I should have known: in a race where I had no goals or expectations, when I was coming off of a period of very lax training, I ended up setting my best overall PR.
I’ve been pretty chill about my running (or lack thereof) this past winter. Sure, I lamented not being able to get in the miles, but I also relished my physical laziness (and things like packing, decorating and working in a new job/career kept me distracted).
With such a late start to my race season, I should have had time to think about my pace goals or competitive strategies (or at the very least, my race wardrobe!). Instead, I shoved some clothes in my suitcase the night before I traveled back to the midstate, and I gave hardly a thought to race logistics. I assumed I could beat my 10k PR from 2013, but beyond that, I had not a clue or a care: I just wanted to get outside, run, and enjoy myself.
The 2015 Hershey 10k was a little strange in that it occurred on a Saturday. The change in race day meant that I missed packet pickup (thankfully my mom was willing to collect my t-shirt and bib on my behalf) and the normal pregaming (although we did eat some really rad spinach mozzarella ravioli at home on Friday night).
On race morning, I arrived insanely early at the start area, even though I awoke close to the same time as past years (5:20 am wakeup call, 6:40 arrival). I was dismayed to see that the Hershey organizers had replicated the cockamamie system from the 2014 Hershey Half Marathon: no bags at all allowed inside the Hersheypark Stadium (a spectator and participant area) or in the runners only holding zone. That meant that you couldn’t carry any bags (or, as one particularly strict security guard insisted, no wallets either) to the restrooms or porta potties (although there was a bag check just outside of the stadium). What amounted to being a nuisance for my family was even worse for families with children: who with young kids or special needs family members wants to make a special trek to the faraway car for anything that can’t be stowed in a jacket pocket?
*I recognize that this system is for security purposes. However, having run races of 40,000+ participants in cities where terrorist threats/natural disasters/large-scale emergencies pose a legitimate risk, I think there are better ways of handling the bag check and corral system.
Since the 10k consisted of a smaller participant crowd than the half, this system didn’t turn out to be as horrible as it did for that race. It was aggravating, however, that runners only had one gate through which to enter the start area—this was especially troublesome for runners who did not park in the Entertainment Complex parking area.
So I rolled my eyes and grumbled at the poor vision of the race organizers, but I made it to the start line just fine. It was supposed to be warm all of race weekend, but we runners were caught in a fearful windstorm that morning that left us shivering from the cold. The wind made me anxious to get moving!
Thankfully, without any delay we were off, and I, older and wiser this time around, positioned myself towards the front of the crowd so as to avoid slow walkers and joggers, who always seem to be in abundance at Hershey races. I was mindful of my breathing during those first few miles: I didn’t intend to set any PRs, so I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish.
We cruised through the Entertainment Complex parking lots before turning onto Hersheypark Drive, a strong headwind pushing against us. It was around both mile 1 and 2 that I noticed the line of runners in front of me was relatively spaced out: I’m used to seeing a steady stream of faster participants stretch out for kilometers ahead. I had decided not to pay too much attention to my GPS during the race, but I was shocked when I looked down at the beep of the first few splits: 8:40, 8:31 and 8:18.
|The pack along Hersheypark Drive.|
Huh, I thought to myself. I could totally fade in the second 5k and still do pretty well!
I shrugged off the notion—after all, I just wanted to run with no pressure that morning—and continued onward.
Our course was mildly hilly, winding past the backside of the Hershey Outlets and into Hersheypark. Per usual, the park part of the course was the most exciting, and I amused myself looking at the new construction, as well as familiar sights like my old internship office. As we wove our way through the Boardwalk area of the park, “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys blasted out of the speakers, and I knew for sure that this was a good day.
The last stretch of the race flew by, and even though I was tiring just outside of the Stadium, I summoned all my strength and speed to do my signature sprint to the finish (I also wisely stuck to the tangents during this entire race and was lucky/smart enough to hug the inside corner going into the Stadium. A security guard positioned just inside the Stadium was wildly enthusiastic about this choice. “Yeah, that’s right, you take that corner!” she screamed. I have never felt so awesome.).
Within seconds I had stepped over the timing map, and my 10k was over. The final time: 52:37, an average page of 8:30 minutes/mile. Woohoo!!!
I finished in the top 500 of runners (top 20%) and top 10% of females, which was quite a thrilling accomplishment. The winds during the race were sustained at 20 mph, and I’m not quite sure how I was able to do so well with those conditions, but boy, did I have fun!
Here’s to hoping I keep this momentum for Broad Street!