Except for the Bagel Run.
I found this little event hosted by the JCC, Jewish Community Center, and the website noted age group divisions and an awards ceremony but nothing about chip timing. I emailed the listed contact to ask, feeling both hopeful and doubtful, and I received a response to the affirmative! I quickly registered and was doubly delighted at the $20 registration fee and close-to-home (compared to most races) event site. I usually expect to pay double or triple that for a 10k.
Sunday morning I got up early and got to the JCC with about 20 minutes to spare, having already done early packet pickup, meaning I already had my race t-shirt, bib, and timing chip in my possession and only had to line up when I arrived.
Standing in a crowd at the start line, I listened as the announcer explained that 10k runners would be running a double loop on the course and need be careful to cross the timing mats but not the 5k timing mat, and I couldn't see him from the middle of the crowd or understand what he was pointing to, so I just had to hope that volunteers and/or signs would be there.
We started out in a big crowd all together and enjoyed a nice downhill slope for a block or so at the start. I was irritated that walkers were mixed in with all the runners, because it was crowded and I was trapped behind a lot of them. It's one of my top peeves and dangerous not to separate walkers from runners at events.
We thinned out and as a volunteer called out the time at the 1-mile marker, I realized I'd been going much too fast, but fierce uphill running for the next mile and a half straightened me right out. It was horrible. It was a little over 70 degrees with 95% humidity, my joints ached from running the days before and now on concrete, and I hated every step. There was a sizable bruise on my inner thigh from the previous day's mud run that stung every time my other leg brushed it, which would be a LOT over the course of 6.2 miles. I hadn't brought music, so I hunkered down and embraced the suck, focusing on my form and breath.
As I passed a pair of women walking their 5k*, I overheard one ask the other, "So what's up with those toe shoes? Aren't they, like, really bad for you?" and her friend responded, "Yeah, they are really bad for you. There are all kinds of lawsuits over it." I muttered to myself and kept running while they walked comfortably. Much as I wanted to hang back and correct the ignorami, I had a serious time goal to keep.
Later on, a pair of runners drew up beside me and one asked me jovially, "Have you heard you might be getting a refund on those?" I said, "Yeah, looking forward to buyin' even more of 'em." They laughed and we bantered about the hills briefly before they passed me.
So much suck
As I approached the 5k finish line, I heard the announcer calling out that the second place 10k runner was just finishing before I even got there. Wow. Fortunately, there were clear signs directing 10k runners around the timing mat and on to the second lap.
And then I was alone.
The final numbers aren't online yet, but it appeared that 95% of the participants were running 5k or less. It was just me and the cops and cones from there. After a long block, I drew up to a runner and passed her near the first water station. In the fourth or fifth mile, I passed a man and two women who were decidedly walking all the hills while I slog-jogged up them. After mile marker 5, I caught my second wind and picked up the pace to the end, passing one more woman and approaching another man who was still going strong.
I made my walk breaks shorter and took one more just before the final stretch but cut it especially short when I saw the pair of women I'd passed drawing up behind me and a third as well. I ran all the way to the finish, miserable, hot, dripping sweat, and certain I'd failed to make my goal. But when I glanced up at the clock, I broke into a huge grin at seeing one-some-teen, and the folks at the end cheered me as I finished. I was handed a red carnation and cold water, and I walked the length of the parking lot to cool down without puking.
I went for an orange just in time to see the child in front of me sneeze full-on the tray of oranges, so I plucked one from another tray farther away, shaking my head. I usually take off right after a run, but the announcer announced that he'd be announcing the 10k awards in about 5 minutes, so I hung out to cheer with everyone else and welcomed the opportunity to sit briefly.
"And the third place 10k Female 20-29 finisher is Mow-neeqwa Pahlit!"
"Wait. Wut?!" I actually said as I dragged myself to my feet and shuffled over to the awards table as quickly as I could. Then they couldn't find my trophy. It appeared that the 5k 20-29 third place finisher had taken my trophy by mistake! I posed for a photo with the 5k trophy, and the race organizers took down my info to mail me a corrected plaque, saying they might even personalize it with my name.
I've never placed at an event before! If I'd thought to sign up for the Barefoot division in the 2011 Merrell Down & Dirty, I would have placed third among females, but that doesn't really count. I wanted to downplay this achievement since it was such a small field, but I was in a lot of pain and really did earn that beast. Most races use five-year age-group divisions, so placing as a 27-year-old among the 20-29s is no small feat, especially since all the women I passed in my second lap looked to be in that range as well.
Freaking awesome. 1:18:23 is not exactly impressive, but it's 12 minutes faster than I could do last year, and I look forward to training and returning to this event next year.
*Not that I would ever shame someone for walking a 5k, only for being ignorant and suggesting loudly that my chosen footwear was injurious as I passed them like a BAWG.