It was a hot and humid morning but the light breeze made it somewhat more bearable for the several thousand people standing at the starting line of the Cotton Row Run yesterday morning in Huntsville, AL. My warm up had been plagued by an upset stomach, probably too much water in my gut, but I still had thirty minutes to race time so I figured my body would take care of it before the gun went off. The crowd was pressing towards the starting line as the announcer gave a warning about the effects of heat and exercise on the body, "If you feel bad, or dizzy, or sick, slow down!" Not sure how many heeded these words as the whole group just seemed anxious to get the race started, for we could feel the temperature rising with each passing minute. But the waiting continued through a gun solute and a playing of taps and the pledge of allegiance and America the Beautiful or some other patriotic song. A guy on the line next to me was saying they did this every year, that it never started on time because of all the Memorial Day festivities they tried to fit in before the start of the race. I wondered as I looked down the line what the Kenyans thought of all this show, surely they felt no patriotic stirring in their hearts at the sound of the Star Spangled Banner, yet here they are standing with the rest of us, waiting for the song to end and for the starter to get this thing going. Finally the show was over and we got underway. The race took off down through Huntsville before taking a right and taking us out of downtown and into the surrounding neighborhoods. The rolling first mile was quick and the leaders set a hard pace even as the incline into mile two got higher. By the time we reached the second mile I was still within reaching distance of the front three runners. But I feared that I wouldn't be able to hold the pace during the next mile which I knew contained the worst hill I have ever come across in a road race. The day before we had toured the course and when we took the sharp left up this monster I could tell from the strain of the engine that this was going to be a rough one. As we approached the hill I moved into 4th place and for a few moments it seemed that the runner I had just passed wasn't ready to give it up, but as we hit the hill I heard less and less of his breathing and after cresting the top I no longer felt his presence behind me and I turned my focus to the three athletes in front of me. Now all that was left was a long gradual uphill before an almost 180 degree turn that would send us on the long winding road back into town. This was mostly down hill and my plan had been to suffer through the first 3 miles and then try and make a comeback on the last three. My pace had slowed significantly during mile three and four and so I had to really focus on the downhills to keep the pace down and try to catch 3rd place. As we approached the 5th mile mark the course leveled back out and I could feel the gap between myself and 3rd closing ever so slightly. I continued to push, my father and brother screaming as I went by to catch the next runner. As we raced through the streets of Huntsville I knew the final stretch before the finish was coming. We took a left onto Clinton and from there I could see the finish some 400 to 600 meters away. I pulled closer to the 3rd place runner and as he looked over his shoulder at me and then continued at the same pace I thought for sure I had him. I pulled up next to him and then on by feeling confident that he would buckle under the pressure of an increased pace. Much to my surprise and misfortune he had some more left after all and came surging past me once again. I held on for a few moments before throwing another surge at him, pulling up next to him and then edging in front, but this lead was short lived as he covered my move and then dropped another one of his own, I fought for several seconds, arms pumping, legs burning, lungs screaming for more air. But I could feel in spite my best efforts he was still pulling away. The bottoms of my feet were beginning to burn, hot spots on the outside of each told me that to sustain this acceleration much longer was going to cost me some flesh on the soles of my feet. The finish line loomed before me and my adversary had pulled away, I held pace and finished strong, but much to my dissatisfaction in 4th place. I slowed as I crossed the line and took a bottled water from a shoot worker. I cursed myself for making my move too soon and wondered if I had waited a little longer if I might have gotten 3rd. My time was 30:04, and not until a day later when I'm looking at my splits (4:40,4:40,4:55,5:05,4:40,4:40,1:24) do I realize just how much the hill slowed me down. The sun at this point was higher overhead and water and sweat had soaked me completely through to the bone. I felt like I had jumped into a hot tub. I went around shaking hands with a few of the other runners who had finished ahead of me. At the awards ceremony I found myself in the familiar position of being the only American on the stage. The warm smiles and laughter of my Kenyan counterparts fills the air as we take our medals and fill out the forms for our checks. No prize money up front, the Cotton Row Run race directors are making sure Uncle Sam gets his share through taxes, much to the dislike of some of the agents I hear talking with the race director behind me as I fill out my own form. I take my medal and walked back over to where my family and girlfriend were waiting. As we walked back to the hotel for an ice bath and a shower I stumbled upon a table handing out food for the finished racers. I grabbed an ice cream sandwich and a slice of pizza, to the victors go the spoils I thought as I scarfed down the salty, sweet combination of calories to fuel this machine for another day.