I don’t really celebrate New Year’s.
In 2005, Clay and had just started dating a few months before. On New Year’s Eve, my grandma (who we called MaMa) was in the hospital in Florence and not doing well. She was admitted to the hospital a few days before Christmas after falling at the nursing home, and Clay lived about 2 miles from the hospital. Both of us were juniors at Francis Marion University, but he lived off campus and could stay in his apartment over the holidays.
On December 31, 2005, I drove about an hour from my parents house to ring in the new year with Clay- our first New Year’s Eve together. We didn’t have any plans that night besides being together and kissing at midnight. We went to dinner at La Bamba, then settled down to watch some college football bowl games before the festivities started.
We were broke college students, after all, so a date at a greasy Mexican restaurant was perfectly accepted- and it still is.
It was around 9 PM when I got the call from my mom. When you see your mom’s number pop up on your phone that late, you know something has happened. I left Clay, drove to the hospital and hugged numerous family members while drying tears, then drove an hour home behind my mom.
Mommy and I watched the ball drop on my parents’ house, cuddled together under a blanket and dreading what the next few days would bring.
I haven’t celebrated New Year’s Eve since, and I doubt it will ever be a big event for me. The day eats at me a little each year, mainly because MaMa died around the holidays. Clay only met her once, and thankfully, she approved of him.
Since I started running, I’ve spent New Year’s Day running in some fashion. In 2013, I ran 13 miles (get it, 2013?) with the TrySports Run Club, but recently, I’ve participated in the Race the Landing New Year’s Day 5K.
The race is held at one of my favorite places in Charleston- Charles Towne Landing– and it’s conveniently located about 10 minutes from my house. We don’t have many 5K races in West Ashley, so I run them whenever I can.
While Charleston is known for the Cooper River Bridge Run, Charles Towne Landing is where Charleston’s original settlers got off the boat. It’s gorgeous year-round, with large oak trees that remind me of those MaMa had in her yard.
Last Wednesday, while reflecting on the last year and on my memories of MaMa, I decided to dedicate my race to her.
The Race the Landing 5K series is well worth the time, money, and drive to West Ashley. The race entry fee includes a chip-timed race, a “throwback” leftover shirt from a previous race during the year or vintage shirt, 5-deep and 5-year age group awards, and brunch. Race proceeds benefit the Charles Towne Landing Park and Zoo.
I got up at 6:30 AM on Thursday, and Clay got up just after me because he volunteered at the finish line. We left the house around 7:30 to arrive before the gates closed, so I could pick up my race number, shirt, fleece headband from Fleet Feet Mount Pleasant, and run a mile and do warm up drills before the 8:30 start.
I finished my warm up, went to the bathroom, and got to the start with about a minute or two to spare before the gun went off. I noticed the crowd was bigger this year, with 179 finishers- pretty good for a second-year race the morning after one of the biggest party nights of the year.
This was my 6th race on this course, so I should know it down to the roots and cracks in the sidewalks. There are lots of curves and turns since it’s on paths and service roads throughout the park. It’s not the fastest course in Charleston, but I set a PR there last January.
I got through the first mile at just below 7 min/mile pace and saw Cindy and Jenn there- it was great to see them and hear them cheering and yelling out splits. Another running buddy, Steve, was at mile . We never seem to run a Charles Towne Landing race at the same time (the last one both of us were healthy enough to run was 2014’s New Year’s Day race), but we volunteer when we can’t run.
The only hiccup on the course was the wooden bridge in Mile 2. The temperature was good, but it frosted the night before and the bridge, as well as the whole course, is shaded. The frost hadn’t completely melted, so the bridge was slippery. I had to slow down on it since my racing flats don’t have the best traction.
No one lost more than a few seconds on the bridge (if that), and no one got hurt.
I finished strong with a 22:18. Coming off a 45 mile week, I didn’t want to shoot for a PR with only a week to train hard for before tapering for the Charleston Half Marathon. I was happy to see a time starting with 22 on the clock, and Clay told me I was the second female finisher.
I hugged Clay, got water, and set off for a cooldown jog down the course. As I cooled down running under the oak trees, I thought about MaMa a bit more, how much she enjoyed beautiful places like Charles Towne Landing. She wasn’t an athlete, because women didn’t run back then, but I’d like to think if she were alive in this time period, she would enjoy a leisurely jog around the park- but only after kicking some serious butt in the actual race.
Once everyone finished, we headed in for soup, cornbread, and awards. The ladies who are members of the Friends of Charles Towne Landing organization made and brought crock pots of homemade soup and cornbread for the race, and everything was delicious. I counted five vegetarian soups and one vegan soup, and Clay said that meat-eaters had plenty of soup too.
We warmed up, ate, caught up with friends, and had a good time cheering for everyone who got awards. Going with the “recycling” theme, the shirts and awards were left over from previous races. I received a shirt from the 2014 Charleston Youth Marathon fun run, and I picked out an award from the 1991 Catch the Leprechaun 5K .
All of the awards said age group award- probably because races give out every single overall award- so mine says second place age group. The placement is correct and the leprechaun is a funny looking little man.
It wasn’t my best 5K time ever (I went out a little too fast…), but I feel more confident than I did after the Cocoa Cup 5K. I love the small races with a few hundred finishers rather than close to a thousand, and I love the atmosphere of Race the Landing. Most of the same people run or volunteer for each race, so you see familiar faces. Running the race was a great way to ring in the new year with friends, and I came home to take a victory nap, followed by pizza and bowl games that night.
If what you do on January 1 is what you do all year, 2015 will be a stellar year. Cheers to strong, injury-free race finishes!