Well sports fans, we’ve clocked in at 31:51 for the August 5K, and now we’re just 4 more months (and 12.4 miles) away from finishing the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.
When I signed up for this race in Birmingham, I knew about where it was in the city. I knew Birmingham’s general topography. It’s a pretty hilly area. Despite objectively knowing this, I wasn’t quite putting it together in terms of knowing I was about to run a hilly course. It wasn’t until the week of the race that I finally realized what I was about to put myself through. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could be, but there were still a fair amount of climbs. One climb in particular was probably the hardest I’ve taken this year, and my March and May races each had their own brutal hills (oddly, each of those awful climbs was in about the same spot in their respective races).
The weather cooperated, but it wasn’t a given. When I woke up, the chance of rain was there for the start of the race.
An hour later, the forecast changed to it being precipitation free all morning. I was grateful. It wasn’t too muggy considering it’s the South in August, and when I wasn’t in the trees, it was pretty easy to breathe.
Speaking of which, trees do not make my life easier on runs. I’m sure they’re nice for shade in the middle of the day. On a morning run, though, they just make it hard for me to breathe by increasing the mugginess and taking away the breeze.
The route was a jogging path through the park. This had pluses and minuses. I was assuming I would be running on grass because it was billed as a cross-country route. Instead, there was a path the whole way, which meant fewer random holes and not contending with grass (except at the start and finish). But dirt/rocks would accumulate in spots, so it was a bit like running in sand in spots if you weren’t careful. Especially in the beginning, it was hard to get a good spot to run, so that was a bit more work than I liked.
This route also appears to be frequented by people’s dogs. And people are jerks who let their dogs poop on the path, instead of the grass right next to the path. There was so much poop.
I can’t call this a pet peeve because I’m pretty sure this pissed everyone off. I tried to watch out for it, but I didn’t even know to look for it until I was well into the race. It was awful. It’s like a group of people kept their dogs indoors for two days and then turned them loose on the path just to screw with runners. I hope I didn’t step in any, but who knows. My shoes are filthy from the grass and dirt anyway, so I won’t know unless they start to smell.
Oh, and there were geese. That was cool.
Overall, the organization of the race is possibly the best I’ve dealt with. They had packet pick-up available the day before. It just so happened I was staying a hotel a half mile away from pick-up, so that worked out for me. They also used paper bags instead of plastic, so that was a first. That would seem like a better option, but this video has made me think maybe it isn’t so much better after all:
The race swag included a shirt, a pen, and a Frisbee. I actually got more swag from my hotel (a lunchbox, six pack of 7-Up, cheese crackers, and almonds). I also used the trip as an opportunity to hit up a bookstore, so I walked off with a couple of books from my race weekend as well.
It was a fairly large race (more than 200 people running), but they had a very high number of people volunteering. The size of this 5K would probably be around the size of the January 5K, but there were easily twice as many people volunteering (though it was literally freezing at the January race, so I don’t blame people for not volunteering).
And now for the meat of the post, the actual run. With it being on an actual path, passing was difficult. Fortunately, this race didn’t have the walkers who like jump to the front at the start to bog the entire process down. I was able to find a group to jog with fairly early on.
The only problem was the downhills. I like to use my 190 pounds to help carry me downhill. I don’t see the point in going safely down and using up my legs. Don’t get me wrong, I try to do this relatively safely (except one time when I was just bounding down the hill). But nonetheless, I pass a lot of people this way, as they safely work their way downhill. I’m not sure how much of a jerk I look like, but I think they look stupid for getting in their own way. We can just agree to disagree.
I made it to mile marker 1 before I hit my first walk break, and that was a bit past 9 minutes. The loose dirt/rocks and small climbs up to this point were enough to get me pretty winded. After this point, it was just a mix of walking and running.
The route was a sort-of figure 8, so we looped back close to the start a little less than halfway through. It was after this point that the hills and trees really came into play. Aside from the one big-effing hill, they weren’t too bad; they were just always there. Luckily, that meant I got to have fun on the downhills. I also don’t remember any dog poop on this second half. I’m not sure if it was that I was too tired to care, if people didn’t walk their dogs that far back in the park (or people who are too lazy to pick up dog crap or have the dog crap in the grass are also too lazy to walk that far into the park), or if the runners ahead of me by this point just stepped in all the dog poop to jump on the grenade for the rest of us.
Poop-filled grenades. Now that would be a true act of terror.
