Fortunately, that large building behind me in the photo was a warm place out of the rain for hundreds of runners before the start of the race.
My first surprise for my second attempt at the Crazylegs Classic was my assigned wave start. There was a letter G on my bib! I don't remember the letter in 2013, but there were two of them and only one wave started after the group where I was placed.
Just a little more than 6 minutes after the race began with the fastest runners leaving the line at 10:00 a.m.; group G was led forward. Badger athletes offered encouragement and high 5's and the Badger Band played us off for a quarter turn around the square before turning right on Wisconsin toward Lake Mendota.
In case some are not aware, the Crazylegs Classic is named for the former UW star football player, former U.W. Athletic Director, and NFL star, Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch. It ran for the first time in 1982. While staying warm and stretching a little inside the Capitol, I talked with a man who has run in each of the 35 races.
Left off Wisconsin before getting our feet wet, we headed down Greek Street and past the U.W. Student Union. Just a mile in, other than folks cheering from the sidewalk, the predominant sound was running shoes on pavement. Above the slapping of rubber on road, I knew what was coming.
Years of riding taught me hills have their own personality. It's not how high which matters, but how steep. A fairly short hill on Observatory Road threatens to take your breath away.
There's a switchback turn into a steeper grade which figuratively drops pianos on runner's backs. I tried to power through it, knowing there was a downhill on the other side where I could catch my breath. Mile 2 then became mostly level.
At mile 3 stood Uncle Sam. I mean stood. His hat topped out close to 8 feet above the ground and he slapped hands as he stilt-walked backwards. More than half-way to the finish the encouraging takes another jump.
On Old University, a disc jockey calls runners out as they pass with the music pumping. A couple block further, an erstwhile dj stands in the middle of the street slapping hands while the theme from Rocky plays over and over and over.
He says it's his way of "Inspiring the Perspiring to keep them from Expiring."
A mile from the finish the route turns on to Breese Stevens which passes between student home rentals and Camp Randall Stadium. I tried to kick to the finish past the Fieldhouse, down the ramp, and on to the turf and the finish.
Light sprinkles started in mile 3, but stopped as I crossed the finish line, received a bottle of water, and recovered.
By the time I caught my bus back to the car (less expensive and less hassle than trying to park downtown), it wasn't sprinkling anymore. Congratulations and a hearty "Way to Go!" to everyone who completed their 2 mile walk or 5 miler run in the rain.
In 2013, I was 449th in my age group and 8,699 overall with a time of 52:24.
With a more focused training routine and in better shape minus three years older - this time I finished 165th in my age group (out of 381) and 2,357 out of 4,405 men in the race.
Best of all, the clock timed my finish at 44:51.
It wouldn't win an age group 10 years my senior, but what has always been the best thing about running since my days on the high school cross country team's 'C' squad (after Varsity and Jay-vee) is the opportunity to earn your own personal record every time out. Crazy.