Seven-Twelfths through the Super Awesome Year of 5K: Me and My Thousand Friends

Officially clocked 32:38. Not great, but it’s over with and we’re inching toward the finish line of this year.

There were 684 in the 5k run and 211 in the 5K walk, so about 900 people on the path today.

Me and my thousand friends are done. Turns out my friends don't know jack about etiquette at race start. More on that later.

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There were also people in the mile run and people who just showed up to be supportive because getting up early on the Fourth of July is their idea of fun. But hey, go America.

So yeah, me and a bunch of people I don’t know running in a big loop in Jackson. Livin’ it up.

Nothing too terribly exciting, but why should we let the truth get in the way of a good story?

The start of this particular story is signing up.

After hitting the halfway point in the Super Awesome Year of the 5K, I’ve hit a wall. See, the thing is I don’t like running. Really, I don’t. It’s just the best option for me to get cardio. It’s a health decision. The July race is just not what I was looking forward to. I knew that I wanted to find a race on the 4th if I could so I could wear my Captain America shirt (I’ve been holding this shirt out of the other races just so I could wear it at a Fourth of July race). That’s about all the criteria I had.

The Captain is ready for Saturday. Are you? #ihaterunning #captainamerica #5k #suckittrebek

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

Basically, I dragged my feet and then ended up rushing relatively last minute.

The Watermelon Classic seemed like the bet. So I signed up. And then I looked at the description on the website after I signed up. I regretted my non-refundable decision immediately. It was called Mississippi’s largest 5K. I don’t know if that’s true, but if they’re making that claim, then there’s at least enough people for me to be out of my comfort zone.

I went looking for results to gauge turnout. Three years ago, there were more than 1,200 people in the 5K. Two years ago, more than 1,000. Last year, more than 800. I knew things were trending down (good for me, bad for the race organizers), but I also knew I was looking at the prospect of easily my largest race. And it was. This made things interesting.

As always, I like to critique the setup. The thing that bugged me the most upon arrival was the portapotty situation. There were like 8 of them, and they actually had assigned genders for them. I had not seen that before. So it was a small number considering the crowd that would gather.

It also made for probably the funniest/saddest story of the day.

As I was going to mine, I saw a lady grab the door of one where the green was showing, thus indicating she could have a go at it. She pulled it open, and then the door got yanked back.

There was someone in there. He was not happy.

He said something, and she said something back and went to another station.

I go into mine, and then I hear his door open again, and this time the guy’s pissed. Basically says, “Can’t anyone see that the color red?”

I’m a terrible person, and I’m about to start laughing. This is a quirk of my personality. I don’t like when person A gets mad at person B because of person A’s mistake. I know why people are pulling the door. It’s because it’s green. The reason the door’s opening is because he didn’t latch it all the way. He’s getting mad that people can’t read, but the problem is he doesn’t know how to properly shut a door. We’ve all been there, but I think we can all also recognize if the door was properly shut, other people couldn’t open it even if they wanted to see some dude in a portapotty. Because of the lady getting the door open as I was going in, I made damn sure mine was properly shut.

So that may be the “Q is going to hell” highlight of the day.

Overall, the setup was pretty straightforward. Not great, but it worked. The parking lot filled up pretty well. People were milling about.

Then it was time to get started. I never heard the official call. That was one of the things they didn’t do well. Their PA system wasn’t loud enough to be heard in the crowd. I just started wandering when a bunch of other people started wandering.

Things are about to go to hell, but let’s talk about the special guest. Former world’s fastest man Calvin Smith was the starter of the race. I’m hoping he was doing other things while he was in town because he basically just showed up and hit the siren on the bullhorn, while the person in charge talked too much without really saying anything. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to an Olympic medalist, so that’s my mediocre celebrity moment of the day.

