Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought…
“I think I’ll go run a random 5K today?”
That was me yesterday morning. I knew about the race already because Charm City Run was promoting it and I’m always aware of everything they are doing. It originally caught my attention because the beneficiary is the private, all girls school that I attended from 7th until 11th grade. That’s not the part that interested me because to be honest, there is not much love lost between me and that school. I left in 11th grade for a reason and it wasn’t because they asked me to. The selling point was that the course ran through the streets of my old stomping grounds. I grew up in the surrounding area, but haven’t spent much time there at all in the past 20 years. It would be cool to see how everything – if anything – had changed.
The school had certainly changed. I arrived at around 7:30 in the morning because this was all very last minute and I wasn’t registered for the race yet. I paid my fee and since I was so early I had some time to walk around the campus to see what was new. A LOT was new. Including the athletic complex that seemed better equipped than the fancy gym that I used to spend $100/month on. In one of the hallways lived a whole bunch of plaques with the names of girls who had received athletic honors. I knew a lot of them. My name was of course not on any of the plaques because I couldn’t even run a mile without wanting to pass out until last year.
I wrapped up my snooping and joined the crowd outside for a warmup led by a peppy girl whose name I think I remember from high school. At 8:30 we were instructed to head to the start. It was a small race – in all I think there were around 330 of us – and all of us were completely confused as to where the starting line was. We lined up. We were told to move back so we did. Then we moved back again. And finally we were in the right spot and I had a total Pirate Bobcat moment when a very large group of small children gathered right in front of me and I knew right away that I was going to trip over at least 10 of them. The guy next to me was observing this as well and as we were talking we were suddenly and without warning given the GO command and OH CRAP I BETTER START MY WATCH.
As anticipated, much of the first quarter mile consisted of me dodging and jumping over small people. After I got through the initial mayhem, I was able to fully enjoy the fact that mile 1 was almost exclusively downhill. Unfortunately seeing as this course was a big loop that started and ended at the school, what goes down most certainly would have to come back up at some point. And oh boy did it. Not 5 feet beyond the marker signaling the start of mile 2 was a freaking mountain.
I am not even kidding. I run hills all the time and in general I like them. This was the worst hill I have ever had to run up in my life.
A guy passed me. He was wearing red shoes. I have no idea what he looked like beyond that, but those shoes became my sole – HAHAHA ohhhh puns – focus. As he ran by me, I followed his feet and imagined a rope that was tethering me to him. I did not look forward at all because I didn’t want to see how much was left; I just knew that Red Shoes was going to pull me up that mountain. I stuck with him the whole time and as we crested the top, I passed him and never saw him again. I totally would have thanked him, but I had no idea what his face looked like and didn’t feel like walking around staring at everyone’s shoes like some kind of crazy foot fetishist.
The rest of the course would be some challenging, rolling hills. I thought I knew this area…was it always so damn hilly?? It all seemed to be going really quickly though and I knew I was doing well. I could see one girl with a ponytail up ahead of me, but beyond that I didn’t think there were any other women around at all. One thing that was cool and unexpected was that there was some decent crowd support. Neighbors were out on their lawns and front steps cheering for us along the way. Someone had written notes for so-and-so to “RUN FAST” and “GO GO GO” all over the street in chalk. The notes were not for me, but they gave me a little bit of a boost anyway.
Pretty soon I was hanging a right on to Roland Avenue which was full of the same old pot holes that have probably been there since I was a teenager. My legs got a little bit of a break in the straightaway back toward the school, but there was one more ugly little hill right there at the end for good measure. As I rounded the corner into the school drive I could see the finish line up ahead and the clock that read something like 21:5– and I wanted to scream because I knew there would be no way that I’d get there in the next 10 seconds. I picked up my pace anyway and cruised across the finish line, narrowly missing the 21-minute time I wanted but still grabbing myself a brand new PR:
AHHHH SO CLOSE!!! But considering that I hadn’t even really planned on running that day and the difficulty of the course, I was very happy.
Because I hadn’t seen any other women up ahead of me besides ponytail girl, I decided to hang out to see if I had placed. They had a nice spread set up for the runners: ice cold water, bananas, and granola bars were plentiful, plus they had cupcakes, and a whole bunch of raffle items set up. There was a DJ playing music. Eventually the headmistress of the school came over the mic to announce the winners and I was shocked to see that it was the same woman who was headmistress when I went there. This is where things got confusing and embarrassing.
She started calling the overall winners. First place? Ponytail girl. Second place? ME. She called my name. OMG SHE CALLED MY NAME!!
So I went up to receive my prize which was a gift card to a local restaurant and a gift card to my favorite running store. And headmistress looks at me like I have two heads.
Apparently there is a student at the school who has the same name as me.
Awkwaaaaaaaaard. And ironic. I swear that place must STILL have it out for me.
Anyway, I really did come in second and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit enjoyable to have that woman hand me an award considering that I never won anything when I went there. Too bad she didn’t recognize me. I was also given a bag of caramel popcorn, which Betty gives two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Red Hot Run was cool. The course was difficult, but a lot of fun. Everything was really well marked so there wasn’t any confusion and they had plenty of volunteers to make sure we didn’t make any wrong turns, plus a well stocked water station at around the halfway point. They also had a great local police presence to make sure there weren’t any traffic snafus. The people doing the registration were friendly and organized and it was nice having access to real bathrooms. It was a good last minute decision. I would probably run this one again next year.
The moral of this story? If you think something seems too difficult or you’re on the fence for whatever reason…DO IT. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. I’m so glad I did!
Did you run or race this weekend? How did it go?