If anyone would have told me I’d not think twice about signing up for a 15k race and just running it “as part of my training,” I probably would have said “peshaw, no way.” I mean, who runs a 15k for fun, in the hot summer, during vacation and doesn’t even plan for it?
I guess, it was a 9-mile run day anyway, so there really wasn’t a need to “plan” for it, but it’s a little strange for me to think that a race just 4 miles shorter than my half marathon has suddenly become “no big deal.”
That was the case in early July when I ran the National Cherry Festival Festival of Races 15k. I was supposed to have run the 5k version last year but sprained my ankle just weeks before. So, this race was important to me. Rosebud ran the 5k this year, and my other sister and her two kids walked the 5k. It was a real family affair at the starting line. In fact, even a couple of folks from my running bootcamp did the 15k, too, so (even though I never did find them in the crowd) it was nice to have others out on the course with me whom I knew.
The 5k race started first, so I got to clap and cheer for my sisters as they started their race. Then I got some time to hit the porta potties for a second time — I’m always really nervous that my hydrating will come back to bite me when I’m out on the race course. As we started, the course wrapped south and east. I was a little confused because the majority of the course was north and east, so I felt like I was going backward to go forward. I think the issue is that I knew the neighborhoods and the course TOO well.
We were in “Backward Land” for about a mile before heading out to the rest of the course, where I knew there was a mile-long hill climb and fairly steep downhill waiting for us. We got to run along the bay on both sides of the peninsula, so it was a really gorgeous, albeit hot, run.
I reined in my running a bit for the mile leading up to the hill because I was determined to run all the way to the top. Unfortunately, I joined the other runners-turned-fast-walkers but it wasn’t until I stopped at the porta potty that was almost 3/4 of the way to the top. I think it was just hard to get my momentum going once I’d come to the full stop to use the bathroom. It gave me a chance, though, to drink a little more water, walk through a sprinkler and eat a Gu.
In all honesty, I think the downhill was harder than the uphill. It was fairly steep, and I was so nervous about hurting my shins (cuz that’s what usually happens when I take a downhill too hard). But it did allow me to make up some of the time from the hill. When we hit the bottom of the hill, we had just less than half the race left to go. And it was a hot finish. Very hot. Thank goodness for the spectators and their water hoses and sprinklers along the road. Only problem? I was wearing a white tech shirt and a dark gray sports bra. Between the sweat and the sprays of water, it was, essentially, pointless at that point for me to even be wearing a shirt.
I took every water break and every sprinkler shot I could get between there and the finish. The finish line was on the parade route. The Cherry Festival finale parade started just after the race course closed. So, we ran the last half mile or so on the downtown street already lined with parade-goers. We had lots of cheering, so that was lovely. But by that point I was tired, hot and just wanted it to be over. I had been running back and forth, back and forth with a random guy on the course. When we got to the 3-mile marker, he came up beside me, looked at me and smacked my shoulder. He said, “OK. Let’s go!” My response? A very quiet, under-my-breath “Oh sh*t.” And he took off, pulling me behind him. We got up to a 6-minute mile pace for that last 1/3 mile.
I ended up crossing the finish line seconds before him, where Rosebud was waiting for me. She gave me a big hug, which was interrupted by my race boyfriend who embraced me in a hey!-we-did-it hug. I still don’t know if he really thought I needed the extra push at the end or if it was more for him. Either way, it worked. And it was a lovely way to end the race.
But there was no time to dwell on loveliness, I needed food. We had, of course, fresh sweet cherries and the requisite bagels. There were cookies, but I couldn’t bring myself to stomach a cookie at that point. Rosebud and I checked our times, posed by the big cherry and then headed back down the parade route, hoping to hook up with our other sister.
We never did end up finding her, so we just headed back to the car. Our genius plan was to do a cooldown walk to the car. It was, according to the Cherry Festival, only about a mile away. Not undoable. But, it ended up being more like 1.8 miles, which — when you’re not expecting it — was not fun save for the company and a big ol’ (unsweet) iced tea from McDonald’s for the walk.
All in all, it was a good race. And one I will most definitely do again. Just maybe not in a white shirt.
Finish time: 1:33:27