But back to hell in a hand basket. People started queuing up to start the race. I will give the organizers this: They had the best of intentions. The plan was to first split the runners from the walkers with a five-minute gap in the start times. Next, they had cones set up to indicate where the faster runners should start (and to let the rest of us know where not to cross). They also had a rule that strollers had to start in the back.

Again, good intentions. No follow through, though.

I knew immediately people were not going to exercise proper race start etiquette. I saw strollers milled about everywhere. I saw people who were clearly not going to be running fast jockeying to get to the front. They also split out wide to a point that they fully blocked traffic on a four-lane road (earning one car horn in the process). We were not supposed to be blocking all four lanes. I think the plan was two and the third would be car-free just to avoid human splatter on the highway.

And then the start hit. I turned on my music and started my watch. And then I walked for a very long time. It took almost a minute just to get from where I was to the start line (there was about a 45-second split between my clock time and my chip time). Even then, I wasn’t running comfortably. For the bulk of the first mile, it was really just a game of winding around people.

I had a few thoughts as I was dodging the jerks who started where they shouldn’t have started.

One, the strollers really need to start at the back. In a crowd, it’s dangerous for everyone, not the least for the small children in the strollers. I try to be mindful, but there aren’t many gaps in traffic, and I’m always afraid something very, very bad is going to happen. That said, I understand that many people running with strollers are bad ass runners who will finish well ahead of me (I’m still trying to figure out how the guy pushing a stroller in my May race got up the hills with his stroller, much less went sub-27 on that course). I’m just genuinely concerned about the safety of those things in a crowd that big.

Two, slow people need to move to the side. It’s like car traffic. Give the faster vehicles space to pass. Way too often you’ve got sloths four wide, and there’s nothing that can be done. It’s just not very polite. I make a lot of lateral movements because of these folks. It trails out as the race goes along, but because of the clustered start, I dealt with these folks for a full mile. That said, this isn’t my least favorite group. This leads to

Three, WALKERS NEED TO START AT THE BACK! Every time I’m at a big 5K, this happens. Some jerk(s) who has zero intention of running weasels their way to the front. This I can’t stand. If I ever get arrested at a 5K, it’s because I assaulted a walker who started at the front. This also ignores that walkers were supposed to start five minutes after the runners. This burns my stomach. I get it; you want to walk fast. Fantastic. Now walk fast at the back of the pack, don’t start speed walking in front of people who actually plan to run. Really, it’s for your own safety. It only takes one accidental step on the back of some ankles to fix this problem.

Ok, so we’re done threatening violence on other 5K participants. Really, I mean it. No other threats of physical violence will occur, even when I almost spit on some guy.

I should probably tell that story now just to avoid any issues.

Around the halfway point, a sidewalk opened up beside the road. As people are wont to do, the sidewalk started getting used, mostly by people who had to start walking (like me) trying to stay out of the way and avoid having their Achilles stepped on by angry runners (also like me, coincidentally enough; side thought, maybe the walkers don’t know what gigantic pains in the ass they are because they’ve never had a walker start in front of them. Maybe next time I should get in front of the jerk walkers [not to be confused with those walking in the back; not all walkers are jerks] and just flat out stop, teach them some empathy). At one point, there was a curve and I’d hit my walking point. The sidewalk wasn’t great there, so I was by the curb, trying to stay out of the way. I turned to spit toward the sidewalk thinking anyone who might be running by would be on the road. Nope. Almost spit on someone. I apologized, and he waved it off. These things happen. And no harm, no foul. But yeah, that was a close call. Not much forgiving yourself when you spent on an unsuspecting stranger.

Back to the start of the race. This is always my least favorite part, even in small races. Like I said, there was a 45-second difference between what the clock said at the end and what the chip system measured. It’s always difficult to find the right pace at the start, and it doesn’t help when you’re dodging.

For me, the thing that gets problematic is the same thing that happens when I’m driving. When I get in the mode of passing people, I keep trying to do it, even if that means I start going faster than I intended. I think I did ok here, but I also think that was mostly because of so many slow people starting up front. I really was passing slow joggers for a full mile. It forced me to go much slower at the start.

