Race Recap: The Great Human Race 10k

Posted: 10/22/2012 in 10k, Race Recaps, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I don’t know where to begin on this one. So, jumping right on in, I’ll say –

Race Directors take note: This one got it 100% right. 

If you are a small race looking to attract more people, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. Because I know (1) that I will probably sign up for this next year if the set up is the same and (2) I will be talking this race up to my running friends. In the running community, word of mouth ( & blog recaps!) can be pretty powerful for encouraging or discouraging attendance. 

First off, the race started at 10am – that extra hour (most races start at 9am around here) on a chilly October Sunday morning was nice. Same day packet pick-up was the only option, so I planned to get there @9:15. I parked easily and started to walk over to what was obviously the race pavilion when the sounds of a steel-drum calypso band fired up. A good calypso band! Way to start off a Sunday morning on a fun note! Maine was going to meet me for this run & I caught sight of her blond-headed toddler rockin’ it out to the music. Easy to park – easy to find the race set up – easy to find my friends – good, fun music. WIN!

As I walked into the pavilion, a volunteer directed me to the pre-registered line, which was moving pretty quickly. The volunteers seemed to have it in gear as there were side tables set up to handle same-day registrations & a separate table for I guess what was a groupon deal registration. Well-organized, competent, and fast-moving packet pick-up. WIN! 

The speediness of that left me plenty of time to go jam out with Maine’s little boy before his 1k fun-run – which was BEFORE the adult race. WIN! I always feel bad for parents when they put the fun runs after the adult run.  He did awesome with his two-year old self, and I kid you not – even as the youngest kid there – he sprinted the finish! With determination on his face and his eyes on the lady holding the medals! Hilarious!

Then we moved on over to the start for the adult run – which was going to be an out & back on the loop at Lunken. I’ve written my thoughts on running at Lunken before.  The path at the opening was a bit narrow – which was why all the runners looked at each other like WHAT DID HE JUST SAY? – (and this would be the only point where I would say maybe they had it 99.9% right and not 100% right) when the announcer said 6-8 minute milers & 13 minute miler SPEEDWALKERS should all be at the front.  Huh? Never ever ever ever heard that one before – putting the speedwalkers up front so that all the runners will have to pass them on a narrow path. What? And yes, I did question him on it.  He was not happy that I did and said it was a USTF rule that speedwalkers had to be up front too. Oh well – guess it’s time to brush up on my USATF rules. I’ve never been at race where that was suggested seeding. So yes, I spent the first half-mile working my way around walkers. There’s that.

But then I started to see the quotes about fighting intolerance & hate that they had posted along the 5k route. Lunken is pretty, but can be a very boring run – so having something to read and think about was nice. NICE TOUCH GREAT HUMAN RACE!

It’s one thing to have the pre-&-post race set-up done well, but we all know, sometimes you get out on the course & realize all the energy was spent on set-up, while not much thought was given to support on the actual run. Especially when there’s a 5 & 10k. Sometimes they set up well for the 5k and then just assume that those 10k runners will be fine for that 3 miles in the middle – they’re used to running that far, right? We don’t need to do much for that. That was NOT the case here. I’ve mentioned before that Lunken does not have a water source. Well, they’d trucked out water to set up two well-stocked water stops along the way. One that you would hit twice on the out and back 5k and another just before the 10k turnaround – so that you’d actually run by that twice as well. Four opportunities for water! WELL DONE GHR! WELL DONE! There was a very clear large mile marker at each mile along with a volunteer shouting out times (even nicer since I didn’t choose to wear my Garmin),  there were cones & volunteers at each turnaround, and the water stops were well prepared with plenty of cups ready to go.

As for my own race –

I PR’D THAT SUCKER BY 4 MINUTES & 27 SECONDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I KNOW! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER!

Just like last week, I didn’t feel particularly strong for the run, but just raced it very steadily and really worked hard on controlling my pace & effort. Seems like I’m finally starting to get the hang of this pacing thing all you other runners talk about! Really proud of how this run went!

I shook out the cobwebs for the first mile & promised myself that I was going to get to the 10k turnaround without intervalling. I did that last week for the Cyclone run, so I should be able to do that for at least the first half of this one, right? And gradually, I ticked it off – the 1 mile marker told me that I had my first mile at the same race pace for the Cyclones run – nice! Seeing the first water stop set up made me smile. I crushed the only hill there is on that run – a short steep incline. Back in January, I had set a goal time & goal pace for a 10k that was a 4-minute shave off my 2011 best time. At mile 2, I was right in line with my goal pace. Then it started to feel long. Most people had separated off at the 5k turnaround, so it started to get lonely on the back half. I later found out that only 36 people went the 10k distance out of 160 participants. Maine was about a block-length in front of me & I was working hard to keep her there.

