James Island Connector Run 5K (22:17)

On Saturday, I ran the James Island Connector Run, one of my favorite local races, for the third time. The race is in its 17th year, and the organizers consider the runners top priority- which is key to its success. The James Island Connector Run made every runner feel like a winner- whether they received a cash prize as a top finisher, an age group award, or a finisher’s medal.

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Runners can choose from a 5K or 10K run, and cyclists can do a 10K bike ride- so there’s something for everyone. The 5K is point-to-point, and the 10K is out and back.

The James Island Connector Run is the most difficult road race in Charleston. Race day is the only time you can legally run the connector, but I’ve driven over it enough to know it’s a tough race. The 5K route includes 3 inclines, so if you run the 10K, you run over 6 inclines (we don’t have hills here- only bridges and connectors). The connector’s concrete surface is tough on the joints because it’s a large bridge, and the course includes a small portion of flat road/streets downtown.

On the other hand, the iconic Cooper River Bridge Run 10K features one incline and only 3 miles of bridge. Once you’re at the top of the Cooper River Bridge, the rest of the race is downhill. At the top of the first incline of the James Island Connector, you have at least 2 more inclines to run.

Sounds scary, but the view is worth it. At the finish, you are handsomely rewarded with bling!

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After chugging my coffee, water, and eating my granola bar, I showed up at the Connector Run at 7:30 and parked two blocks away from the start and 10K finish at Cannon Park. Parking was free, plentiful, and convenient in the nearby MUSC lots and garages. I said hi to a couple of friends and before heading off on a 1 mile warm up to Colonial Lake and back. I got back, waited in the fast-moving potty line, and headed to the start just after I heard the National Anthem.

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Once the Connector was closed and all volunteers were in place, the cyclists started, followed by the runners. Both the 5K and 10K start at the same time, and with no timing mat at the start, starting in the first few rows is important if you’re contending for an award.

After starting about 3 rows back, I tried to settle into a groove over the first quarter mile before we reached the Connector. I spotted some of my OnShore Sunday run crew, who I hoped to keep in my sight for most of the race. Since this is a difficult course and I did several speed workouts and strength training classes the week of the race, I wasn’t shooting for a PR, but wouldn’t complain if it happened.

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The first two inclines and first two miles were not too bad. I silently thanked myself for begrudgingly running repeats on the Cooper River Bridge and hilly routes when I was vacationing in NC the weekend before. The inclines were hard, but I was prepared for them and my first two mile splits were close to my flat racing pace.

My friend Mariana was racing the 10K, and while we usually run together on Sunday, she knows how to race and is a bit faster than me- so I used her to pace.

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My first two miles (6:58, 7:00), were on pace for just under 22 minutes, but approaching the third incline, I kind of fell apart. I made the mistake of looking up at the incline and trying to see the finish line. I couldn’t. Thinking back, I wish I’d kept my head down and not looked at the incline in mile 3 (7:25). From then on, I wished I had music or something to distract me. I could only hear my own breathing and was ready to depart the Pain Train.

When I finally saw the finish, it seemed much more than .1 away from the 10K turn!

I finished the race, logging 3.14 miles in 22:17. I ran a 22:17 in the Bohicket Marina 5K a few weeks ago, which was on a flat course and cooler day, so I haven’t gotten any more out of shape.

My time this year was 79 seconds faster than last year’s 5K, which had much worse conditions with wind and cold weather. It wasn’t a time PR, or the finish time I wanted, but it was a course PR- and I can live with that.

I collected my finisher’s medal, drank some water, and saw a few friends finish before running the other side of the Connector back to Charleston. The run back was at a much easier pace and more enjoyable because I was talking with friends- I enjoyed the scenery and looking over the Ashley River to see my beautiful city. I’m grateful to live and run in Charleston and for the community I’ve found here. It’s like no other.

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After the run back, I cheered some 10K finishers in, then enjoyed the after party. The refreshments are typical race refreshments, but people said the hot dogs and beer were good (I don’t eat them). A few vendor tables were set up, but I didn’t look around much.

This is also one of the few dog-and-stroller friendly 10Ks, and my friend Maria travelled from Columbia with her dog, Elijah, to run it. Elijah is a well-behaved and well-trained dog, and he was a big hit on race day. Everyone on the course loved him, and the volunteers gave him a medal (they had more than enough finisher’s medals for all the runners).

