I did it again this year. Kristen’s workplace pays for an employee and “a friend.” Husbands apparently count as friends for this purpose. So, it’s free. I like free.
I ran the 25K run (approximately 15.5 miles).
In case you were wondering what that’s like, I’ll go over the key features here:
Friday, May 9: Packet Pickup
Packet pickup is where you pick up things like the chip they use to track when you cross the start or finish line. Also, you get your “bib”–the piece of fabric that has your number on the front. Despite the name, it is too small to protect your clothes from messy eating.
Packet Pickup is something of a runner’s convention. In the larger races (like this one), you’ve usually got a massive room filled with booths. They’re usually for other races, shoe companies (Adidas, Puma, New Balance…), medical personnel (chiropractors, sports medicine, physical therapists) and in the case of this race, Smuckers. I have no idea why.
You’ve also got a stage at the front where people are being interviewed about their training techniques and racing tips. Directly in front of the stage, they held a pasta dinner–which Kristen and I skipped. We went to Ming Ten (sushi, Chinese, and Korean buffet).
Lining Up for the Race
Lining up is an event in itself. Figure you’ve got a few thousand people on the ground. All of them need to line up. They stagger people by race and by speed. In this case, they started the 10K runners at 7:30 am, the 25K wheelchair racers at 7:50, the 25K runners at 8:00 and the 5K at 8:10.
To line up, you need to either be there early enough that there’s not much of a crowd or push, push, push till you find an open gate and can step onto the street. Last year I was late enough that I had to literally squeeze through the fence to be on time. This year was no problem as I got up at 5:45 am.
The street was almost empty as I got on it (the 10K runners had left) and I had 30 minutes to kill. Here is how I spent my time:
20% Thinking about how cold my fingers were
20% Finding the runners who intended to run 9 minute miles
50% Wondering why exactly I was doing this again
It started like every other long race–slooooowly.
When you’ve got a few thousand people on the road, the starting gun/air horn goes off and the people in the front start running. The people behind them start shuffling while the people after them continue to stand in one place.
It can take five or ten minutes just to get to the starting line.
Mile 1: Once we’re started, I decide that my plan is to stay next to the official pace setters for my mile pace. That way I would definitely make my goal time. One of the two pace setters intends to go faster during the last few miles. The other plans to keep a steady pace. I decide to follow the former.
Mile 2: I bump into a volunteer handing out Gatorade at an aid station. Now there is Gatorade on my shoulder and arm.
Mile 3-4: Nothing worth mentioning happens, but it feels good to run.
Mile 5: Melissa, the pace setter I decided to follow goes much faster than the other one. I lose track of her, but decide it’s okay since she doesn’t seem to be following a 9 minute mile pace anyway.
Mile 6: Melissa reappears behind me with a few other people from the 9 minute mile group. How did I get ahead? I decide to try to stay with them.
Mile 7: The turnaround point. We cross the Grand River and start back. Melissa and a couple other people get ahead of me. I never see them again.
Mile 8-11: Hills suck.
Mile 12-14: I begin counting down the miles, knowing that it will be over soon. Confusingly, there are still signs from the 5K up. At one point I see that I have two miles to go. Then I see that I have two miles to go again. This is very demoralizing.
Mile 15-15.5: The other 9 minute mile pacesetter (I didn’t catch his name) passes me. I consider trying to stay with him, but just don’t. He runs at a 7:30 mile pace normally. It’s just not worth it. I do push myself a little during the last half mile, but not to the extent I thought I would earlier. I’m tired.
Finish: I finish at 2 hours and 22 minutes according to the clock, but according to the chip (which takes account of the actual time I passed the start) I have a 2:20:01 time–an almost perfect 9 minute mile pace.
After the race, I passed in my chip, collected my medal for running, and ate some watermelon and oranges. I considered getting free beer at the beer tent, but didn’t have an id with me. I got Pepsi instead. In the end this was okay. I like micro-brews and darker beers. They had Michelob Ultra. To be honest, I don’t particularly like that beer anyway.
At that point I left for my car. So I’m done–at least for this year.