I have been compiling a tentative 5K calendar because I want to race at least bi-monthly this summer. I rarely run sub-7 minute miles in training, so I’m hoping more frequent racing will double as speed work and drop my 5K standard below 21 minutes. This week, I decided to race the Dennis Spera Scholarship 5K in Williamstown, NJ, because it was the best local option that worked with everyone’s schedule.
As per usual, I was awake until 4AM the night before the race. I watched an Ironman documentary and ate a pint of ice cream with Ritz crackers. I wasn’t stressed about falling asleep. I’m so used to the AM zombie racing routine at this point that I actually felt pretty energized when my alarm went off at 7 this morning. I put on some Riff Raff and brewed a strong cup of hazelnut coffee. Then I opened the porch door. It was an absolute swamp outside. My weather.com app confirmed what I already knew; the humidity was 90%, which is not conducive to championship racing. I kind of just laughed it off and figured there was absolutely no way I would set a PR or even race to my usual standard. The good news? Humidity is one of running’s great equalizers, so everyone would be riding the same struggle bus.
Chris and I met Hollie at Owens Park. I warmed up for about a mile and felt pretty decent once my legs started moving. This 5K had 120-ish people and began on a paved route.
About 6/7 men, Hollie, and another female runner darted ahead of me at the start. I really wanted to finish second woman overall (and win my age category), so I passed the second place woman and hoped she wasn’t running negative splits. Because I certainly wasn’t. About 100 meters into the race, the course climbed some uneven cross country terrain before returning to paved trails/roads. I hit my first mile in 6:33. I hit my second mile in 6:57. Breathing felt like sucking hot soup through a straw.
There was a sidewalk turnaround somewhere between mile 2-3. Hollie cheered for me as she ran back from the turnaround and I managed to give her a weak thumbs up. After slowing down to make the turnaround myself, I kind of didn’t feel like speeding up again. At this point, I saw that the third place woman was far enough behind me that I wouldn’t have to work hard to maintain my lead. Mile 3 was uphill, with a headwind. I passed two guys who were breathing hard. Another woman cheered, “Keep going; you’re second woman!” I managed to give her a wimpy thumbs up, too. I slowed down a lot. I hit my third mile in 7:16.
There were 1 mile and 5 mile walking events being held at the same time as the 5K run. As I rounded the last turn towards the finish line, a girl I hadn’t seen on the 5K course darted out of nowhere and sprinted towards the finish line. All I could think during the last .1 mile was, “She cheated! She cut the course!” It wasn’t really one of my strongest finishes, because I was too preoccupied with strategizing how I’d (tactfully) explain to the race organizers that we had a major cheating situation on our hands. When I finished, I realized the girl was just an over zealous 1 mile walker. Settle down,
Larry David Liz.
Hollie and I went for a 2 mile cool-down jog after the race. It was totally relaxing and we had a really fun time chit-chatting. We arrived back at the park just in time to collect our awards. Hollie finished first woman overall, I finished second woman overall and first in my age category, and Chris finished first in his age category! I won a medal and $50 to the local running store!
Though this wasn’t my fastest 5K by far, I had a really great time. I’d been aching to run fast again since Broad Street. And racing is so much better with friends. When I got home, I did some porch yoga and drank a protein shake. I’m feeling strong, confident, and ready to race much faster next week. Hopefully the weather cooperates!