Lexington, Kentucky is famous for horse racing. War Admiral, Secretariat, Cigar were all raised and trained there. It seemed the spirit of one racing great,Black Gold, came to theIJA Joggling competitionslast week.
The 800 featured last year’s winnerLenny Fermanand about 12 other competitors. Ferman was dressed inblack running shorts, a black shirt and had black curly hair. He was thin and springy and obviously had run many laps around tracks in his time. He was a runner first and just learnedjogglinga couple years ago. That meant winning would be tough.
This was Ferman’s race. He said he specialized in the joggling the 800 and wanted to win this race more than any other. I knew from my sprint workouts I could do a 2:45 which would’ve been good enough to beat his time last year so there was a chance. My plan was to run with Lenny for the first lap and a half and out kick him in the end.
We lined up in the outer lane. He said he liked to start in the outer lane so he could avoid the other jogglers and get in front. That sounded good to me.
When the starter’s hand went down, Ferman was off. He had a good break out of the gate and quickly bounded to the front of the pack. I followed, matching his pace.
He ran smooth and effortlessly like a thoroughbred on Derby Day. I kept up, but my lungs burned, my legs pounded with pain, and I ran like a nag. In the last turn of the first lap, Black Gold was ahead by 20 meters. Still, I had confidence I could catch him as long as I could endure the pain. Midway through lap number two he started to slowly pull away. In the last 200 meters, I fought hard against accepting second place but I knew I couldn’t catch him. He was just too fast.
In the final stretch I pushed harder. My juggling pattern got erratic so I had to slow and focus. When I regained my form, I sprinted to the end and finished less than 10 seconds behind Lenny. My final time was 2:32 which I thought was pretty good. Lenny won with an even more impressive 2:23. He said it was a PR.
After the 800 I was admittedly tired. That race takes a bit out of you. My legs were sore and all this racingwas exhausting. But I was here to race & win these joggling events, so that’s what I had to do.
In this race, the world record holder for this distance,Chris Essickwas lined up along withJesse Joynerwho had previously shown his joggling speed could match those of his namesake.
I lined up in the 8th lane for the 400. Generally, I don’t like the outer lanes because you don’t get to see where anyone else is. Everyone starts behind you and you feel like they’ll catch you at any moment.
At the start, I kept my throws low and my strides short and quick. I went all out figuring the speedsters would be on my heals in moments. I couldn’t see or hear anyone else the entire time. It’s hard to look around when speed joggling. In the final turn, I was certain someone would come along side me and we’d sprint to the end.
But no one came.
The crowd cheered loudly at the finish line and I wanted to put on a great show. Wanted to be more than just an Average Joggler. Ignoring the pain, I pushed harder. I sprinted to the finish and crossed ahead of everyone. Final time 1:06. A gold winner! I was happy. And less than 10 seconds off the world record pace. If I could just focus…hmm. Maybe next year.
The next race was the 1600 meter. There was only 1 heat and everyone started together. Everyone, that is, except me. I had gone to get a drink of water and as I was walking back, started talking to another joggler. When I looked up I saw the starter’s hand go down and a crowd of runners take off.
“Are they starting the next race?” I asked.
“Yeah, it looks like it.”
Darn! So, I ran over to the start and asked, “Can I still race?”
“Sure, go ahead. You’re 39 seconds behind everyone else.”
I started off strong and focused on just catching the pack. Leading everyone was Lenny Ferman who had clearly come to take gold in this one. With his huge lead, I knew there was no way I was going to catch him unless he dropped a few times.
At the last turn of the first lap, I managed to catch up to the joggler ahead of me. He had a drop which gave me the time I needed to catch him. During the second lap I caught up to the pack of runners. I saw Lenny clipping away at an incredible pace and was hoping he wouldn’t be able to lap me. At the half-way point, there were still about 3 jogglers ahead of me. I kept up my speed and eventually passed them.
Unfortunately, in the last stretch of my third lap, Lenny caught up to me and passed. I considered staying with him and gutting it out so he wouldn’t pass me, but I was already in second place & I couldn’t win. Risking a drop or tiring myself out for the final lap seemed silly.
My clock time was 7:25 which means I really did it in about 6:45. Not my fastest mile ever, but good enough for second. Lenny did a blazing 5:40 and he even had 1 drop! Great job Lenny!
The 200 was the last solo race and I didn’t have much confidence I would win. Chris, Lenny, and Jesse were all lined up in my heat. They all proved they had good speed and I wasn’t sure how much I had left after doing all the races before. I just decided to do what I could and see where things end up.
I had a good start and quickly gained ground on the jogglers in the outer lanes. Around the turn, Lenny, Chris and I were neck and neck. Then Chris had a critical drop and it was down to Lenny and me. With 80 meters to go, I heard Lenny groan and briefly saw that he dropped. There was no one even close. I kicked it in hard for the last segment and 20 meters before the finish, I had a drop too. Damn!
I quickly retrieved myGballz. I looked back and saw that the field was still pretty far behind me. Lenny had recovered but I was too close to the finish to lose now. I sprinted over the line to win my heat.
Unfortunately, the drop cost me some crucial seconds and also the gold medal. Two people from the heat before me had finished faster.