The club for runners in Saratoga Springs, NY

Gambling at Saratoga Casino’s Monday Night Mile

26 Aug 2016 2:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
What could be more natural than gambling at Saratoga Casino’s Monday Night Mile?  At the Harness Track’s Dark Monday we bet not on the horses, who were enjoying their runner’s day off, but on ourselves.  Normally before a local race, we can check out the competition and have a fairly good idea where we will place.  Not so at this venue,

    For the Harness Track mile is not a normal track mile.  Granted, there is the audience-filled grandstand, the laps around the field and the timing clock.  But there the similarity ends.  For the track is slanted inward and composed of crushed stone.  Spikes are a bad idea; trail shoes are ideal, but perhaps not as speedy as racing flats.  Your choice.  There are no Once a Runner calculated quarters as this is a half mile track.  You launch from behind a moveable starting gate, with no real idea when the truck’s gate will pull aside and when the race will actually begin.  Go too fast and you will bonk into the truck’s moveable arms; too slow and you will be left behind before you start.

    Like all professional miles, this one is run in heats.  Theoretically, all the 10 minute candidates begin first, followed in descending numeracy through 5. But nothing is ever so simple and here is where the gambling begins.  We are talking about a workday summer evening.  So unless you are a teacher, a full-time parent or stay-at-home pajama employee, it is quite possible that you may miss your heat.  But not to worry!  You can always jump in and join someone else’s heat.  Easy for the speedy milers, but pity the poor 10 minute person being passed multiple times in a faster group.

    This is where the confessional comes into its own.  Do I deliberately run with a slower group so I will look so much better?  Do I go by my wishy mile time and embarrass myself?  Do I hesitate at the edge of the winner’s circle where such decisions are made and jump in with a group that “looks right?” This is what I did.  I recognized a lady I had beaten at Race the Train and joined her 9 minute group, thinking I would shine.  Wrong.  She passed me.  One more variable to consider—she was better at short and cool.  I was better at long and hot.

    I had plenty of time to ponder my strategy as I arrived super early for any heat.  This was to make up for the fact that last week I had appeared a full five (!) minutes before Train was scheduled to depart for North Creek where the competition began.  I sprinted to the registration table and the volunteers applauded as they handed me my packet.  This gave me an advantage as I felt as though I had actually won.  Fortunately, Train beat me even at being late as he was 15 minutes later.

    My smugness at being early for the mile was soon replaced by embarrassment as I discovered that I had failed to pre-register. Naturally, I left all my money in the car as I figured I wouldn’t need it.  Finish Right Director Glen Wolin graciously said I could register first and then retrieve my money, so that’s what I did.  Is this what happens when you reach rock bottom in your age group?

    I placed in the middle of my 9 minute, which proved I was right where I needed to be.  I’ll have to try and remember that for next year and save myself unnecessary dithering.  Not only that, I secured a bronze horseshoe!  I remember seeing the first place lady in the 10 minute heat but I have no idea where the silver winner placed herself.  Neither was in my heat, so I was racing against invisible forces.  The amazing thing is that if you look at the age group results, we finished within seconds of each other, making it appear as if we had a tough sprint to the finish.  In reality, my sprint involved passing a gentleman almost in the chute and not the ladies I was actually trying to beat, had I even known who they were!

    Confused?  So am I, but that is all part of the fun in this unique event.

By laura clark

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The Saratoga Stryders, a 501(c)(3) affiliate chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. P.O. Box 1467, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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