In other words, my time was never going to be great, but it shouldn’t have been that bad. The course was ok. There were about 3 or 4 long, slow climbs, but it was a pretty straightforward course. Navigating the start of the race, cost me a lot of time and patience. I don’t know how to handle this. I almost wish I would have just waited for the crowd to disperse and then jogged my own little race after people started spreading out.

But I did find a tempo in this process. Like all races, you end up basically running with the same people the whole time, with the ebb and flow of those who walk (e.g., this guy) and those who don’t.

It’s in this process that something happened that I don’t think has happened before. I developed a crush on another runner. Of course, I know nothing about this human being, but I can give you a few details. First, their tempo was about the same as mine. They were serving as my pacer for a couple of minutes before I realized it. This may be the most important trait of all. This also probably caused me to notice details and develop said runner’s crush. Second, she was running in aviators. I think that’s awesome. It’s also impractical, but this is not time for practical. Third, she was running in American flag shorts. I promise I wasn’t staring, but if someone’s running in front of you for a few minutes, you’ll notice their shorts eventually. And finally, she had a nice tattoo on her arm. I can appreciate that.

If this was a romantic comedy or some other fiction-based work, I’d tell that we started talking while were running until our paces split us up, but then we started talking after the race, grabbed brunch afterward, and then we had little 5K-running babies years down the line. Unfortunately, this is not a romantic comedy (and I’m not a stalker). She ran out of my life (see what I did there), and is now just a story I’ll tell when I talk about racing.

There really isn’t much else to tell about the actual running of the race. I ran a middling time, which was a perfect reward for my middling preparation. I’ve been good about lifting, but I haven’t been good about running the past few weeks. I’m going to need to recommit if I’m going to improve. Otherwise, I’m just running. Just running isn’t bad, but I’d really like to cross that stupid 30-minute mark.

After the race, they had watermelon because it’s the Watermelon Classic. I didn’t think things through, and I ended up with a corner piece, which is the most unwieldy thing you’ve ever seen. I also got watermelon juice on my bib, so I’ll have that reminder as long as I keep saving those things (at some point, I’m framing them or something). I also got pseudo-dog tags as a finisher’s medal.

5K race tag
At least if I ever drop in a race, they know to return me to Farm Bureau.

The race also featured a costume competition. I thought there’d be more effort here, but there were at least a couple worth noting. There was a trio wearing moon bounce-type shoes (though a google search is telling me that’s not 100% the right term, though I can’t find exactly what I saw). They were just bouncing along in their shoes. Seems like a terrible idea, but there you go (they were also among the slow people who started up front, though they at least were running). One of them even had a tutu on. The best, though, was probably the duo dressed as bride and groom. They’re the only ones who looked like they were in a true costume. Other than that, you just had random patriotic gear, though no one else was running in a Captain America shirt. There was a guy wearing one who wasn’t running. I was afraid I was going to have to tell him to leave so my shirt didn’t engage in a display of dominance and attach his clearly inferior shirt. I digress. I have no idea who won the costume competition, though it couldn’t have been anything outstanding based on what I saw.

A quick note on the music: I went back to my 5K list on Spotify. It actually worked out really great. I may need to cull a couple of songs, but the start of races has gone really well when I’ve used this list because it’s been good about pulling the best songs of the bunch at that point. The only downside is that the music crapped out near the end. Spotify glitched, and I can’t really fix that on the go, but that was only the last minute or two.

So that’s that. Five more races to go. I’m down to my last superhero shirt, so I’m on the lookout for four more to finish out the year. I may have to get creative and call the Blerch and Runner 5 superheroes. Maybe I’ll put a picture of my face on my last shirt and really be a jerk.

Either way, that’s all I have to say about that.

-Q

#ihaterunning

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