right behind me. It doesn’t look like anyone is going to push the pace further and I can focus on bringing the pace down mile by mile, hoping that my legs hold up. The first mile is 5:29. Pete and Chuck are right on me which helps the pace feel easier. I bring the pace down to 5:23, then 5:20 for the next two miles, which gives me a comfortable lead, but it isn’t feeling easy. For reference, I’ll often run around 5:15 pace for threshold runs in training, so it’s not a good sign that I’m hurting at 5:20 pace. I’m able to hold it together for a little longer, and as I round the turn onto Kenwood, a turn I’ve made over a hundred times throughout the years, my legs come back to life. The Delmar Dash isn’t the most competitive race I’ve ever done, nor is the most historic or famous. I’m not going to come close to my PR either, I’m already over a minute off. But it’s a sentimental win. It starts and ends in front of the Bethlehem Middle School, a place where I had no athletic ambition whatsoever. Ever since Cam Davis placed second in the 2017 edition of the Dash as a junior in high school, it’s been a goal for one of us Bethlehem Track alumni to cross the line in first. I pick up the pace as I head towards the middle school and break the tape with a time of 26:45. It’s one of the slowest winning times in Delmar Dash history. My legs are shot from the travel and the 1500. I’m ready for a long nap. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Emily Taft on her win:
Although Delmar Dash was an early spring race, it felt more like mid-summer with temperatures quickly warming up into the 70s under sunny skies- a gorgeous day otherwise but maybe a bit warm for an April race! I was excited to secure the win, but was hoping to run about a minute faster, the heat got to me about half way through the race and I faded a bit. I was able to pick it up in the last half mile thanks to the spectators cheering along the course! It was still a fun time and a great event, always fun to see so many other running friends out there racing and cheering! Our ARE racing team had a great showing as well with multiple podium spots. I will definitely keep this race on the list for next year!
Stats – Click on Headings for Data
Photos by Bill Meehan & Chris Bishop
Anne M Tyrrell
See you next year at the Delmar Dash- a wooded refuge in a lovely setting that is a delight to run in.