I’ve always wanted to run a race on my birthday, and this year it was on a Saturday! I was headed home for the long Labor Day weekend, and as luck would have it, the Ellicott City Labor Day Classic 5K and 10K races (hosted by the St. Louis Knights of Columbus) were on my special day, less than a 5 minute drive up the road from my house at the Shrine of St. Anthony.
I was torn between running the 5K or 10K up until Tuesday or so of that week. I never thought running a 5K PR (a speedy 19:42 on an indoor track in college) would be possible, but that was pre-BQ and pre-getting my post-college butt back in shape. I’m super pumped to work on my speed and bust out some fast 5K times, and the first goal is to break 20 again. The last 5K I did was back in December in 21:12 although it was juuuust when I was starting marathon training and before I was really in shape. I freaked after Tuesday/Wednesday mile repeat attempts that were not anywhere close to the 3 x mile at ≤ 6:25 (20 minute 5K) pace and ultimately signed up for the longer 10K race.
I was excited to test my fitness, but let’s be real. I was more motivated by the swag. Winners and age group winners were promised Under Armour shoes (yes, you read that correctly!), and I was determined to make them mine.
Our pre-race dinner was not ideal. Hunan Manor, our fave Chinese place at home in Columbia, is always delicious, but, as we all quickly learned, not 12 hours before running a race.
The morning of, we got to the Shrine around 7:15AM to pick up our packets and warm up before the gun went off at 8AM (for the record, I don’t think there was actually a start gun). Angelica (my sister), Phil (my boyfriend), and I jogged around the Shrine, but we quickly lost Angelica and then I lost Phil, so I found myself warming up in circles by myself. I knew the area well because of growing up running and biking the same roads in high school and college, so I didn’t really take the time to look at the course map too closely. Somehow I forgot the area is super hilly!
I settled into a front-ish spot (behind men with shorter shorts than I have on, but in front of anyone with headphones) and took off! I sized up my competition a bit; remember, goal = shoes! The 5K and 10K have the same 3/4 mile start to the main roads, at which point 5Kers go left and the 10Kers go right. There were lots of women in front of me, and so I panicked a bit: if these were all 10Kers, birthday shoes will not be a thing! Luckily when the sea was parted, I counted only two women in front of me within striking distance. Sort of. Like, I could at least see them. If I squinted my eyes. Goodness, were they moving!
My goal going in was 42 minutes. And then the first set of hills quickly reminded me of what was in store for the next 5 miles. I told myself to relax and not to go out faster than 7:00 pace, but the pacing was not terribly consistent because I am a terrible hill runner (something happened to me between high school and college that made me pathetically afraid of hills…and consequently, I avoid them) and so I tried to maximize my downhills. I passed the petite woman I could have eaten for breakfast in second place without gunning too crazy and pressed on, focusing on the men and woman ahead. I eventually passed the number 1 woman, but she crushed me on the last mile and a half of killer hills and ended up beating me by a minute. (I complimented her on being a hill crusher after the race, and…**crickets** #awkward #waitwhat #sorewinner?) Still, I had an incredible morning smiling, thanking all of the volunteers, cheering for the other runners, and thinking how lucky I was to find so much joy in running and surrounded by people who equally love the sport. Angelica also got third woman overall in the 5K, and Phil finished up nice and strong, too.
I ran mostly with a young man with (forgive my, perhaps, political incorrectness) some degree of autism or developmental delay who was an incredible athlete. He would settle behind me, and I would encourage him to keep running faster. And then he would. Like legit just take off like a machine until I caught him half a mile later. The last half mile was just up up up hill to the finish line, and I happily crossed it just behind him. Even though this pic, according to my sister, makes me look like I’m excited to have beat him:
After, we enjoyed coffee, donuts, bagels, and all of the watermelon a girl could dream of! I felt deprived of my watermelon this year (I’m way too lazy/inept to cut it), and it was the greatest post-race birthday treat ever! I met new friends (Tammy was the 3rd place female and we chatted about our upcoming races), caught up with old ones (an old high school teammate and family members of old teammates), and took in the happiness around me that I was determined to bring back with me to school.
And then, there was the rest of my birthday with my whole family who had come home! I’m a blessed, lucky girl. 😀
Ellicott City Labor Day Classic 10K
Time: 43:46 (7:04 pace) was a PR!
Overall Place: 15/181
Gender Place: 2/93
Age Group (25-29) Place: 1/13