Run with the Heroes 5K

Most races benefit one or more philanthropic organizations, and while that’s usually not the main reason I participate, I like that running and charity often go hand in hand. We chose to run this race, though, because the family of one of the honorees are friends of ours.

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We arrived a little early and chatted with our friends and watched STAR Flight and the Austin police helicopter land in the middle of Camp Mabry’s field before the race. The Austin police chief was there to lead the pre-race honors, along with the assistant police chief who’s a high school friend of ours. Several family members of the honorees also spoke, their voices filled with emotion.

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After the chief’s words, an invocation, and the national anthem, a Special Olympics participant spoke and asked us to repeat the athletes’ oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

And then we were off.

Since my fall training had focused on 10-milers, I wasn’t terribly prepared to run a 5K with any kind of speed. So I figured I’d just plod along and enjoy the cool morning.

The first mile wound around Camp Mabry’s southern section, then turned north and ran alongside the highway. My lower back felt really stiff that first mile, and my pace reflected my discomfort. I skipped the water stop–it was 54*–and it wasn’t long before the leaders on the return route passed me. I thought I said “Daaaaamn…” in my head, but apparently I’d spoken it out loud since the guy next to me looked over and said, “No kidding.” Mile two headed downhill, around a corner, and then uphill to the turnaround to do the whole thing in reverse.

On the way back, I saw at least one Austin police officer running in full uniform, and lots of families both running and walking.

There were no time clocks on the course, and I paid almost no attention to my Garmin–I remember looking at my first mile notification, thinking it was more like 10-miler pace instead of 5K pace, but I can’t remember if I even saw the second mile. I was uncomfortable, though, so I knew I had either sped up or was in worse 5K shape than I thought. Guess we’d find out in another mile or so.

With half a mile left, I started passing people. I decided the girl in the red shorts was my runner-to-beat, and I felt good when I passed her with the finish line in sight. Unfortunately, I think she must have been resting or something because a minute later she went sprinting past me. Damn again.

Anyway, it turns out I had sped up. In a good news-bad news scenario, I finished more than 1:20 faster than my last legit 5K PR back in May, but my Garmin said I’d only gone 2.98 miles. I’m not sure if another .12 would have come in under my PR time, but I kind of think it could have. I was hoofing it pretty hard at the end, despite my initial lack of preparedness confidence at this distance.

So while it won’t go down as an official PR, I really liked this race. It wasn’t crowded, the course was well-marked, plenty of water was available on the course and at the finish, and unlike several recent races, they gave out technical shirts. I don’t usually wear the race shirt for the race itself, but it seemed like the thing to do this time. And I wore a wristband given to me by our friends.

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More good news? I’ll get another crack at the 5K six days from now in Shiner, Texas. Two friends are running the half marathon and two of us are running the 5K. If the weather cooperates, who knows?

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