“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'” – Peter Maher, Canadian marathon runner
For the past few summers, my training has basically been “racing myself into shape”. I ran numerous 5K races, often two in the same week. Last May, I ran five races- four 5Ks and one 10K- followed by three 5Ks in June.
After playing injury whack-a-mole in late 2016 and early 2017, I decided to limit my racing this summer and focus more on staying healthy. I set a goal to run a race each month this summer, enough so I don’t forget how but not so much that I get burnt out before the cooler weather this Fall.
I learned about The Big Run 5K and loved the concept. The Big Run is a series of 5Ks sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports and Brooks Running and held all over the US on June 7, 2017- Global Running Day. The race’s theme was Locally Run, Nationally One, to unite runners across the country by running 5Ks at the same time.
Fleet Feet Sports Mt. Pleasant and Summerville don’t disappoint when it comes to events, so even though this was an inaugural race, I knew they’d do a fantastic job. With so many national sponsors, the race also offered great swag- a soft cotton t-shirt, stylish beach bag, and a cool finisher’s medal.
Since race day fell in the middle of a rainy week, everyone was on-edge about the weather. Every weather outlet showed high chances of rain, including thunderstorms, but Fleet Feet insisted the race would go on. Several runners I knew who were registered opted to pick up their packets early and not even chance it. I’d already paid and couldn’t bear the option of another DNS after Myrtle Beach and Catch the Leprechaun, so I vowed to run unless the race was cancelled. Only lightening/severe storms cancels races, not rain.
My “A” goal was to run a sub-22, since my Run Like a Mother 5K in May indicated that I could. If we had a torrential downpour, my plan was to run easy, celebrate Global Running Day with friends, and sign up for another race on Thursday or Saturday.
I arrived at Riverfront Park, warmed up with two miles ,and didn’t feel so great. My legs felt the last week of running and fatigue from Monday’s speed workout. Also, North Charleston has a paper mill nearby, and it is not a pleasant scent when it rains.
The weather didn’t feel like Charleston in June, and you know you’re heat acclimated when 66 degrees feels cold. It started raining about five minutes before the start, and it was just heavy enough to make me put my iPod in my pocket so it wouldn’t get destroyed by rain.
The race started on time and rather abruptly- my Garmin was barely synced and ready to go. Everyone took off super fast and passed me by, just how I hoped they would so I could get a psychological boost when passing them on the course. The course had some gravel and a lot of turns in the first mile (6:55). Given the cooler temperatures, I felt okay. Noisette Blvd. was straight road, and I ran alongside another man and behind a pack of guys until I passed them right after the mile marker.
We made a few more turns, then back onto Noisette Blvd. At this point, other runners were nearing the turn around point and a few of them cheered for me, giving me a big boost. At mile two (7:02), I saw the second place lady, Morgan, ahead of me but knew I’d be hard pressed to catch her. I passed two more guys but was starting to feel a little gassed.
Turning toward Riverfront Park, I felt the headwind coming off the Cooper River. While the wind beat me down, I had no one to chase down- Morgan and another guy were well ahead of me. Toward the end of Mile 3 (7:19), the course was gravel, rocks, and a bit of slick mud, and I felt the slowdown. The last mile had a lot of turns like the first mile.
I heard Brian, who I met at a Blue Sky Endurance group run last winter, behind me encouraging me, telling me to speed it up. I knew the home stretch of the race was paved, so I gave everything in the tank. Amazingly, I had something left and ran the last .17 at a 6:38 pace. Thanks Brian, even if you did beat me by a second at the finish.
I finished in 22:28 and placed third female overall.
After the race, I cooled down with Bill and Billy (who won) and talked to the other ladies who I ran near to congratulate them and chat. We waited on the awards ceremony and enjoyed the food trucks and post-race refreshments from BJs Wholesale, which just opened in Summerville.
It started pouring rain toward the end of the race, so a lot of runners headed home to beat the weather and because it was getting late (this was a Wednesday night race that started at 7 PM, so it was late for anyone with a significant drive home). The rain started coming down in sheets and flooded the shelter.
I was glad the rain wasn’t terrible during the run, but I felt sorry for the Fleet Feet employees, timing crew, and volunteers who had to dissemble the finish arch, banners, clean up, and load up in that wet mess.
I was disappointed in not meeting my sub-22 goal. I logged 3.17 miles for the course and had an average 7:04 pace according to my Garmin. Still, your race finish time is what your chip logs, not what your Garmin says when you reach 3.11 miles. The course length is what’s designated by the USATF Certification, not what your Garmin reads post-race.
Above all, I decided NOT to beat myself up over this race. I took a risk registering early. I showed up on race day when many runners opted to pick up their packets and not run. I ran the race coming off a 47 mile week and a speed workout two days before. After smelling paper mill on my warmup and the rain starting five minutes before the race, I started the race when I could have gotten in my car and gone to the gym to treadmill/tempo.
Starting a race when you know it will not be your best performance takes guts, and many runners would’ve opted out. Many did, and I’m proud I didn’t.
I may not be happy with my time, but I was healthy enough to run it and earn an awesome finisher’s medal. The finisher’s medal art represents the running community, from stroller runners to awards, to “the wall” and even a smelly porta john- who can’t help but smile?
Race Name: The Big Run 5K
Location: North Charleston, SC (Riverfront Park).
Date and Time: June 7, 2017, 7 PM.
Course: Flat road, gravel trail, curvy course, shade closed course. USATF Certified.
Swag: Soft cotton shirt, backpack, finisher’s medal for all runners.
Post-race Food: Trail mix, granola bars, bananas, apples. Food trucks on site, but not included with entry fee.
Weather: 66 degrees, 88% humidity, 12 mph winds.