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At the after party, I noticed that some of the race beneficiaries were mingling with runners. The race proceeds benefit the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation, which provides scholarships for special needs and disabled students to attend local colleges and universities. This is a great cause and I loved seeing the students who would benefit from the race proceeds. It’s always fun to see where your money goes.

A few of my friends won overall or age group awards. Larry won grand masters- he is a speedy man to be in his 60s. I can only hope I’m still running them. Emily won the 10K for females and Mariana was 3rd overall. I placed 2nd in my age group and Theresa, who I run with on Wednesdays, was third. It’s fun sharing age group placing with friends, knowing you help each other earn those awards by running strong in workouts and encouraging each other.

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Michelle completed the 10K pregnant (baby still intact at the finish) and earned another finisher’s medal for her baby that’s due this week. Her tank top is the cutest shirt ever for Halloween.

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If you’re a local, the James Island Connector Run should be on your “do not miss” list. The 2015 event had 1,248 finishers, so it’s still growing and going strong even after 17 years. Although I received a complimentary entry, this race is a great bang for your buck, especially with all the discounts offered, finisher’s medals, pictures from Tag Your Pix, free parking, and after party. It’s an event I plan to run each year I can.

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As an ambassador of the James Island Connector Run, I received a complimentary race entry- however, all opinions are my own. I received a discount code to share and promoted the race to local running groups and on social media.


Race Name: James Island Connector Run 5K and 10K

Location: Charleston, SC

Date and Time: October 24, 2015, 8:30 AM

Terrain: Paved, closed streets and connector/bridge. The 5K route is point-to-point over the connector from Cannon Park to James Island- you can ride a school bus shuttle back to the start or run back. The 10K is out and back from Cannon Park.

Entry fee: $35 for either distance or for the bike ride. Ambassadors shared $5 off discount codes. $40 at packet pick up or on race day.

Swag: Cotton t-shirt, Finisher’s medal for all runners and walkers.

Post-race Food: Fruit (bananas, oranges), hot dogs, bagels, water, free beer trailer.

Weather: 64 degrees, 94% humidity, sunny and calm. Beautiful Charleston weather for October, but hot running weather!

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This entry was posted in 5Ks, Downtown, James Island, James Island Connector Run, Race Recaps, Race Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to James Island Connector Run 5K (22:17)

  1. Great recap Amy. It sounds like you had a wonderful day with running friends. And your time and placement are great as usual. I think I will be disappointed when you don’t win an AG award! Just kidding. The race certainly does a great job of supporting a great cause and giving runners so much for their registration fee. The finishers medal is very nicely done and the AG award is really pretty. Do you have a shrine someplace in your home?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Ha- most of the races in Charleston are pretty small, so age group awards aren’t super hard to snag if you’ve been training. We have a few speedy ladies in the 18’s-19’s for 5Ks, but they snag the overall spots at every race.

      Still, awards are all about who shows up and you can’t ever control who shows up at a race- you can only control your training.

  2. Theresa says:

    FWIW – a 22:17 for 3.14 is 22:04 for an actual 5k distance :). Also I’m glad I’m not the only one that died at the end. My mile 3 was significantly slower than 1 and 2 as well :/

    • Amy Lauren says:

      If I can focus, I can run even splits (I ran completely spot-on 7:03’s in the Race for the Ark). But when my mind wanders my feet slow down. I gotta have music next time!

  3. Hollie says:

    It sounds like it is a really fun and well put together race. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself Amy! Nice age group win too, that’s awesome!

  4. Congrats! Also, I LOVE your friend’s shirt! Too cute!

  5. wanderwolf says:

    Aw! Course PR is great! And that sounds like a tough race (the humidity does not help), so I’d said you did really well.
    I like your top too (and the halloween top your friend has!)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- my top is a Saucony singlet I got from TrySports. I’m not sure what the model is, and I can’t find anymore online (TrySports is out of my size too), but it was a great find and VERY cool and breathable for the summer months.

      I’m used to running in heat and humidity- when you live in Charleston, you have no choice. Still, it affects your paces and effort level, especially when it rears its ugly head again in October.

      • wanderwolf says:

        I know what you mean. It’s very similar here in south Florida. Though, we got lucky this past weekend with the humidity.
        It will dry up soon enough, though!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        Yuck- I can’t even imagine in South Florida. We went to MIA a few years ago to take a cruise in October and it was incredibly hot and humid. I didn’t run as much back then, and I can’t imagine running a lot outside in SoFla.

  6. Congrats on the awesome race, the course PR and placing in your AG! Also awesome that your run was 79 seconds faster than last year. This looked like such a fun race!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Not every race will be a PR, but when a course is difficult, a course PR is worth it!

