Asmussen: Giving it his all
Look out, Rio, my Olympic training started Friday night.
Determined to be the next Frank Shorter or Meb Keflezighi, I blazed my way to a 54:51 time in the Presence Covenant Medical Center Illinois 5K Run/Walk. Spee-dy.
I finished 162nd out of 172 in my age group (old sports writers). Overall, I was 5,485th. That makes 5,484 I have to pass in the 2015 race. No problem.
It’s a whole lot better than where I was a year ago: hanging out at a St. Louis rehab center after heart surgery. Nothing like bland hospital food to get you excited about running.
Enough whining. How did I get back to racing?
The idea came from my wife and kids, who encouraged me to exercise when I returned home last May. I started with walking and biking. With my background in cross-country (seriously), it wasn’t much of a leap to consider the 5K.
Problem was I needed somebody to compete with me. My daughter is too fast (obligatory parental bragging). And my wife and son had a prior commitment that didn’t involve running the streets of C-U.
A friend, Dana Mancuso, agreed to be my running buddy and off we went. Eventually.
We started the race on St. Mary’s Road. The runners were flighted according to their projected times. I was in the “Slower than dirt” category, just behind corpses and snails.
The 5K was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Because of the mass of runners ahead of us, we didn’t cross the starting line until about 20 minutes later.
My goals were simple: Don’t finish last and try not to trip any of the top competitors.
I tried to pass a few lollygaggers the first couple blocks, but the pack was tight.
Kudos to the fans lining the streets. They shouted encouragement like “You’re almost there” and “If my 99-year-old grandma can finish, so can you.” Inspiring.
The pack started to thin near Campustown. Nice of the bar patrons to cheer on the runners. Or maybe they were saying “Get out of the streets.” Hard to know for sure. Good to see that business is booming.
We made our way onto Irwin Drive. As we ran into Memorial Stadium, I picked up the pace for the final 100 yards or so. I must have looked like a slower version of Mikel Leshoure sprinting toward the finish line.
Amazingly, they handed me a medal. I think it was bronze. Or silver. Doesn’t really matter.
My 3.1 miles were in the books. The first of many races. Boston? New York? London? Might as well dream big.
When you have a major health scare, you crave normalcy. Movies, golf, work, church, being part of big local events.
In hindsight, checking out Spike Lee at Ebertfest might have been easier on the joints.
I certainly finished tops among those wearing 8 pounds of medical equipment. It’s called an L-VAD.
Before making my first run in years, I checked in with my local cardiologist, Dr. Ken Bodine of Carle, an avid runner. He has been at Carle for almost 20 years and has seen the improvement patients can make because of their own hard work and medical advances.
“Exercise in general for a heart patient is very good,” Bodine said. “I’m a strong advocate of getting most patients, who are able to, to do some form of exercise.
“Some patients can do more extreme things like running and participating in these kinds of races. But it is an individual thing. It depends on their condition and how they’re doing with their treatment.
“Out of the (VAD patients) I’ve seen, you are the most active. That is good.”
He was fine with my idea of being in the race. But no sprinting. And no taking the early lead. I promised to follow his instructions.
Any other advice?
“Don’t go out too fast,” Bodine said. “The crowd’s going to be a bit crazy, so you’ve got to be careful not to get caught up in it.”
I didn’t ask Bodine about the Olympics. Maybe after I win next year’s 5K. And did I mention my plans to ski again? The Winter Games are three years away.
Bob Asmussen is in his 25th year as a News-Gazette staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.