I haven’t mentioned the Let Freedom Run 5k on the blog, or put it in the upcoming races, not because I wasn’t excited about it but because I didn’t know just what I was going to be doing with it. Would I run a hot race, looking for a nice solid PR, or would I meander the hills of Fairfax, Virginia with my friends, chatting about birthday fun? Would the large crowd that a holiday race draws cramp my start? Or would those aforementioned hills cramp my quads?
So I didn’t know what I’d get, but here is what I got:
- A kickass morning with my friends Emily and Fred.
- Cheering squad x2, Steph + Styger!
- A 29:37 PR, meeting my 30min goal, setting a new, respectable, PR by a landslide.
Steph and I arrived about 45 min before race start, and parked out in the corner of the lot. Runners were all around, and as you often see on holiday races so were a ton of supportive onlookers. Sadly, they were out of tee-shirts, so I had to walk away from the sign-in table with just assurances that it would be mailed. An explosion of patriotic costumes punctuated the crowd of stock-standard race folks wandering about.
My friends Emily and Fred were running the race, and Emily’s friend Janna. My friend Stiger and of course the ever-present supportive wife would be cheering from the sidelines. Thankfully, as a 5k, they wouldn’t be waiting long. Fred, Emily, Janna and I chatted in the starting chute. Janna and Emily are training together for the Marine Corp Marathon in September, so this little run was just a hop, skip and jump for them. I know they’ll both do great!
For Fred, this was the first road run in a while, so he was mostly there to stretch his legs and keep us all company, which was much appreciated and great fun. I hope he had half the fun I did, cheering him as he came across the finish!
At the starting horn, the crowd lurched across the starting line mile 1 was the typical gristmill of people who all start out in a big crowd, and the ‘exit’ from the shopping center had two turns off the bat. I hadn’t discussed whether I’d be running alongside any of my friends, and I took off running pretty early. I hope my burst of enthusiasm wasn’t misinterpreted or hurtful. I decided as I started that I could, and wanted to, get an official 30min 5k on the books!
We came around the corner and out of the shopping center, and broke into a long, downhill, straightaway. By the end of that straightaway, I had settled into my pace, passed just about all the people I was going to pass. I started to slow down, not dramatically, but noticeably, as we kept winding up hill after hill. The run was a big rectangle around the shopping center, but it felt like a mobius strip! All up, and no down. The course was, in it’s way, refreshingly challenging, but one bit I didn’t enjoy is that several of the roads weren’t actually closed; just one lane in the direction of traffic was closed, so occasionally a car would zip by from behind. A disconcerting feeling! Plus at a couple of points the intersections were open, so a car would be perched, not directed by a traffic officer, waiting to cross the road. I finished up and didn’t even look at my watch because I wanted to start by seeing my chip time.
I stayed by the finish in the crowd that had gathered there to cheer on the finishing runners, including my friends. It was a great feeling to cheer for random people and see them surge to hit the finish line.
Then, it was off to the well deserved post run noshing! As usual, the race had bagels, bananas, and water arrayed around a table, but it was suffering from poor organization. Or rather, too much voluntary organization, as mild mannered runners naturally lined up, and none of the old folks manning the food booth would venture out to tell those waiting that it was not set up for a line and people should just mob the table. When I walked around the far side of the table and saw two boxes of bananas and bagels untouched, I grabbed one of each, and then started shouting to the runners in line. Either they didn’t believe me or they didn’t want to be the guy jumping out of line, so even as I left, there was a massive line snaking away from the table.
So, for low points, worrisome traffic control, not enough shirts (c’mon, that’s like race organizing 101, isn’t it?) and a bit of a failure to communicate at the food table. The highpoints were a good challenging rolling hilled course (as advertised) a fun run with friends, a 30 minute PR and a beautiful (overcast, not blistering hot) day for a run.
Big thanks to my friends for running with me.