I tried to make myself run as far as I could between each walk break. I think this is why I was able to break 32 on a hilly course. The downside of this plan is that I was truly gassed by the end, so I had no real kick for the last stretch, but I guess this overall tactic probably worked out better in the long run.
My shirt ended up getting completely drenched in the run. I’m used to most of the shirt being soaked, but I hadn’t gotten an entire shirt like this in a while.
So that was the race, but I left out one part of my run. The asshole. The world’s full of assholes, but the races tend to either cull them out or they just keep their mouth shut. I’ve written before that I enjoy the community of runners because they’re genuinely nice people. Maybe I should have also included in that description that they generally leave me the hell alone during a race.
But not this asshole.
Maybe he was well-meaning, maybe he’s pure asshole. Either way, he was an asshole in this run.
I mentioned that I started including walking at mile marker 1, and then I was alternating the rest of the way.
Well, the second time I started walking, he passed me and said something. I wear headphones, so I didn’t catch it 100%, but he was trying to get me to keep running. This also happened in January when a lady tried to grab me to keep running. I didn’t think much of it. I just assumed it was someone who was trying to be encouraging who would also see that I wanted no part of it.
Now the reason he was behind me is that he is one of those people who trudges. His stride is much shorter than mine. I’ve gone on a rant about trudgers before, and this guy epitomized it. If I was to run his pace, I wouldn’t feel like I was running. I would feel like I was trying to hold it in while trying to get to a toilet quickly.
So when I’m running, I’m going faster than him. When I’m walking, he’s going faster than me. Happens every race for me.
Then I started running and passed him again. Then he said I’d better not start walking in front of him again.
And now he’s become the asshole.
I’d like to say I didn’t let it bother me. I’d much rather say that I told him to f#$% off. Neither happened.
I was running my race, so I was going to walk again. He passed me and said something.
All in all, we swapped spots a few times, but the last couple of times, he either finally shut up or I couldn’t hear him over the music.
Either way, I had to think about this asshole while I was running instead of getting to focus on my run.
And I knew, I KNEW, I would run into him at the end.
Like I said, I was gassed at the end. Under these circumstances, I would usually loiter for a while to catch my breath and get at least somewhat rehydrated. But I was tired, I was annoyed, and I just wanted to get a shower and go home. But on the way out, I ran into the asshole.
“You’re killing me. You have to pace yourself.”
Yes. I’m killing you. Clearly. I mean, if I was running my own race and it wasn’t the way you’d run, clearly that must make you uncomfortable even though it has no real impact on you whatsoever. It’s not that we could have different goals, including one of us not caring about being able to run the whole thing.
Again, I’d really like to say I told him to f#$% off. But no, I didn’t. I just kind of nodded/smiled/grimaced and left (actually, knowing my facial expressions, it’s pretty likely I thought I reacted and instead just walked off without actually making a facial expression). But I didn’t leave without knowing this asshole was about to be the source of a rant.
Run your own damn race. Don’t try to run someone else’s race, and sure as hell don’t try to have someone run yours. You don’t know their situation. You don’t know why they would run the way they do. You don’t know their comfort zone. You don’t know their goals. Maybe they’re someone who’s always struggled with conditioning. Maybe they’re someone who’s been hurt before by altering their pace and in turn their stride before and lost about two months waiting on a busted foot to heal. Maybe they consistently run an alternating pattern. Maybe they’d prefer to run what they consider to the be right way for them instead of trudging 3.1 miles just for the sake of saying they ran the whole damn thing. Maybe they’ll be able to run a little farther next time while you’ll still be trudging. Maybe they’ll actually know how to run a mile in the event a real-world situation requires running to or from something, not just trudging for 3 miles.
But hey, those are just my thoughts. I don’t like that people trudge, but that’s their thing. They’re being active and they’re not impeding me, so why should I care? Why should I give them crap when I don’t know them from Adam?
So next time you’re running and you think, let’s critique someone else, why don’t you go jump in a lake instead? It would be a hell of a lot more productive.
I’m not sure I’ve got a better conclusion than the title. Anyone who’s running is already doing a hell of a lot better than most people, in case you missed the obesity epidemic. So I just took a riff off a line from American Gods (Do your own time): Run your own race. And leave other people alone if they want to be left alone (hint: if they don’t respond to you the first time, that’s code for go away; bonus hint: headphones also mean I don’t really feel like interacting with others, thank you very much).