Start time: 11/24/05, 8:30am
Location: West Potomac Park
Distance: 3.1 miles (5K)
Average pace: 8:31min/mile
All right, “The Worst Organized Race Ever” is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. This morning was, however, the worst organized race that I’ve run in (and I’m still reeling from the nightmare from trying to get to the start line of the Virginia Beach Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in back in 2003). Now to their credit, SOME (who put on the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger 5K) is a good organization and their hearts are in the right place. But… well…
I got there half an hour early with Alma and her friend Monica; while they had their numbers, I hadn’t been able to pick mine up yesterday. What happened next can only be described as an eternity of waiting. Let’s put it this way: I got my bib number faster at every single marathon I’ve ever run. Or for that matter, anything. The pages they were checking people off with weren’t in sequential order, the line moved so slowly I was starting to think that everyone at the front had died, they ran out of safety pins, and they finally said they were going to just start handing out numbers to people in line and you could register it to your name (and get your t-shirt) once the race was over… except they didn’t.
I literally got my number when I heard someone way over a megaphone, “Ok, runners, areyouready?*TOOT*” I swear, that’s how fast between the question and the sound was. And, just like that, you were off down a course that had… no mile markers. Helpful, huh? To be fair, there were some markers along the course, as I suddenly discovered when I passed the 2K point. Kilometer markers only? Were any of the runners here really worried about their per-kilometer pace? It was an out-and-back course through West Potomac Park, so it was nice to run alongside the water in the Hains Point area… well, at least until a Park Services truck that had been parked on the side of the road suddenly decided to start moving and do a u-turn on Ohio Drive. No, I am not making this up. The first two leaders had just passed by me going back towards the finish when the truck did this, nearly wiping out not only us at (approximately) the 2.25K mark but also the rest of the leaders. I saw several of the leaders hit the truck’s side in anger, to which I cheered.
At the far end of the course, there was a water stop… well, sort of. Rather than jugs of water, there were two people using a water cooler to pour water into cups. Suddenly I found myself thankful that I’d actually brought along my water bottle and belt, even though my main reason had been to have somewhere to put my keys. There was no chip timing at this race, but there were people standing at the end of the course writing down numbers as people came through. This is a race that, I should point out, over 2000 people registered for. (Actual turnout was probably closer to 1000.)
Meanwhile, how was I? Well, I felt like crap to be honest. It was cold and starting to sprinkle on us, my nose was running and dripping down my throat (ugh), and I got a stitch in my side. Oh, and I ran almost the entire thing by myself because I wasn’t able to find Alma and Monica again before the race started (they’d gone to use a port-a-potty while I was getting my number and then *TOOT* the race was off!). I saw Alma coming back on the course when I was almost at the turn-around, and I finally caught her around the 4.5K point of the race; I picked up a tiny bit of speed at that point (or maybe Alma was slowing down?) because I ended up going over the finish line first, but certainly no more than 5 or 6 seconds ahead.
Despite feeling pretty bad I still did better than my last 5K, with a new PR of 26:23. Yay! (My old PR was 27:45 from back in May.) Pity so much else seemed to go wrong. Maybe I could just find a nice 5K somewhere warm for January?
Oh, and I think next year I’ll just run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot out in Centerville. Hills be damned, I’ll take a slightly harder course if it means simple competence.