KARACHI 5000: Best of Frenemies
The red glow of the digital race clock beamed over us, falling off as we inched farther away. The bibs were attached and the runners lined up. I went into Saturday night's Karachi 5000 knowing Fitz (Electric Flight Crew) was out for blood.
The rival-frenemy status was cemented across an intersection during the Koreatown Run Club MIDNIGHT 10K back in June 2019 - Tom Fitzpatrick and I dueled for a good five miles before he made a strong and psychological move to put himself out of reach. Gunning towards a red light, we started to slow down as we came face to face with police officers baiting us to jaywalk. I looked over at them. “Should we risk it?” Those were the last words I heard from Fitz as he dashed across the street past the no walking signal. Fitz took second, myself, third.
Two days before the KARACHI 5000, we met again at the inaugural Take the Bridge LA in the Arts District. This time I had scouted the terrain and already had a familiarity with the unorthodox TTB format. All that was left to do was execute the plan.
I could see the smolder in Tom's eyes as he congratulated me on the win. I knew Saturday he was going to hammer. "I have a target on my back."
To note: Tom and I, having chit-chatted before all of this, weren't running LA Marathon. We could shred our legs with total abandon, unlike others sharing the field.
Inside the KARACHI 5000 venue, Duy hopped up and remind everyone the rules and let us know the four checkpoints we had to hit. As everyone’s face was buried into their Google Maps to find any sort of advantage, I looked up and scanned the room. I remember seeing that Michael Herrera's back- another TTB front-of-the-packer, another 230-something marathoner. "More speed in here than I thought".
Ten minutes after the girls start time, my plan was to go out fast. I was to see who else was with me, try and throw them down a surprise street, maybe wait for a small hole in the night's thick traffic before launching myself into it. "I'm not the fastest in this group, but I'll be the fucking craziest."
I got a good hop out the tiny parking lot we were jammed in, managed the turn okay. To my surprise, Yosef is ripping! "Has he always had this gear?!" He's leading us out hot and I'm just trying to find my hard rhythm. At this time we’re taking the sidewalk as others immediately head on the street. I see Herrera starting to find his stride. Dude's fast. Also out for blood I bet. He's tucked into a small pack of guys I don't know. Former college kids (I learn); all that youthful bounce! We tear down a residential street and break away. I have a feeling when we see them again they'll be leading the lot of us.
We make it down to Washington Blvd, and sure enough, they've built a decent lead. I make a move and shoot across the busy street hoping the gamble pays and the checkpoint will be on this side. Nope. Other side of the road. "Fuck!", I yell, ripping across to get my marker.
I see the lead pack pulling away. Four of them I think, Herrera one of them. I turn off down a quiet residential, nothing but my footsteps and breath when I hear the calmed voice of none other than Fitz. 5:20 pacing; still convo pace for the marathoner lot...
He asks how I feel. I tell him I think the youth ahead are going to run away with this thing. I get the same feeling from him, knowing we probably don't have a ton more in us to close the distance. We settle into a pace. An unspoken, silent pact to work together. We're wondering aloud which street we turn down, conferring each other. When we find the turn and get the mark, the boys are a good 300 meters ahead of us. If I had the breath in my lungs I would sigh. I don’t.
"Turn here!", Tom shouts suddenly. I can't even see what he's seeing. It's a foot path! Bisecting the long street by half, exactly! "I saw it quickly on the map when I was Googling the checkpoints," he tells me. Holy shit. This is the smirk Duy gave when he told me he was excited about the route. It starts to look like the foot chase scene in Point Break where we’re running through people’s backyards and stepping on squeaky toys left behind from the afternoon playdate.
Firstly, I can't see anything and am expecting at any moment to roll my ankle on the uneven pavement, but then we bomb out the walkway and immediately get the third mark. This is a MASSIVE time-save. I’m sure the old pack has settled in given they think they’re ahead but we’re squat in the lead. I can barely believe it. I tell Fitz we have to fucking go before the kids catch on! We try and find another gear, we grab our last marker. I tell him, between chokes of breath, that however this shakes out, he's a podium spot ahead of me, I owe him so much.
However about a minute later: we're made. Evan Something. Dude is fast. He reminds me a bit of the second Terminator, the Terminator 2.0, the liquid one, impossible to kill...! I see we have about 200 meters on him, but he's closing. Hard.
We throw ourselves into the Washington traffic, forced to keep in the yellow dividing lane as cars rush past on both sides. Then, somehow, he finds a way ahead... "Damn, oh well..." But then... What?!, he STOPS at the intersection of Vermont, furiously tapping the pedestrian signal to get across. We're still a street down from Venice. "Turn!" I yell to Fitz and we shoot past Evan across the street, up the hard hill, the cemetary crowding our side. I glance my shoulder and see Evan now chasing after. I'm still shocked he came to a complete stop to wait, wondering how much energy it sucked out of him, now having to play catch-up. But here he is.
I slow down, a bit of gamesmanship, to let Evan take the lead, all the while I'm watching for another gap in the traffic, hopefully a smaller hole, to where we can cross and he'll be forced into another stop. This is a scene straight out of a Wong Kar Wai movie. Neon signs. Slow shutter speed. "Now!" I yell to Fitz, and we cross, again now we have a small advantage over T2, the machine...
But the advantage doesn't hold for long. Unstoppable, he makes his way across, tracks us down, and really opens up, just 800 meters or so away from glory, back to Secret Walls, back to Love Hour... I ask if Fitz has anything left, if we can give one more kick. “10 seconds”, I say, “Let's go for it.” We push, but Evan holds a good 10 second lead on us. It's not there.
I tell Fitz to take us home. The competitive part of me wanted to turn my sights and race Fitz. I didn’t have it in me. I tell him I owe him one for helping make this a race for the top. Fitz and I finish in second and third respectively. The confetti was already sprinkled across the asphalt. Credits rolling.
So much of these things are wordless. So much of this is communicated in a gesture, a nod, the eyes, huffs of breath. I fucking love lining it up with Fitz. I know we're gonna gun for it. I know I'll need cunning, even a little Lady Luck on the side.
For some reason these unsanctioned events play so vividly in my mind. All of the tiny details. Way more than any “proper" racing. I can't wait to do it again, LA. I can't wait to have another crack at Fitz. Frenemies, the best kind.
Words by Gordon Clark
Photos by @steadyarchives @notafraid2fail @mrodmaker @runjohnrunnyc