Drawing almost 900 finishers this year, the Catch the Leprechaun 5K is one of the largest local 5K races in the Charleston area and benefits Pattison’s Academy, a school for special needs children. The race is held on the Thursday night before St. Patrick’s Day and is a great way to kick off the weekend celebrations.
Catch the Leprechaun is one of my favorite 5Ks and very special to me. I ran the race last year. My first 5K was in October 2009 and benefited a camp for special needs students modeled after Pattison’s Academy. In 2013, I spectated the race to cheer for the Moore On Running Couch to 5K group, which was one of Peyton Moore’s last races and he cheered on all of the C25K graduates.
Those are two great reasons for me to run each year, and here are my top reasons for YOU to run the Catch the Leprechaun 5K:
- Beautiful fast course. Unless you’re running the Cooper River Bridge, James Island Connector, or Isle of Palms Connector, every race in Charleston is flat. The Catch the Leprechaun course in Mt. Pleasant is certified and has a great view of the Cooper River and Patriot’s Point. The roads are closed to traffic, and since the race draws lots of runners and cheerleaders, you will feel motivated as you run.
- Worthy cause. Pattison’s Academy is a local school for special needs children who are severely disabled. The school is located in my area and I frequently run by it. The proceeds stay local, and the children of Pattison’s are on the course, being pushed in their wheelchairs by other runners. It’s inspiring to see where your money goes.
- Value for your money. With so many local races to choose from these days, prices matter. I don’t mind paying for 5Ks because the money benefits charity and it’s still cheaper than a night out (I don’t go out). At Catch the Leprechaun 5K, you get your money’s worth. I paid under $25, which was the early bird signup rate with a publicly shared discount code. I received a chip-timed race, a tech shirt, and a post-race party.
- Challenging. Staying in your comfort zone does not make you faster. Everyone who “catches” (finishes before) the leprechaun receives a plastic mug, and this is a great goal for runners to set to challenge themselves. It’s a great incentive for mid-packers. If you are a speedster, this race has cash prizes and draws fast runners. The age groups are 5 years and 3 places and are hard to win. I always seem to finish 4th in my age group- aka “First Loser”.
- Fun. None of us are professional runners, and 99% of us will not win a pot of gold (the cash prize is a Le Creuset black pot filled with gold dollar coins), but running with a leprechaun, followed by friends, food, music, and beer is the recipe for a fun night.
I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in West Ashley/Downtown Charleston/Cooper River Bridge traffic, so I left home super early and arrived at Patriot’s Point at 5 PM for the 6:30 start. I picked up my packet, talked to some friends, sat in the car, and read a magazine (I had to do something for 90 minutes. I ran a 2 mile warmup on the course and knew the wind would be a challenge because a cold front moved in that afternoon, and it’s windier near the water.
My right hip was bothering me, as it has bothered me off and on for a few weeks now. I went to the ortho on Monday and got x-rays and the A-OK to race, along with a PT referral. With four races total this month, I was not risking running on a potential injury. Still, I wasn’t going to do anything too crazy or stupid to get hurt at the race. My hip did not hurt during the race and only hurt a little during the warmup and cooldown.
We started at 6:30 PM after the bagpipers played. The speedsters were off and the first mile flew by, aided with the wind. I settled into a pace around a crowd of guys and we stayed pretty close for the whole race. The course has an out and back turnaround, where I saw my friend Virginia and Stella in the jogging stroller.
Stella has learned names and she knows me well- so when I passed them on the out and back course, I heard Stella cheering for me BY NAME! It was so exciting during the race and one reason why I don’t race 5Ks with an Ipod. You miss a lot if you *always* run with one.
My first two miles were great, and I didn’t go out too fast for my abilities, but the third mile had a 15-20mph headwind and was very tough. Everyone slowed down, even my crowd of guys. By the time I needed to draft off of the men, I had the energy to pass them, and I wasn’t holding back my speed to draft in the last 1/2 mile. My last mile was closer to a 7:30 than the 7:00 min/mile for the first two, but I still pulled off a 22:37 finish time. I caught the leprechaun and collected my mug.
I ran two miles to cool down, then headed to the after party, which had hot dogs, two types of sandwiches, fruit, cookies, chips, water, lemonade, and beer for the adults. A band played, and everyone had a great time hanging out, talking about the race and life, and taking pictures. Since it was Thursday night, everyone hung out pretty late.
This is one of my favorite local races, and I recommend it for beginners or seasoned runners. Sign up early next year because it will probably continue to grow and sell out again!