Then I asked myself, “what would Steena do” to stay interested? She had suggested focusing on passing the person in front of me – one person at a time – as a way to stay engaged, but that wasn’t going to work here. The closest person would require some sprinting & I just didn’t have that in me without it sending me into a crash. So, how could I make up a game here? At that point, the first male runner came by – so I decided to start counting the females coming back until I hit the turnaround. That way I would know where I was in the pack. This worked wonders! I came into view of the water stop at mile 3 – where I was still in line with my 5k time from the Cyclones run – and the turnaround. I was able to yell over to Maine that she was 7th or 8th female. I myself was in the #10 spot & for the first time, I became aware of how close some other females were on my heels.

Now it was time to start ticking off the back half of the race and see how long I could go without an interval. Somewhere before mile 4 I got passed by one woman, and then lost track of her. At mile 5, I was still making really steady effort but didn’t know if I would get all the way to 6 miles without stopping at least once.

Then, the race went Disney on me. Not dizzy. Disney.

People, I have a thing about birds. I really, really like the little birdies. I was pretty darn ecstatic to find I had a pair of yellow finches enamoured with my echinacea bed in late Summer. Getting the attention of a single hummingbird about gave me palpitations. I really, really like the little birdies.  So, as I was starting to falter after the mile 5 marker, a bright red cardinal crossed my path. I think of cardinals as good luck, so that made me smile. THEN I realized that there were 2 little yellow finches that were kind of cheering me on.  There was a large chain-link fence to the left of the path and they were fluttering from one part of it to another – about 10-15 feet in front of me. I would run 10-15 feet then they would move up 10-15 feet. Repeat. And keep repeating. I kid you not, this went on until they ran out of fence and dove into the grassy meadow to my right.  People, BIRDS WERE CHEERING ME ON.  ????!!!!????

Then right before the 6 mile marker, the girl that had been right on my heels at the turnaround passed me. And I thought to myself – “Okay. She’s worked hard. She should get the finish if she can beat me there.” Then I cocked my head to one side and went – WHAAAA? Where’d that thought come from? I’ve been working hard too & she’s been using me as her pacer for the last 3 miles. She’s gonna need to pick it up if she wants to beat me to the finish. And I pulled back up alongside her and then pushed harder. She picked it up for a second, but I put on a little more speed and put her in my tailwind, amping it up just a little bit more when I realized that I could very well hit my goal time if I tried. I haven’t been even remotely close to the hitting that 4-minute goal all year – and then Boom! There it is.  It’s funny what can make you dig just a little deeper even when you think you have nothing left in the tank.

Finally, the post-race banana & bagel fest. Cheesy as it’s going to sound – this is where the love put into this entire event came fully into focus for me. We all know post-race food – bananas & bagels in big cardboard boxes. Bottles of water that may or may not be iced down or pulled straight out of the plastic-covered cartons.  Well, for this race, someone – or someones – had taken the time to make a presentation of the bananas & oranges. The bagels were carefully laid out on platters with another tray of differently flavored cream-cheeses on ice next to them. There were paper plates & napkins & plastic knives for the spreads. All drinks were iced down and arranged well nearby.

Someone had really put a lot of effort into making sure the refreshment spread was beautiful. There was love in it. The kind of small detail, really care about making this nice, love. Palpable in the air. And when I noticed that – all of the rest of it came into clear focus. The number of volunteers and the amount of extra effort that this race put into making the runners feel cared about. I didn’t feel like a fundraising mechanism. I didn’t feel like I was a 10k afterthought to a 5k. I FELT CARED ABOUT. These organizers put love into organizing this race and you could actually feel it. I have to say – in dozens upon dozens of these things that I’ve done – feeling cared about in that way is a rarity. Have organizers tried to make it fun, have they tried to make it interesting, have they supplied enough? Yes. Most of the time. But to have they tried to make the runners feel cared about? I was a bit in awe of the experience once I let myself take that feeling in.

So I say again – Race Directors: If you have a small race & are looking to attract more people – THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! You start by caring. If the runners feel cared about, the rest of the fundraising will take care of itself. Personally, I know I will be talking this race up & putting it on my calendar to look for it again next year.

____________

Also, I normally focus more on the race itself than the organization hosting it, but I feel that the Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education needs a shout-out on this one. One, because they did put on a fabulous race set up and also, because they fight hate & intolerance. To me, anyone that fights hate & intolerance gets a thumbs-up. I am not affilitated with CHHE in any way, and frankly, I didn’t know it existed until I saw this race on an event calendar while looking for a race to do this weekend. I’m willing to venture that if they do something like a race, out of their comfort zone, well – they probably try to do a lot of other good things well too. Keep the world honest CHHE. We need that.

thoughts?

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