Guess who got to skip her lonesome 4-mile tempo run this week and instead jumped in the world’s most fun (if still slightly lonesome) 10-runner-field 5k! I was one happy runner – thank you rec center employee who thought “Hm, I should start a race series this summer”!
I spotted the race the day before thanks to a running club friend and quickly rearranged my training week to switch my workout day to race day because who the heck can turn down a $15 5k that promises to a) be flat and b) be followed by a “glowing party in the park”?!? My legs needed a turnover boost anyhow, so a shorter, more intense workout fit well into my plan for the week.
The race wasn’t until 8pm (in an effort to have it run under the nearly-full moon) so I spent the workday and afternoon hours leading up to it in slightly nervous, excited anticipation, trying to chill out since it was just a fun run and reminiscing a bit about the misery of evening-race jitters back in my college track days. It finally hit 6:30pm and I drove over to the park, figuring I could pick up my race number (if there was one), dink around the park a bit, and then warm up around 7:30. However, when I got to the park an hour before the scheduled start time, not a single runner or race volunteer was in sight.
After 20 minutes another gal from running club showed up and we nervously jogged around while scanning the vacant scene for our fellow attendees. We had almost given up hope that the race would run when we noticed a course marker and another runner looking just as confused as us. We clustered with her and continued our search for the registration/start area.
Finally, a few more reflective gear and glow-stick clad runners appeared, and the race director materialized from a nearby outbuilding to lead our very small, confused group to the super-official un-marked start line. Our warmup was long gone by the time the ten of us toed the line separating the brick pavilion patio from the asphalt running path, but we took off with happy hoots and laughter all the same. I had thought one of the guys in the group might prove to be a race-pace buddy, but instead found myself alone almost immediately.
I settled into a guesstimated 5k pace and shrugged off the little bubbles of irritation at having spent money on what was apparently going to be a solo workout anyhow. At least I had the race-day adrenaline boost, warmup buddies, a set course to test my fitness on, and fellow runners to exchange cheers with on the out and back course!
As usual in 5k’s, the first mile flew by, the second mile started to pinch a little, and the third mile was truly unpleasant with heavy legs and an uncomfortable stomach working to slow me down. I kept eyeing my watch, trying to keep the pace steady if not quite as fast as I had hoped. *Thankfully*, a small yappy dog helped me out in the last 800m by boosting my adrenaline at the thought of little snapping jaws and I hurried through the finish while desperately hoping not to hurl on the race director’s shoes.
Luckily the gurgles in my stomach subsided after a quick stumble to the nearest drinking fountain and I was able to cheer in my running club friends and fellow racers and they glowed their ways to the (also super official) finish line. Even though only a few of us had showed up the race volunteers revved up the smoke machine and laser light show so we got the full race afterglow party effect in the mostly silent, darkening park.
We may not have had any party music but our ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ at the dancing lights around the periphery of the park made for a festive atmosphere. The ‘oohs’ became extra exuberant when several bats flew through the light beams in search of insects! After a few group shots (hurrah for post-race jumping shots!) the group scattered off to search for warmer clothes, food, and sleep. I finished up with a couple solitary loops around the now dark park, enjoying the continued light show now glimmering over the smooth, moonlit park pond and serene park lawns. In spite of a bit of a rocky start and small field, we’d all gotten a great workout and I had experienced my first ever post-race lightshow – definitely more than worth the $15.
I’m so grateful to have ended up in a small town where the population is athletic enough that random weeknight 5k’s are a thing and volunteers still come out to host 10-person fun runs! Here’s to hopefully hopping in more little local races and getting back some semblance of 5k turnover.