      It’s a lot of fun every year. Since it’s not tourist season, it primarily attracts locals, but this is a good one for out-of-towners to do if they were looking for a race. The field is much smaller than the bridge run and to me, less crowds make it more fun.

  7. Angela says:

    Well Done Amy!! Sounds like such a fun day and a great race! Love your friends y-shirt and wow she’s due in a week

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- it is the best t-shirt ever with Halloween right around the corner. We’re also thinking it may be a Halloween baby, you never know (That would make birthdays fun!).

  8. Angela says:

    Or T-shirt rather!

  9. Christine says:

    Great recap, Amy! I plan on coming back for this race next year. I just didn’t feel like racing two weekends in a row this year. Last year’s weather was terrible! Glad you guys had better weather this year. I do dislike the lack of a timing mat at the beginning. I had no idea that was the case with this race last year and started way, way back since it was my first 10K just a few months post-baby and I didn’t know what to expect, but it seriously added a lot of time to my overall finish time. I’d have started closer to the front had I known that.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      That happened to me the first year I ran this race, when I ran the 10K. I wouldn’t have won an award anyway, but it did add some minutes to my time. USATF uses gun time for awards, so I try to get as close as possible for races where I might place. I don’t like to be on the very front row, though- that’s usually a recipe for me to go out too fast ;).

  10. thisrunnersrecipes says:

    Congrats on a course PR and second in your AG! That is adorable how they gave the dog a medal!

  11. Laura says:

    Sounds like a great day overall, great running and friends and post race swag and party. I love those days, just really get to celebrate running and friends and awesome community that running can bring:)

  12. Loved this recap and of course the pictures!!!!
    I’m going to sign up next year for this race, as it looks like a challenge but fun and scenic.
    oh and I learned he hard way that gun time and not chip time determines awards through USATF. When i lived in VA,I thought I had won 1rst in a race and ended up placing 2nd by less than a second.
    So yeah, for the smaller races, im right up front..
    : )
    anyways, I hope the rest of your week goes well and that you decide to jump in on a race this weekend!!

  13. Great review, you are so lucky not to have hills to deal with normally 🙂 I think I’d still be there eating hot dogs and beer if I had done it ha.. It’s always cool to hear about races that let runners take their dogs.. I did it a few weeks back, great fun for him 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I feel like every area has some equalizer. We don’t have hills here, but we do have crazy humidity. Plus if you race here, you’re not likely to encounter many hills (at least not enough to train specifically for them).

      A few weeks ago I did an easy 5 miler in NC when visiting our grandparents. My pace was a little faster than my usual 5 milers here in Charleston.

      NO HUMIDITY.

  14. Elizabeth C. says:

    Looks like such a fun race! As always, I’m a bit envious of the wonderful close-knit running community you have there. A course PR is amazing! And you learned that for hill running, it’s best not to look too far ahead. I like to break hills into chunks. I look about 10-15 feet up the hill, focus on that spot, get to it, and then pick another spot. Anyway, sounds like a great time and your pictures look amazing.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I think it’s a big mental thing with hill running. My goal for B2B is to not look at the hills ahead and let that freak me out. I’ve learned from this race that I’m a good hill runner, I just need to be more confident about it.

  15. Wonderful recap, as usual! You really rocked this race, in my opinion!! Especially with some hills! I’m glad you were able to do one of your favorite races again!

  16. LilMysNinja says:

    This makes me miss blogging even more!! I really should figure out how I can manage my time to get back to it. It would be fun to chronicle Elijah’s adventures in racing with me. He’s even more popular than me! LOL! I was wearing a race t-shirt the day I took him to the vet and this lady in the waiting room asked me how I did at that race and I said we loved it and that Elijah ran with me and we placed 1st in my age group. Her jaw dropped and said I KNEW THAT DOG LOOKED FAMILIAR!! I saw him there! Funny…he was attached to my hip yet he’s the one they all saw. Lol!!

    I had a blast at the James Island Connector and am so glad that I finally did it this year! Elijah and I will be back next year for sure. It was great seeing you Amy!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was great seeing you too Maria! You should get back into blogging because I miss reading yours. Even if you just write maybe a few times a month it would be a great way to remember your races and your runs with Elijah. Don’t feel like you need to review products or try the latest and greatest thing or be one of those “big time” bloggers- just do it for YOU and the people that will loyally read :). I agree it does get stressful with work, life, and writing posts so I don’t write as much as I’d like to.

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