Each year, the Race for the Ark 5K in Summerville marks the unofficial kickoff for Fall road racing in Charleston. It draws the 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 camaraderie of road races. Race for the Ark is the largest race in Summerville, and 500 runners in a race is a big deal for our small town.
Race for the Ark benefits The Ark of SC, a respite care program for Alzheimer’s patients. The patients visit the program, giving caretakers some time off to run errands, take care of household duties, buy groceries, get hair/nails done, or otherwise enjoy some personal time.
Several members of my family suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is an extremely sad conditions, and I’m sure that the caretakers appreciate the program and its services.
At the beginning of the summer, I set a goal to run under 21 minutes in this race. I’ve only run sub-21 once- the 2016 Green and Lean 5K– and I wanted to run sub-21 again to prove that was not a fluke. I ran 45-50 miles a week and did two workouts each week. I started out following a plan-in-a-can from a book, and when I couldn’t achieve the goal paces, fell off the plan. Overall, we had a mild summer in SC, but the last three weeks have been absolutely brutal.
With 90+ degree temperatures and never meeting my goal paces in workouts, I struggled to stay positive. I followed the plan for as many workouts as I could, but weather and life stress got in the way. The Wednesday night before this race, Melissa and I ran together and basically commiserated about how crummy running has been lately.
Some days, your race is doomed from the time you wake up. I was late getting out of the house, leaving my coffee sitting on the counter. On the drive to Summerville, I got stuck behind other cars driving slowly. I thought about how last year, the race began at 7:40 AM instead of the scheduled 7:45 AM. I was scared it would start while I was warming up or in the porta potty. I was also nervous about the 5K itself, since I hadn’t run a race since Race the Landing 5K six weeks before.
I was a ball of nerves at packet pickup (Erin and Rie saw me and can attest!), and I headed off for a solo two mile warmup because I needed to get it done quickly.
The 5K started promptly at 7:45 this year. I noticed the local cross country teams, most of whom start the race notoriously too fast, at the front and stayed a few rows back. After we started, I noticed some runners who I finish near in races and tried to keep one of them (Ruth Marie) in my sight. I passed some high school girls before getting stuck behind a wall of high school boys running together close to the first mile marker.
When my watch buzzed at one mile, I looked down and saw the split- 6:55. That was ten seconds off where I wanted to be to hit my time goal, and I knew I couldn’t make that up over the next two miles. I focused on gaining on other runners and passing them. I didn’t want to get passed by anyone who I passed. Thankfully, I didn’t.
I could tell I slowed down a little, but wasn’t sure how much until my watch buzzed at Mile Two: 7:10. Even though I passed many runners, I still managed to slow down by 15 seconds.
I was mentally done, but had one more mile to finish. In the last mile, I thought about my uncle who had Alzheimer’s disease as well as my coworker’s mother. I gained on a high school girl and ran side by side with her until we turned the corner at Mile 3 (7:08). I ran as hard as I could, hoping to at least finish under 22 minutes. I crossed the line in 21:58, just behind her.
Theresa got a picture of me finishing. I’m glad she didn’t capture my face.
It was a rough day for several of us. Tears were shed and hugs were given. I ate a few donut holes, lots of grapes, and smiled for pictures. I was unhappy with my performance but glad to be around my friends, especially those who I only see at races. I tried to remind myself that the patients and caregivers who benefit do not care how fast or slow anyone runs. They only care that runners and walkers show up to support the cause.
I placed in my age group and received a wooden Ark award to add to my collection. The patients in the program make these awards and that makes them special. Most of our Wednesday night crew did really well and many of us placed.
After the race, Melissa and I went to the Summerville Farmer’s Market with her kids. It was only one block away from the race, and the Farmer’s Market was full of nice, leashed dogs to pet and play with. We also took a detour to visit the World’s Largest Sweet Tea. It’s a bit hidden from the road, but a roadside attraction to seek out if you visit Summerville or want to be a tourist in your own town.
As runners and human beings, we have good days and bad days. Sometimes the bad days happen on race day. A bad race is like an injury, in the sense that others have theories on why your race went poorly (overtraining, undertraining, not running in the morning, training with others, training solo, etc).
In the moments after the race, that doesn’t matter- what you need is a hug and a recovery beverage, plus a few days to figure out what to do next. Sometimes the mental recovery is just as important as the physical recovery- and it’s time for me to recover and rediscover the joy.
Race Name: Race for the ARK
Location: Summerville, SC
Date and Time: August 26, 2017, 7:45 AM
Terrain: Paved, flat and fast road, closed to traffic. One strategically placed water stop- runners ran by twice and another water stop in Mile 2. USATF Certified.
Entry fee: $25 (advanced registration, no shirt), $35 (advanced registration with shirt), $40 (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, lanyard etc)
Post-race Food: Water, fruit, bagels, donut holes.
Weather: 72 degrees, 100% humidity, sunny.