For me there are 2 types of 5k races. Those that are more serious races and those that are more fun events. The former tends to draw in local regular runners and some of the more “elite” athletes. The latter usually has more families with children as well as people new to the road race scene.
I am a self proclaimed road race snob in that I typically do not participate in 5ks just “for fun”. If I am going to train for an event as well as pay money to participate in it, you better believe I am out there to compete. For this reason I have never participated in a turkey trot, color run, etc.
That being said I knew when I signed up for the Glow in the Grow 5k this past Fri. night it was going to be an event geared towards more of the fun crowd than the regular runner crowd. I was ok with this for several reasons. 1 – I did not need to be overexerting myself in a highly competitive race less than a week and a half before my half marathon. 2 – I knew I could push myself and make the race a good speed workout without feeling pressure to run a certain time. 3 – A race at night on a glow-stick lighted trail genuinely sounded fun!
I made sure to dress for the occasion wearing white shorts over my running leggings and a neon yellow shirt. I added two glow necklaces and a glow bracelet on each wrist as well as a running headlight worn around my midsection. Warming up it was fun to see all the other participants decked out equally in glowing lights. There were about 150 total participants but it was easy to pick out who was there to run a serious race and who was there just to enjoy the event. For example there were 3 or 4 members of the Spring Grove cross country team who lined up right at the start line. Normally I line up near the middle of the pack but given the nature of the race I lined up rather close to the front. This turned out to be a smart move as I didn’t have to dart around anyone at the start.
The air horn signaled the start of the race at 6:45pm. The course traveled along the road for less than a block before turning into the Hanover Trolley Trail. The gravel of the trail made it a very comfortable course albeit slightly tedious when I began noticing tiny gravel fragments in my shoes. The highlight of course was the large glow sticks placed every few feet. Within the first half mile there was also a black light spot where volunteers tossed neon pieces of confetti at each runner. The trail gradually inclined most of the way out to the turn around but having ran so many tough hills over the course of my training I felt like I was cruising along. While I didn’t want to set any firm goals for the race since my main goal was just to use it as a fun speed workout, I did want to run it in less than 27 minutes. My first mile was an 8:40 which was much faster than I expected and the second mile was a few seconds faster than that. The temperature was great though it was misting just enough to feel as if my hands were being stung at times. I was just grateful it didn’t begin to seriously rain as I hate running in heavy shoes.
Some people do not care for out and back courses as they find them boring, but one of the aspects I enjoy about them is the ability to see the other runners. I yelled “Good job” to the first place male, one of the Spring Grove cross country runners, who had quite a lead over the next male runner, his teammate. I saw a few females ahead of me and decided to see how many I could catch until the end – proof that I cannot NOT race, the competitor in me always says to go get them. The last mile being all a gradual downhill I was literally flying. My left calf was telling me to err on the side of caution though, pulling just enough to tell me not to try all out sprinting. I was grateful to have borrowed my head’s head lamp to wear as the trail was so much darker on the way back even with the glow lights. I was only able to see one young boy a few feet ahead of me. When we got back onto the road I was able to see that I was approaching the 26 minute mark and determined to stay under that I picked up my pace just enough to finish in a 25:54.6. My last mile had been an 8:08 which was the fastest mile I’ve ran since I began training for the half. It made me wonder just how fast I could run a single mile in right now.
Having passed all but one female I was fairly certain I would be getting an award. After waiting nearly an hour (the only downfall to so many people choosing to walk the 5k vs running it) for everyone to finish and the awards to start I came to find out that they were only giving out awards to the top male and female in each age group. The overall female who won just happened to be in my 30-39 category. Every race I have ever competed in always pulls the top male and female out to give separate awards which had they done this I would’ve won my age category. I was a bit disappointed by that, but I still got a rather nice long-sleeved tshirt, 2 pens, a magnet and hand sanitizer all for the $15 race fee.
The Glow in the Grove 5k turned out to be a fun confidence builder heading into my taper week for the half marathon. It proved that I have more speed than I tend to realize. It also helped get some of the pre-race jitters out of my system. Less than a week to go!