On Saturday, I closed out 2016 racing with the Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K, a holiday-themed race in Summerville. This was the third year of the race, and my third year running it.
The Cocoa Cup 5K is Charleston’s original hoodie run. The race features a $30 early entry fee that includes a Nike hoodie priced at $48. This proved to be a genius marketing move for Nexton, as you can find a Charleston runner wearing this hoodie at any given time. The hoodie gives this race thousands of running billboards, so it sells out each year. You can’t beat $30 for a 5K that includes a cozy warm hoodie, a finisher’s mug, and delicious hot chocolate.
The race course is around Nexton, a mixed-use living community just outside of Summerville, and is co-sponsored by Fleet Feet Summerville.
I left my home super early and got to the race around 8:15 AM for the 9:30 start. I already had my packet but wanted to beat traffic since last year’s race had some traffic issues. Aside from having to wait at the red light to turn into the development, which is always a long red light, all went well. Melissa arrived at 8:40 and had no issues getting in. Kudos to the race organizers for encouraging everyone to arrive early or carpool.
The weather warmed up a bit before the start time of 9:30 AM and conditions were absolutely perfect. Coming off the knee injury and little training (only 2 speed workouts), I knew it wouldn’t be a PR. It’s fun to dream, but I’m realistic with my training, so my only goal was to run faster than last Saturday’s Jingle Bell Run 5K.
I lined up about 2 rows back at the start and talked to a friend’s college-aged daughter. She was nervous about the race since she hadn’t run since finals, but she’s a super fast runner. I told her to consider it a very long taper and trust her training and the course (it’s a fast course). She ended up winning the race. Rest and being free from final exams are good things!
We were off at 9:30 AM sharp. The first mile of a 5K is a tough one to pace, and I saw a lot of 23-24 minute 5Kers around me. With my lack of post-injury confidence, I tried to stay ahead of them. A 23-24 minute 5K is great-and I’ve run many of them- but I hoped to run faster even coming off the injury. I wear a Garmin and I should probably look at it during the first mile (6:47) rather than trying to pace off those around me.
I focused on staying close to a few guys running near me in the second mile (7:01). I just wanted to feed off of their energy. I saw Noah and Miles at the water stop and they cheered for me, and several Nexton residents were outside their homes cheering for the runners. It was a nice touch. We made a loop in the neighborhood, then headed back toward the start.
By Mile 3 (7:11), the walkers were hitting the first mile and several were cheering for us runners and someone yelled Tiny Terror. Ray from Charleston Running Club was about 400m from the finish, and I heard him saying which way to go on the course (to the right, then turn left to the finish). Two ladies passed me right then, so I wish he’d told me to haul ass! Besides, I always look at the course maps ahead of time, and there’s no way for an age-grouper/mid-packer like myself to get lost in a big race.
I turned left and tried to focus on speed rather than the clock, finishing in 21:38. I was proud to see 21:XX and finish injury-free and surrounded by friends and training partners.
I didn’t have to wait long on my time because the race had live results thanks to Timing Inc. We were able to pull our times up on our phones. I’m sure this helped with traffic too, since people could leave without waiting on results or awards if they had somewhere to be on the Saturday before Christmas.
I met up with Melissa and Kerry and we cooled down, running by Melissa’s car then back onto the race course to cheer for the other runners. When we finished, we headed straight to the chocolate milk to fill up those hot cocoa mugs.
The post-race party had tons of hot chocolate and the fixings (marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles) as well as some other refreshments like bananas, oranges, and donuts. There were also activities for kids, a radio DJ, and ways to stay entertained while waiting on awards. None of the lines were too long, the race did not run out of water or cocoa, and everything went smoothly from what I saw. For placing in my age group, I won another pint glass to add to my collection.
Many of us a breakthrough race at the Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K, so it was fun being together one last time before everyone headed off for the holidays.
Although 2016 didn’t end the way I hoped it would with a goal half marathon, I have a lot to celebrate and loved seeing so many friends win awards, set PRs, or have a good “comeback race”. Nexton, Fleet Feet Sports, and all the volunteers hit it out the park with this year’s race, and I hope I can do it again next year, too.
Race Name: Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K
Location: Summerville, SC
Date and Time: December 17, 2016, 9:30 AM
Entry fee: $30-35
Course: Closed course, completely paved and through neighborhoods. USATF Certified- and 3.1 miles on the dot.
Swag: Brown Nike hoodie, orange finisher’s mug
Post-race Food: Hot chocolate, chocolate milk, bananas, oranges, smores, donuts, water
Weather: 50 degrees, 87% humidity, overcast and beautiful