That Time I Won an Entire 5K Race: Help Henry See and Hear 5K Race Recap (21:50)

Cliff Notes:

I won my very first (overall) 5K race today!

Disclaimer: It was an extremely small, community 5K (24 people).

It was 90 degrees and I ran my 2nd slowest 5K time of the year.

I LOST MY CAR KEY about 20 seconds into the race. And then I found it during my cool-down jog!

Continue reading for the complete, harrowing tale of loss, redemption, and run #likeawoman glory!

Happy Sunday!

I’m having an extremely lucky day, as you can tell from my abridged race recap.

It was brutally hot this week and training has been extremely slow going. I ran 8-9 minute miles every day while taking in fluids every 1-3 miles. I’m so used to racing a 5K each weekend that I didn’t want to break my streak, even though this weekend’s weather forecast was pretty laughable. I picked a Sunday race because it fit best with my work schedule (I had tons of freelance work to catch up on yesterday). The Help Henry See and Hear 5K raised money for children with sensory disabilities, so I was more than happy to pay $30 (which is a little steep for a 5K race). The course ran a loop around the Cooper River, one of my favorite racing locations. It started at 9AM, which meant I got an extra hour of sleep, too.

“Faces of Waking up for a 5K Race”

This summer, I’ve been treating 5K races as workouts. It relieves a lot of pressure to focus solely on logging some fast miles vs. trying to smash records. Because the Cooper River course is notoriously long and local races aren’t very competitive, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever PR at one of these events, anyway.

I woke up at 7:15 this morning and did a little yoga/drank a lot of coffee before driving to the river. All my favorite 5K racing buddies were busy today, so I embarked on this race solo style.

Car says, “Hot.” Also: “Please dust me.”

I did a one mile warm up before heading to the starting line. I felt pretty relaxed, though I was already sweating through my tank top. I have no idea why I even wore a shirt. I tucked my car key into my sports bra, which turned out to be an unequivocally bad idea. I must have been feeling a little too relaxed.

The race organizer asked the faster runners to start up front and the slower runners to move towards the back of the pack. One woman was really nervous, because it was her first 5K race. She told us it has been one year since she beat breast cancer, which made me tear up. It’s really weird how you can feel so proud of someone you don’t even know.

A couple of guys and one boy started up front with me. I think it kind of crushed the boy’s self esteem when we took off and I immediately positioned myself in the lead. I could tell by his breathing he was trying really hard to pass me.

At this point, I felt something move under my shirt. At first, I thought it was a very large insect but it turned out to be my car key, which hit the pavement seconds later. I had a pretty good feeling I was going to win the race and I didn’t want to stop and pick it up… so I didn’t.

Obviously, the next 20 minutes were a blur. I was too busy strategizing how I would even get home if I couldn’t relocate my car key after the race. I’d left my phone in my locked car, so it would have been kind of hard to call for help. (Because this is 2015 and I don’t know anyone’s phone number.)

I hit my first mile in 6:22, which is a pretty typical initial 5K split for me. And then I got super hot/absorbed in the following thoughts:

“Did I even renew my AAA membership this year?”

“I wonder if AAA automatically renews itself.”

“I should look into that.”

“I could always call the police and maybe they could break into my car so at least I’ll have my cell phone.”

“If the police can break into cars, it’s probably pretty easy.”

“Now that I think about it, I must be lucky that no one has ever broken into my car.”

“I bet there’s an integrity algorithm that can predict how many people (out of x number of people at the Cooper River any given Sunday) would find my key and try to steal my car.”

“Probably very few people would try to steal my car.”

“If I had to choose, I would say people are mostly good.”

“Running is for optimists!”

“Maybe another racer picked up my key for me.”

“I would feel bad if someone stopped his/her race to pick up my key.”

“I’m winning!”

“It’s…. so….. hot.”

“I wonder how much of a lead I have.”

“Don’t turn around to look! That will waste too much energy and it is HOT.”

“Which junk drawer is my spare car key even in?”

“If I can’t find my spare key, how will I get a new key?”

“My car is so hopelessly old. Maybe they can’t even make a new key for it anymore!”

“I probably should have just stopped and picked up my key. I’m pretty sure I have a two-minute lead.”

