My love/hate relationship with 5ks continued this week with my participation in the Jeffersontown Gaslight 5k. Jeffersontown (or J-town) is one of the cities that was around before the merger of the city and county in Louisville. It still exists as a city, which just proves that I have no idea how our local government works. All I know is that I work in J-town, so I pay taxes there. I also pay city taxes to the community where my house is located. And to Louisville. And Jefferson County. I’m probably getting hosed, but I’m too lazy/stupid to do anything about it. America.
Anyway, the Gaslight Festival is a weeklong celebration complete with funnel cake stands, a 5k and a parade reportedly featuring fire engines and garbage trucks. Needless to say, people come out in droves. 550 showed up to run the 5k.
I’d signed up for this race a few weeks ago as a replacement for speedwork. And truthfully, I finally bit the bullet and bought the month-long trial of Active Advantage, and I wanted to get my $1.99 worth of race registrations.
I’d never run an official 5k race after work, but I figured it couldn’t compare to the evening 10-milers I log every now and then. Cut to Tuesday. Work was stressful. I was in and out of meetings all day and almost forgot about the race until Nikki, a friend from my running group, messaged me on Facebook to ask if I was still running. She had decided to register at the event, so I agreed to meet her there.
I left the office and drove over to Gaslight Square, a downtown of sorts on the main drag in J-town. I picked up my packet and found Nikki. I was happily surprised to run into three other folks I knew from the NQRFPTR group – Laura, Michael and Tammy. We chatted, and the stress from the workday started to lift. After a quick half-mile warm-up, we made our way to the start line. Laura, Michael and Tammy were all vets in this race. Nikki and I were virgins. We lined up near the front of the pack and listened to the mayor (the J-town mayor – not the Louisville mayor. Confused yet?) talk about something. I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.
Before the start, another man spoke about his personal connection to this year’s race-connected charity – Kosair Charities, a longtime Louisville organization that supports pediatric health initiatives. His young daughter stood beside him, balancing herself with a walker. He encouraged us all to run a great race and to count our blessings. To take full advantage of being able to run because his daughter wasn’t able to. It wasn’t preachy or overdone. Just a heartfelt speech from a father who was appreciative of the support of Kosair.
If that wasn’t motivation for doing your best, I don’t know what is.
The little girl blasted an air horn and we took off. Immediately, I was surrounded by little kids running their guts out. Like most local races, you see these people out there just running full force at the beginning, only to find them less than a mile later sucking wind and fighting off the pukes.
I felt like I went out fast. Probably too fast for me. At 3/4 mile, Tammy passed me and I glanced at my watch. 6:44 pace. I don’t run this fast, I thought. Something is wrong. Or this is going to end very badly.
The course itself winds in and out of J-town neighborhoods, and it was actually quite fun to see people standing on their lawns and front stoops cheering us on. You don’t really see that much for a 5k.
At the halfway point, I was still feeling good, but I had already made up my mind that I was going to take a quick walk break to guzzle water. The four cups of coffee and pretty much zero water intake that day had left me a bit dehydrated, and since I wasn’t really worried about my time, I walked for about 30 seconds after the stop.
We continued through the neighborhood, and at almost exactly mile 2, my shoe came untied. A quick stop to retie it, and I was back up and at ’em. I hadn’t been looking at my time. I was just trying to run a pace that was somewhere between slightly uncomfortable and barfing. At around 2.5, we climbed the hill that we’d run down earlier, and we were rewarded with a flat .3 mile stretch to the finish. This was my favorite part of the race. I say that because I passed three people. Suck it, strangers.
At .1 mile out, I finally looked up at the clock positioned next to the finish line. The first two numbers read 23, and I did a double-take. My previous PR was 26:16, and I was about to smash it. There was just one guy left in front of me I wanted to overtake. I tried, but he got me. We crossed the finish line a step away from one another.
Official time: 24:13
A new PR by over two minutes! On a hilly course, no less. My pace was 7:49. I’ll take that.
We hung around afterward to see if anyone from our running group won an age group award. Turns out both Tammy and Michael won 2nd in their groups, and Nikki took first in her group (which had 50 participants). Laura got fourth, and I got 12th in mine (still in the top half). Still waiting on that medal.
Keep running, friends.