Race for the Ark 5K (21:20)

Each year, the Race for the Ark 5K in Summerville marks the unofficial kickoff for Fall road racing in the Charleston area.

I ran this race for the first time last year, and ever since, I’ve billed it as a race where you find out who has been running in the heat and humidity and who took time off. Every runner has good and bad days (sometimes race day is one of those days), but Race for the Ark is flat, fast, and shaded. It’s a USATF certified course and exactly 3.11 miles.


Race for the Ark draws a ton of local cross country runners for a team challenge, adults who work at area businesses that do the corporate challenge, and local runners who love the challenge and camaraderie of road races. It’s the largest race in Summerville, and in a small town, 500 runners in a race is a big deal.

With the course and crowd, Race for the Ark would be perfect for PRs, except this is August in South Carolina. It’s hot, but once again… the town of SUMMERville lives up to it’s name.


I got to the race early to pick up my packet and warm up. Even with a large number of runners, it’s easy to find parking at the lots for the churches nearby. I ran a 2 mile warmup on the course and saw some other runners warming up. The course marshals and volunteers were already there, and some of them asked me if the race had started or if I was warming up.

I assured them that the lead female would not be that far ahead of everyone else or running a 10 minute mile pace. Nor would it be me.

I PRed this race last year, but I was 90% sure that would not happen today. My goal was to beat last year’s time (21:55) and run a race time I was proud of. I didn’t feel 100%, but I reminded myself that I’ve had some good races on days when I did not feel my best going in- including my 5K PR and lone sub-21 5K at April’s Green and Lean 5K.

I went to the porta potty and found some friends at the start. That’s where my one and only complain with Race for the Ark happens- it started early. *Five minutes early.* A lot of runners were not ready and didn’t have their watches set. When the announcers started talking, Becky, Melissa, and I turned to each other and all said… they’re gonna start this thing early.


I’ve run a few races that started late, but I’ve never run a race that started early. Yes, everyone running should have been there and had their packets and bibs, but starting a race five minutes early is a big deal for runners who warm up, do strides, and make that last potty trip.

The Race

Among the high school kids, I thought back to my high school days. Today, I would represent those of us millennials who were nerdy, unathletic teens back in the 1990s and early 2000s. This technical writer was going to crush some high school kid dreams!

Once we were off, I settled into my own pace, even if it meant those dreaming high school kids were ahead of me. I knew I would catch and pass some of them later. I used to coach and remember how early-season high school kids race. One kid fell and got hurt at the start too. I remember this happening last year as well- I guess it’s just a casualty of having so many high school XC kids on a course lining up wherever they want to.


Someone was calling out splits near the Mile 1 marker and the split he called was a bit fast for me and before my watch beeped, but I ran a 6:49. I hoped I could hold on, because that pace would keep me under 21:30.

In the second mile, we ran through the strategically placed water stop (you pass it twice) and made a loop in a local neighborhood. I passed a pack of high school boys and stayed focused. If I can hold on to my pace for the first mile during mile two, I usually have a good race. I guess Mile 2 is my “make or break” mile in a 5K, and fortunately, I hit in in 6:54. I could live with that, but best of all, I could hold it for another mile.

I buckled down for Mile 3. I was determined not to let anyone I passed pass me back. I told myself that once I passed someone, I would only see them again when I turned around at the finish. During this mile, I thought about my uncle, grandma, and some family friends who suffered from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, since this race’s proceeds benefit those conditions. Those thoughts kept me going, and I split a 6:48 for Mile 3.

Approaching the finish, I saw 20 on the clock but knew I wasn’t close enough. The high school boy I passed close to the end outkicked me by a second, but he pushed me to a 6:28 “kick pace” for the last .11. I finished in 21:20 and placed 1st in my age group and 6th female OA.


Post Race

Most of our Wednesday night track crew ran this race and logged some good times. We had a lot of awards, a PR, and a few of us who ran our fastest 5Ks in awhile. Even a few of our track regulars who are training for Ironman triathlons came out to race and logged some speedy times in the middle of Ironman Wilmington training. It takes a lot of guts to race a 5K when you’re training for an IM!

After the race, I got a free massage from the MMTC students who were giving them out near the finish. This was a really nice touch because my left hip has been a little “niggly” since I got back from Seattle. They did a great job with the massage. I also hung out with Melissa, Larry, Becky, and some new people I met. We munched on fruit and donut holes and talked. We had to wait awhile for awards, but since this is the first race where runners have seen each other in awhile, we needed the time to socialize.



After every race, I try to think of what went right and what I can improve next time. The summer heat and humidity zaps a lot out of you, but I ran a strategically good race and stayed positive the whole time.

The only way I can think of to improve is losing the 2-3 pounds of weight from my Seattle Vacation. Racing weight really is a thing and I can tell if I’m heavier than I’d like to be. Time to get serious and cut back on Ben and Jerry’s!

Despite the heat and humidity, Race for the Ark 5K was my second-fastest 5K finish time ever. I ran a faster average pace at the Reindeer Run 5K, but I also logged a little longer for that one, so it was a slower finish time. Hopefully I’ll run under 21 minutes again soon.


Race Name: Race for the ARK

Location: Summerville, SC

Date and Time: August 27, 2016, 7:45 7:40 AM

Terrain: Paved, flat and fast road, closed to traffic. One strategically placed water stop- runners ran by twice.

