“Greg, you should do the Bellin Run with me!”
If I heard this once, I heard it one thousand times while working with the legend Benson Langat at the shop.
“It’s just a 10k, you trained for a marathon man. Just come run with me!”
At the 605 Running Company we sponsor a traveling race team. Benson and Grant head this team up and because of Benson’s very impressive resume the race team often experiences events a little different than the rest of us. For the Bellin Run 10k the plan was to have several members of our team travel to Green Bay to participate in the event. These men and women are former collegiate athletes that are still interested in racing competitively. Elite’s, as they are known often get a pretty bad rap. Pace shaming is a real thing and it goes in both directions. Thankfully we’ve got a process in place that vets our elites and we are lucky to have some of the most humble and incredible athletes in the state running in our jersey. In truth we all love running and do it our own way. The story after a hard run or race is usually the same. We all share trials and tribulations. We all experience the up’s and down’s of running.
Do you remember what it was like to be 20-25? Recent college graduates often face a lot of unique challenges. Where will I begin my actual career? What is dating? How do I cook a meal for one or two? The list goes on-and-on and we’ve all been there or are going through it. We ask our athletes to go through this and to maintain a pretty heavy training schedule. For our athletes committing to a race can be very difficult. You and I may see a men’s winning finish time for a local 5k between 17-19 minutes and be super impressed. For some of our elites that can be very humbling, they are used to running those races from 14-16 minutes. I started running seriously four years ago and have only know improvement, our elites have run hard and competitively their whole life, to lose time can ruin the love of running. To say it is complicated is an understatement.
This is how I found myself at the Bellin Run sharing an elite experience. Due to circumstances we were not able to field the team we hoped for and like the song says,
“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”
Benson calls me a lot of names: assistant coach, teammate, and boss. The name I’m most proud of though is friend. When it became clear that Benson wanted some travel companions that could commit to driving with him for seven and half hours one way on a two day trip I only had one question.
“Benson, if I sign-up for the race can I crash in your hotel room.”
His response was classic Benson.
“Is that a question? I just assumed you would stay with me. Sign-up already it will be fun.”
So I’m in Green Bay, Wisconsin with race team members Dylan Slaba and Benson Langat. I woke up early to get breakfast at the hotel. I was the first one to arrive for breakfast (about 5:45am). It was a typical spread, assorted cereals, bagels, milk, juice and most importantly coffee. I sat alone casually enjoying my meal and debating if Chelsea would be happy or mad to get an early morning phone call from me. My guess was not thrilled and thankfully Dylan arrived to take the guess work out of it – we chatted for a few minutes and eventually I stepped away for a bathroom break. Upon my return I noticed that we were no longer alone in the lounge. Another gentleman was going through the food selecting his pre-race items. Me, being me, I greeted him as if he were a customer in the shop with a very enthusiastic.
The gentleman turned around (I actually saw who I was talking to at this point) and returned the greeting, a similar warm race day greeting.
It was at this point that my jaw dropped. I had just welcomed Meb Keflezighi to breakfast!
Benson had been joking all night about hanging out with Meb at the hotel and just like that there he was grabbing some breakfast with Dylan and I. What a way to start out race day!
We were staying about a mile away from the start line. With race time scheduled for 8am we were not rushed out the door like some other races that can be a logistical burden to get to the start. We ran to the park where the packet pick-up was, found where the actual race start line was and where the VIP warm area was. It was here that I parted ways with my elite companions and we chatted about where to meet up after the race. While I’m not an elite I did manage to find myself starting in corral number one of five. This put me right behind the elite field which was pretty cool. While going though warm-ups the three of us 605 guys found each other and managed to snap a few pre-race photos. Before long we were going through starting announcements and it was go time.
As I mentioned I had never run a 10k prior to this race. Coach Jacqui had sent me a couple of post Fargo Marathon workouts and gave me a few tips leading up to the race. In general I was feeling pretty calm and was there to have fun. My plan was to run the first 5k a little conservative and to push it toward the end. I had glanced at the course I thought it set-up well for this. I knew there would be some downhill in the middle and thought that lined up pretty good. The race started and we were off. Because of my race placement I was surrounded by a lot of runners of similar pace. I got off to a nice start and for the first quarter of a mile I stuck to the plan. I remember feeling almost too comfortable so I made the decision to just step on the gas a little. Miles one and two were a little faster than I planned, but I felt great. Just after mile two we hit a nice big downhill. I figured you only live once so I went for it, pedal to the metal. I was flying and mile three was the third fastest mile I’ve ever recorded. Eventually, that downhill had to go back up as the course was a big loop. Miles four and five were still near where I wanted to be and I went into mile number six on pace to do some good things. I gave it my all and finished as strong as possible, coming in right at where coach thought I would be 45:11 – 7:15 pace.
Post-race we were all smiles. The guys got a lot of photos with the other elites like Meb and Jared Ward in the VIP tent. We wandered throughout the park. Benson and I found ourselves chatting with a reporter from the local news and we eventually got around to running a cool down. The event was amazing. Being in Green Bay we made a visit to Lambeau Field and just like that we were back on the road.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my co-workers Sarah and Tessa who covered my shift on Friday so that Benson and I could travel. Sarah’s entire family flexed their schedule so that we could get out of town early and make this trip. Tessa a race team member herself will be hitting Grandma’s Marathon this weekend and live tracking is highly encouraged, as that girl is going to kill it! Finally, I want to thank Benson for the opportunity to travel with him for this race. I had a great time and now can say I’ve raced a 10k!
Greg Koch is the General Manager/Co-Owner of the 605 Running Company. When he is not at the store he volunteers on the Sioux Falls Marathon Board and Co-Coaches his church softball co-ed team. Greg is an avid runner and enjoys being outdoors whenever possible. Follow Greg on Instagram @gregrun605