I give it up to this kid. He had no reservations when it came to grooving and lip-syncing to even the most absurd of pre-race running anthems. He was thrusting his hips to Ke$ha and discoing beside what I can only assume was his less-than-enthusiastic sister on a hill overlooking the start line of the race. And he wasn’t the only interesting person to watch while the start of the 2014 Anthem 5k was delayed time and time again.
Let’s back up a minute. If you’ve read my blog much, you know I don’t care much for 5ks. It’s just not my favorite distance. But I found myself signing up for this race because it’s the first leg of a local series called The Triple Crown of Running. And for completing all three legs, you get an extra shirt and the opportunity to brag with fellow runners or anyone who can tolerate listening to you talk one more minute about running.
This was also the first race I have ever repeated. I ran it as my first official 5k (as a runner) back in 2012, but things would be different this year. The biggest change would be the brand new location for the race. After 740 years, Louisville is finally getting two new bridges across the Ohio River, and construction on the downtown span forced organizers to find a new home to this beloved 3.1 mile race that 7,000 people annually complete.
My friend, Lindsay, and her fiancé, Ryan, were both going to the race, and Linds offered up the opportunity to carpool with them. Ryan was running. Lindsay wasn’t touching this race with a 10-foot pole. In fact, most of my friends weren’t running this race due to the crowds and inevitable bottlenecking.
But it was way worse than that. While I can’t imagine the logistics of planning such a huge 5k, it seems like more thought could have been given to the location. Organizers decided to plot the course through an office/industrial park in the far eastern suburbs of the city with little access for traffic and parking. Because Ryan and I needed to pick up our bibs, our trio arrived an hour early and found a parking spot that was relatively close to the start/finish.
I jumped on Twitter and searched to see how many people were tweeting about the race when I saw the first cracks in the foundation.
Ryan and I went into the corral about 15 minutes before the start. I told him we’d need to get closer than usual to the front because, in my previous experience, there were grandmas with walkers lined up with elites. That’s an exaggeration, but you catch my drift.
And true to form, just as we settled in, I saw some folks 10 feet behind the local top runners wearing sweat pants and the race shirt. To our right, a little old couple slipped in with a dog on a leash. I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders at Ryan as we waited for the start.
Organizers chose to delay the start of the race to accommodate late arrivals. Then, they decided to fill this time with speeches from business leaders of the various race sponsors. By the time the fourth person spoke, the crowd of runners had begun to boo loudly.
Finally, 31 minutes after the race was scheduled to begin, we were released.
I had no expectations for this race. I took way too much time off over the winter to expect a PR, but I was hoping not to embarrass myself. Bobbing and weaving among children and walkers, I finally found a little room near the first mile marker.
A little while later, more than a mile into the race, people were still walking TOWARD the start line. Some little girl collided with another runner and hit the pavement somewhere behind me. I didn’t see it, but Ryan confirmed that she was the same girl who darted in front of me and then stopped abruptly only moments before.
Ryan and I ran together through the second mile, which was a slight incline between industrial buildings. One company had placed a table near an intersection with a sign on it that said MetalWorks (the name of the company). That’s it. Just a table. No water. No bananas. No applications for employment. Just a table.
When we finally turned back on the road to the finish line, I wanted this thing to be over. My friend, Tammy, had done some reconnaissance and said there was a final hill toward the end. When we hit it, Ryan picked up the pace and I fell back a bit. The finish line was just on the other side of the hill, and there was a good amount of supporters to welcome us home.
Official chip time: 26:02
Not the best. Not the worst. I’ll take it for my first race in three months.
We watched a few people we know cross the finish line, grabbed some energy bars and Gatorades and headed back to the car. By this point, the traffic that plagued those trying to get INTO the office park was in reverse, causing even more congestion. So we pulled into the queue and waited.
I hopped on Twitter again, and the venom coming from participants was spreading. Twenty minutes after we’d gotten in the car (and moved about 500 feet), #Anthem5kfail was trending in Louisville.
I can’t harp on the organizers too much. This must have been a gargantuan task. And in all reality, they could have just decided to cancel the event – which wouldn’t have been a great solution for anyone. So while I applaud their efforts to continue the tradition, there has to be a better answer for next year. This location was a terrible choice, and I hope it doesn’t turn off people from completing the Triple Crown in the future.
Until then, keep running, friends.