Running in the 'Meda: The 10,000 meter dash

Running in the 'Meda: The 10,000 meter dash

Marty Beene

"Holy cow! Why would you want to do that?"

I've heard that more than a few times when telling people that I plan to run the 10,000 meter event at the Pacific Association of USA Track & Field Masters Championships on June 14 in San Mateo.

This annual meet is an opportunity for anyone over age 30 to compete in track and field. The races and field events are usually held with everyone running together, but are then scored separately for each five-year age group. Even more fun than competing is watching the other athletes. Some of the performances will be nothing short of spectacular. Last year, multiple age group world record holder Irene Obera (now age 80) ran the 200 meter in just over 37 seconds and the 400 meter in just under 1:43. If those times aren't meaningful to you, go out and run a 200 meter or 400 meter and see if you can run faster. I didn't think so.

Why the 10,000? Every year, I try to do something a little different in my running. Last year, I ran the 5,000 meter race at this same Masters meet, the first time I had ever raced more than four laps on a track (the 5,000 is 12 and half laps). It was fun, and a great new challenge. So this year, I decided to try twice that distance.

Coincidentally, one of the most watched races of the recent Prefontaine Classic track meet in Eugene, Oregon was the men's 10,000, in which Galen Rupp set a new American record. One fun element of this race is that there are very few people who even attempt it (most people think it's boring, so they run 10k road races instead), especially not "older" runners, so there's a possibility of being highly ranked nationally in one's age group. Being highly ranked in an oddball event is a novelty, certainly, but how often can you say that you're in the top 10 or 20 in the nation at something?

Another fun element of the 10,000 is thinking about Billy Mills' victory in the 1964 Olympics, one of the greatest upsets in sports history by an American.

If you read about my Bay to Breakers training and racing, you may remember that I was a little disappointed in my performance. One reason is that the race I was actually aiming for was this 10,000 meter race. My training has been excellent and my legs are feeling strong. My sense of pace - critical for this kind of race because running on a track for this distance feels "slow" and requires patience - is as good as it's ever been.

How will I do? I'm confident I'll hit the time I want (42:30, give or take 30 seconds, which is about 102 seconds per lap), but it is unlikely I will win my age group because another 50+ guy has signed up who expects to run about 34 minutes. That's right - I expect him to lap me at least four times! There are also two women signed up who are about my age who might be running about the time I want to run, and that would definitely help me.

People sometimes ask how I will know which lap I'm on. It's actually easy because I know how long it takes me to run each mile, so if I forget which lap I'm on, I can just check my watch and figure it out from there. They also have officials who will tell you how many laps you have left, although the guy who did that last year for my 5,000 miscounted and I had to correct him: "No, I have three more laps, not two!"

If you couldn't tell already, I'm very excited about this race. That means that it's already a success. The whole reason for doing it was to rekindle or at least maintain my enthusiasm for the sport, and it has definitely done that. My experience is a great example of how trying something new can keep you going in your fitness program.

What are you going to try next?

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. Marty, who owns a lifetime best of 37:48 for a 10k road race, can be reached at