Entry fee: $25 (advanced registration, no shirt), $30 (advanced registration with shirt), $35 (late/day of registration, shirt not guaranteed).

Swag: Reusable bag and gender-specific tech shirt (blue with stained glass art), gifts from sponsors (pens, post-it notes, etc)

Post-race Food: Water, fruit, bagels, donut holes. Not quite as much food as last year.

Weather: 70 degrees, 100% humidity, sunny.

This entry was posted in 5Ks, Race Recaps, Summerville, Summerville Running and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Race for the Ark 5K (21:20)

  1. Hollie says:

    It sounds like it was a good race for you. Honestly once the weather breaks, I bet you’ll be exactly where you want too.

  2. Laura says:

    I think I have done 1 maybe 2 races that have started early, I don’t like it! I remember one of them was last year and they started about 7 minutes early I was lucky I was at the start line but didn’t have time for strides or anything- definitely threw off my mental game a bit! Nice work adjusting to the early start, and the humidity- you’ve been training in it all summer so that pays off and like Hollie said once the weather breaks you’ll realize just how fit you really are!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I don’t know if they realized just how bad starting early could be. My friend got to the start when she heard the lady singing and if she’d continued her warm up, would have missed the start. Also a lot of people didn’t get to set their Garmins because they were trying to get signal really quickly.

      7:45 is already kind of a weird start time, so I hope they don’t start at 7:40 next year!

  3. Great race, Amy! I love reading 5k recaps. Reading this made me feel like running a RACE!

  4. You’re so close to breaking 21 minutes! Nice job on that one. Isn’t it funny how we often do really well when we feel like we’re not going to?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, most of my races have turned out like that. I think because I have no expectations and I’m more relaxed. I know I would be under 21 in better weather conditions- i have run it once and can do it again.

  5. ksquared says:

    Really well executed race, gotta love beating those HS boys! I can’t wait for the weather to cool down for you, I think you can take a lot of time off your PR in the cooler months!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I hope so. The main thing right now to me is to stay injury-free and not get burnt out. I know I have faster times in there once it cools down, but if I got hurt and couldn’t race, all the hard training would be wasted (well, not wasted, but the payoff for the hard work would be much delayed).

      • ksquared says:

        I hear you. Staying healthy is always goal #1.

      • Amy Lauren says:

        Agreed. I didn’t go from a 33 minute 5K in May 2010 to a 20:53 in April 2016 from any workout, plan, or pair of shoes… it was all from running consistently for 6 years (minus a month off for anemia and 7 weeks off for a stress fracture).

        I truly believe the lifetime mileage and “trials of miles” are the biggest keys to running success.

  6. Jeremy Kirkwood says:

    It was great meeting you in person at the race Amy. I pulled 3 1/2 minutes off my last 5k and by falls end I hope to be around the 22 minute range. Hopefully, I can get some training in with your squad sometime this fall. Great race summary.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was great meeting you too! You’re more than welcome to come out any Wednesday night (we don’t meet the 3rd Wednesday of the month, due to Fleet Feet Pub Run). I kind of want to set up some long run meetups this Fall too, since a lot of people are training for the Sweet Tea Half.

  7. KaraKara says:

    You’re so speedy! Congrats on an awesome race. Humidity is SO brutal…I swear my paces drop over 1 minute/mile when it’s humid out…(although I probably just need more mental strength when it comes to heat, too!)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- yeah all of our paces dropped off this summer. Almost everyone’s summer 5K times were a full minute or more slower than they were in the Spring. It is just the reality of the conditions though, and everyone slows down… everyone is running the same race course and distance. But if you run through it, it definitely makes you stronger for the Fall!

  8. GREAT job!!! Summer training is paying off!!! I’m looking forward to cooler weather so we can really test where our speed is!
    As always I really enjoy your recaps. (So glad I didn’t miss the start of the race!)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I am glad you didn’t miss it either! I did plug my result into the Jack Daniels temperature calculator and in “ideal conditions”, my 5K in 70 degrees would have been sub-21, at least :).

  9. Laura says:

    Congrats on a really solid race and pr!! Summer racing is so tough in the heat and humidity. You nailed it!

  10. Great race! Very nicely done. That summer training is already paying off! I see some PRs in your future 🙂

  11. Great race! It’s good to see your summer training paying off. Some of my races have massage people there and I’m always tempted to get one, but I never actually do it. I feel like I probably will during this training cycle, though!

  12. Amy, great race!! All of your training in the heat and especially humidity has resulted in great race times this summer!

  13. Congrats on beating your time from last year and running a really strong race. It’s great that your track friends were there too. I love it when massages are available post-race, although normally the lines are pretty long. Anyway, you are super TINY so no need to cut back on the ice cream! 🙂

  14. Great job on this race Amy! You can tell you sucked it up this summer in the heat too! Congratulations on your placing and beating your time from last year! 🙂

  15. tiarunnermom says:

    Congrats on your race Amy!! Looks like all your summer training is paying off!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Tia! I am hoping it will really pay off big time once the weather cools down… which unfortunately, has not happened yet. But I’m being patient and okay with that since I’m not racing very much until the Fall anyway!

  16. It’s tough to run such paces in SC in the summer. I hope you’re signed up for some October/November races to grab some PRs!

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