I started running this spring. I had never been a runner before, but I went through the Couch-to-5k program and really enjoyed it. I ran my very first 5k (the Elgin Fox Trot) on Memorial Day and scored a 30:32 – far faster than any previous training run. I was thrilled, but at the same time, kicked myself since I was so close to breaking 30 minutes. I had gone into the race hoping to finish, but as it got closer, I started thinking about breaking 35 minutes, and settled on 33 minutes as my stretch goal.
Since then, I’ve been itching to run another race to break the 30 minute mark. I’m still running about 3 days a week (though the recent heat has kept me indoors more lately), typically about 4-4.5 miles.
I saw the Algonquin Founders’ Days 5k advertised mid-week. Yes, it would mean an early Sunday morning, but Algonquin’s not terribly far away. I actually considered biking up the Fox River Trail to the race (about 12 miles), running, and then biking home but decided that may be counterproductive if I wanted a good time.
Late Saturday, I made up my mind that I was indeed going to run the Sunday morning 5k. By that point, I was eating dinner and didn’t think about skipping that second glass of wine.
Sunday morning, I woke up nervous. Finally, after a week of blistering heat and Gulf-like humidity (and hence NO running), it was sunny, breezy and far less humid. I ate a frozen banana and a fig bar, and sipped my way through a jug of water. I drove up to Algonquin Middle School and registered. I vaguely knew that the course would run through the residential neighborhood bordering the school, then onto the Prairie Path (for the turnaround), and then back into the neighborhood.
It was quite a different set up than the Fox Trot. For one, there were 118 5k runners at Founders’ Days versus 810 in Elgin. Rather than timing loops on the shoes, there was one big clock, and we all officially started at once.
But the biggest difference was the silence. Along the Fox Trot course, nearly every block was lined with spectators, cheering and waving signs. At each mile marker, there were people with stopwatches shouting out times. Along the Founders’ Day course, it was eerily, Sunday morning quiet. There were a few sparse spectators, and at each turn there was a solemn-faced volunteer with a sign pointing the way. There were water stations – which I skipped, since I didn’t want to break my pace and I didn’t really need it – but even they were pretty quiet. And when we got to the Prairie Path, it was even quieter – just birds chirping, feet hitting the ground – oh, and bikers zipping by shouting, “On your left!” (The Path portion of the race also included people walking dogs.)
By the time I got off the path, I felt very drained, and there weren’t many other people around. Then The Hill started. At the start line, I had asked a couple other runners about the course. “Four hills,” one woman said, “But I don’t think they’re too bad.” The first three hills weren’t bad – relatively quick bumps. But this fourth hill comprised at least half a mile, right at the end of the race. It might have been longer than that. The worst part was you couldn’t see the top – it curved around, seemingly into the clouds. I finally succumbed and walked a block, confident that I was so slow that I was likely running a 34 or 35 minute pace. I shuffled a block, then walked another block (still going uphill). Nearly at the top of the hill, I started shuffling again, then rounded the corner and saw the finish line – and the clock reading 29:03. I took off as fast as my tired legs could carry me, racing to beat the 30 minute mark.
I ended up with a 30:12. Drat. If only I hadn’t walked those two blocks.
Even more frustrating, a woman who passed me as I was walking finished third in my division and got a medal. I ended up fourth (of 9) in my division, 75th of 118 overall.
So now I’m looking for another race – and this time I won’t dare walk even a few steps. Plus, I may do a bit of reconnaissance ahead of time so I know what surprises the course holds.
Any suggestions for a (preferably flat) 5k in the next few weeks?