“I wish I were enjoying this victory lap, because it will likely never happen again.”

I hit my second and third miles in 7:06 and 7:18, respectively.

While I was running, a group of women pushing their kids in strollers cheered, “You GO girl!” A bunch of guys doing plyometrics on the bleachers by the finish line rooted for me too. My final time was 21:50, which is slow relative to my recent 5Ks. But I think, considering the circumstances, this race was still a victory.

Here is finish line footage of my momentous victory:


After I grabbed a bottle of water, I jogged .5 miles back to the starting line and re-traced the first part of the race course. Lo and behold, my key was still there!

I received a gold medal for finishing first overall. Then I spent a few minutes chatting with several other runners about how much slower we all raced today because of the weather. (Truthfully, I was just glad to have finished and found my car key.)

To celebrate, I cashed in a free Starbucks drink coupon on what turned out to be the tastiest macchiato I’ve had in a long time. And then I bought two pints of ice cream, because I have a major ice cream problem.

Questions for the Internets:

Have you ever lost a car/house key while running?

If you dropped your car key during a race, would you stop to pick it up or keep going?

Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

Have you ever been the first overall finisher at a race?



Add yours →

  1. LOL, you could have just run to my house and I would have drove you home…lets hope that doesn’t happen again though ha ha. I’m really excited that you won.

    I have stopped during races to tie my shoe and also to use the rest room when the bathroom was too long. With shoe tying and picking up a key I don’t think you lose all that time. I’m glad it all worked though! Free starbucks is the best!


  2. Congratulations on your overall win and beating everyone including the guys! Even if it was a small race, you gotta play to win. You earned it so may as well own it, of all the ladies and dudes who could have come out and gave it a shot… you were the fastest person who did :).

    I have not lost my key during a race but I would stop to pick it up. I have volunteered on courses where runners lost keys and it is always a hot mess for the volunteers and organizers (because we nicely help them look). It happened to a runner a few weeks ago when I volunteered at a trail race. With phone numbers, I have thought of that too, so I have a Road ID with Clay’s number on it and just wear it all the time. I figure it works for emergencies but if something ever happens to my phone, I have Clay’s number on my Road ID. Funny thing is, I saw a $10 bill on the ground during a 10K once and I still regret not picking that up. I would love to experience the feeling of getting paid to run- and wouldn’t have lost much time.

    That Starbucks looks so delicious, and like you, I am also an ice cream addict. Tastes so good in this hot weather. Speaking of hot weather, I can’t believe they scheduled a race at 9 AM! Yikes.


    • Thanks so much, Amy! I actually don’t think I would stop to pick up $10 either. Ice cream has been extra tasty this summer! I have at LEAST 5/6 varieties in my freezer right now. I crave it pretty hard after a sweaty afternoon run or a late night gym sesh. 🙂


  3. GREAT job on your victory! I don’t care of there are 24 people or 2400 people – you WON and that’s AWESOME! Congrats 🙂


  4. Congratulations on your win! Who cares if it was a small race. If I won a race of 2 runners I would be happy! 🙂


  5. Jessica @ VEGGIE RUNNING MOMMA June 17, 2015 — 7:26 pm

    Woo congrats on the win.!! That’s awesome 🙂 still a great time considering the heat
    and I’ve never lost anything or had my shoe come untied. I would only stop for my shoe untied though.


  6. I am the king of losing keys (and pretty much everything else)… I can’t believe you found it – that must have been the best feeling in the world!! And congrats on the race 🙂


  7. Good victory for you, I wanted to do this race But I had the oddesy half the same day..
    I lost my spare car key thank God the window was slightly down. I managed to get my door unlocked.
    I have only been 1st overall twice in a 5k race and bothe those races my times were not great.
    The first was in Tucson Az 20:52.
    Second was this yet Cupid 5k race it was soo cold, 10 degrees out and my shoe came untied. Still won.21:50.
    Happy running


  8. Nice race you ran, it funny when it hot and I feel it take for ever to run a 5k,i to start to think about a lot that goes through my mine. Guess it kind a make the race go by fast,well sometimes it does..
    What a difference in your times a year ago makes, your much faster now then you were a year ago. It such a nice feeling to see the great results.
    Keep up the great work.


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