“So,” I asked the guy behind the counter at the Huntington Municipal Airport, “did you guys have to rearrange a bunch of flights to make this race happen?”
“Well, if it weren’t so windy, there’d be some crop dusters out,” he said amiably.
As it was, the only planes in sight were a 1950s-era fighter plane on display out front and a working model of what Bob called “some kind of hybridized ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ plane” outside the building that passes as the local aviator hangout/command center.
This was to be the second running of the Men In Black Runway Mile, a fundraiser for the Huntington North High School cross country team who apparently refer to themselves as the MIB. The organizer, a former team member who’s now apparently studying sports marketing, was setting up the finish line not too far the the Dr. Moreau plane. He was apologetic when I asked him where the starting line was.
“Down there,” he pointed, apologizing for the fact that this race requires you to jog or at least walk a mile to get to the starting point.
It wasn’t until I was most of the way down the runway, already sweating in Friday night’s remnants of last week’s heat wave, that the true nature of the course materialized. It is not, as implied, a straight shot down the runway, which isn‘t quite long enough to pull that off. Instead it starts on a second runway a hundred yards or so over, which requires a 90-degree turn shortly after the ¾ mile mark before another quick turn that dumps you out at the finish line.
That being said, the two quick turns at the end probably made it less grueling mentally, if less cool in form.
My secret (if unrealistic) goal for this run was to try to break 8 minutes. Could that have happened if I hadn’t gone out way too fast and faded so quickly in the second quarter-mile? Maybe, but probably not. Notions from earlier in the year about running a timed mile every so often never materialized. I didn’t have the slightest idea on a strategy, other to try my usual race mode of picking out someone to try to pick off, but that didn’t really work in this race. Though I eventually caught up with a fifth grader I’d thought might serve as my own personal “rabbit,” she managed to produce a kick at the end that I could not. My finish time was a decidedly unimpressive 8:20.
Still, it was a fun race to experience, and it was nice to set a baseline time to try to beat.