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.
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.
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.