Well, my calendar for 2013 didn’t include this race. It was one of those I’ll-sign-up-for-this-at-the-last-minute scenarios where the puzzle pieces just happened to fall into place. The Becca’s Memorial Turkey Trot 5k & 1k was being held in the main city close to where I grew up – Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Yes, the Elizabethtown that shares its name with the 2005 film where Kirsten Dunst scrunches her nose a bunch and gives Orlando Bloom directions that would take him about 80 miles in the wrong direction. Parts of the movie were filmed just a block from where this 5k would start/finish, but most of the scenes were actually shot in Louisville and Versailles (pronounced ver-SAYLs).
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I registered. I assumed that it would be a small, 40-person fun run on an open course through some neighborhood streets. Nothing spectacularly organized or remarkable. In fact, since there was another 5k on the same day in town, I wasn’t quite sure how many runners would even show up. But I had a hunch about how the race got its name that turned out to be true. Becca was a teenager that was killed in an auto accident less than a mile from my parents’ home several years ago. I’m not sure if her parents came up with the idea for the race or if someone else suggested it, but I thought it was a fitting way to keep her memory alive.
Race morning, I woke up and drove downtown. I picked up my bib at the registration table and quickly scurried back to my car to stay warm in the just-above-freezing temps.
While waiting for an announcement that the race was about to begin, I realized that I’d left my watch at my parents’ and that I would be running this race naked. No way to tell distance. Or pace.
There were about a hundred or so people at the start line. My parents came to watch, which made me want to go fast because this was the first time they got to see me race. I realized that I should have also told my sister I was running, but we were about to take off and it was too late. I also realized that I had no idea where we were going. There was no course map provided beforehand, so when a guy with a bullhorn started telling us the 15 turns we needed to make, everyone just started laughing and ignored him. I think he eventually gave up and told us that volunteers would be positioned at every turn.
A guy dressed in a turkey costume fired a gun and everyone lurched forward over timing mats. Whoa. The race was timed. There must have been a chip in our bibs I hadn’t noticed. Plus one, race organizers.
As is the case in these kinds of races, there were tons of little kids sprinting their little hearts out before stopping cold in their tracks. I accidentally ran into a couple of tween girls who decided a walk break was necessary a quarter of a mile into the race. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly, but there was a guy near me, probably early 20s, rockin’ some tunes really loud. I don’t care if people are playing music out loud during a race. It’s only when I try to say something observational or obviously hilarious and I realize they’re wearing earbuds that I get slightly irked.
We made a bunch of turns on streets I wasn’t familiar with before easing back out onto Main Street, the road where we started and would finish. I figured the rest of the course would be head out toward the end of the street before turning back toward the finish line. When we passed mile 1, I didn’t have any idea how fast I’d been running, but it felt like a good clip. We kept going straight down Main Street, with city police blocking major intersections to keep cars off the road. Even with their presence, there were just too many side roads to keep all drivers off the streets. Still, they did an admirable job, and I didn’t feel in danger once. Another plus.
I tried to keep a steady pace, but I could tell I was slowing down with the rolling hills. Then, somewhere before what I believe was mile 2, a long, steady incline presented itself to us. I told myself just to get up it because I would most likely get to fly down it later. It was just beyond this hill that the leaders began to appear running toward me. In first was a skinny kid who looked like he was about 14 (he was 16 and ended up winning the whole thing). There weren’t too many people ahead of me at this point – especially none that appeared to be in my age group.
I circled the turnaround point and began to make my way back toward the finish line. I tried to bomb down the incline I had to climb earlier, but not knowing how fast I was going started to get to me. A teenage girl ran up beside me and asked how much farther we had to go. I responded that I had no idea. But then we heard the bullhorn just on the other side of one more hill. As I crested the top, I could barely make out the clock that was a few tenths of a mile in front of me.
Were those first two numbers 22? Was I not only going to break the sub-24:00 mark, but also the 23:00 mark?!
Spoiler alert: I was not.
I wear glasses for a reason.
The clock read 25:00ish. So apparently I wasn’t running as fast as I believed. I was slightly disappointed as I crossed the finish line because I wanted to do better, especially in front of my parents. But I was just glad they got to see me run.
Official chip time: 25:50
After I finished, my folks and I hung around to see if I would win any of the door prizes. It was then I’d noticed how much effort had been put into this small race. There were all kinds of little bonuses: bananas, apples, energy drinks, chocolate milk, protein bars and even space blankets available for us runners. Not to mention a race-specific MEDAL for every finisher. And it didn’t stop there. A local BBQ restaurant was giving away ginormous smoked turkey legs to anyone who wanted one. Plus three, four, five, six and seven, organizers. Well done.
After awhile, we were too cold to stand around waiting for the drawing, so I joined my parents in the warmth of their heated SUV until Bullhorn Guy announced the age group awards. When my age group was called, I was happily surprised to hear my name in second. My first age group award! So even though I wasn’t all that thrilled with my time, I still placed – and I got another medal out of it! I also won a cap in the door prize draw. It was a pretty nice haul for the day.
Seriously, this was such a great, well-organized race that I feel compelled to send a note to the organizers letting them know just how good of a job they did. I hope they make the race into an annual tradition. If they do and you’re in the area, I highly recommend participating. I’ll be back to claim that first-place age-group medal.
Until then, keep running, friends.