An unexpected irony of the marathon was that it made me want to run #ALLTHERACES pretty soon after the soreness went away, but after a few recovery weeks and a few back-to-training weeks, I didn’t feel ready to race. Especially a 5k, which is simultaneously too long and too short, I’m beginning to believe.
Then I reminded myself that this wasn’t a goal race, just an opportunity to get a feel for the distance and for my fitness level. Relax, perpetually high-strung runner lady.
The MLKDay 5K had some important advantages: walking distance from my house, late January timing, and drummers along the course. I recruited Jeff and my friend Sarah to join in on the fun.
Jeff and I made a little wager on the 5k. We set the spread at Jeff – 2:00, with the loser against the spread getting to pick up the tab for post-race treats.
We picked up our bibs at Park Tavern around 8:20 for an 8:45 start. Pick-up was really easy, well-organized, and WARM! Around 8:30, Sarah and I began warming up with some light jogging, dynamic stretches, and strides. Fun music was playing, and a lot of the race participants were dancing at the start area and having a great time.
8:45 came and went without any sign of the race starting. I’m all for people having a good time and celebrating a meaningful holiday for our nation and ESPECIALLY our city, but it’s hard to be patient when it’s 30something degrees outside.
Sarah and I were starting to get cold, so we tried to stay warm by jogging, stretching, and doing more strides. Because the race could line up at any minute, I didn’t feel like the warming up that we did was all that effective.
Eventually, we got the go-ahead to line up. I didn’t see a timing mat at the start, so I assumed that the finish times would be on gun time. My competitive side kicked in, and I moved to the front somewhat aggressively. I’ll be honest, I had some pent-up aggression from being annoyed at the late start.
The race started before I could get my Garmin to link up, so I was running blind. I don’t have any pace info, but I know I ran out of the start hard. TOO HARD.
The course is entirely within Piedmont Park, and it begins on a lawn with a short uphill at the end. The uphill was like a slap in the face to my overly fast early pacing ambitions. It was also covered in wet leaves, so it was a bit slippery.
After basically sprinting off the starting line and being humbled by this hill, I was ready to quit the race. I felt horrible! Jeff passed me shortly after the hill. Knowing that I couldn’t let him beat me by more than 2 minutes was my only motivation.
The course winds through the park, so there were no surprises because I run in the park regularly. I saw all the hills coming, knew when they would end, and was able to pace myself reasonably well as a result. After backing off the unsustainable pace I started with, I regained some strength. But I had no idea how far or fast I was running.
A cool feature of this race was the drumline on the race course. Drummers were situated at intervals along the course, so you were always running toward or away from a chorus of drums.
The end of the course is almost all flat or downhill, including one short, steep downhill on the grass back toward the start line.
I read the clock as I was crossing the finish, and I’m 99.9% sure I saw 25:21. Good enough for a PR given that I’ve only run one other 5k that I can remember.
I caught up with Jeff after the race and he said his Garmin time was 24:01. Of course, I was happy to unofficially cover the 2-minute spread.
Later, after enjoying that
absurdly large delicious Bloody Mary, we saw that the official times were different from what we expected. My official time came in at 24:52, and Jeff’s at 23:32. Maybe it’s a coincidence that our expected times were both exactly 29 seconds different from the official time, but I’m reluctant to fully trust the official 24:52, especially given the disorganization at the start and the fact that there wasn’t a starting timing mat.
At the time, I thought I’d be running more 5ks soon enough, so I’d probably get an idea of which time was correct based on later races. Unfortunately, I tweaked my left knee during the race and haven’t been able to run consistently over the past few weeks. I’m not sure yet when I’ll race another 5k.
Bottom Line: The drums give this race a fun vibe, and of course I love running in Piedmont Park. The race t-shirt is a nice color and really soft, so it gets two thumbs up. The organization of the race was actually quite good other than the late start, which was almost unforgivable given the cold conditions. The race offered free photos – always a nice feature. The race course spans a variety of surfaces – grass, gravel, pavement, and boardwalk. I think it’s a matter of individual preference whether you prefer a race with consistent surfaces. I wouldn’t call it a particularly fast 5k course. If you’re looking for a goal race or a PR, this probably isn’t the race for you. But if you’re looking to get outside in January in Atlanta and run a fun race, this race is worth considering.