Time for another race recap. This time, I will be recapping the HBCU 5K/10K, which took place on June 28, 2014 at Grant Park in Atlanta, GA.
I should start by saying that this was a big race for my run group - Black Men Run. Grant Park is sort of the birth place of the group; it was the location of the first group run in the summer of 2013. Also, two of the founders (Jason and Edward) have some history with this race. That being said, there was a lot of energy around this 5K/10K in the weeks leading up to it. As a group, we ran this course several times over several weeks leading up to race day.
Speaking of race day... race day started pretty early. A few of us got to the park before 6am and started setting up the group tent. For the last few races, we have brought a fairly large number of runners. Bringing a lot of registrations to a race typically comes with a few perks, the least of which is space to set up a tent. This race drew north of 3,000 registrants, and it is obviously a big draw for the African-American race community. 3,000+ black runners in one location = a unique opportunity to broadcast our brand. The tent would serve as our central hub.
Once the tent was was set up and the sun started to rise, the brothers started to come out. And let me just say we were pretty deep once again. By the way, don't look for me in this pic - I'm behind the lens.
Our tent was right next to BGR's. BMR has consistently shown that we can pull big turnouts at races. But, BGR is on a whole 'nother level; I mean they literally bring sisters out of the wood work - it's crazy! You have to give them props for being able to get so many sisters out there taking their health and fitness seriously. I tip my hat to them.
As race time neared, the brothers got more serious - me included. I was very familiar with the course, and I was looking to run sub-22 minutes. It was time for me to zone out, stretch, and get ready to run hard. Most of our speedy brothers, including my favorite competition (Roy), were running the 10K, so I knew I would have to look inward for my motivation... that is until I found some random person to chase down towards the last half mile or so. For those that know me (or have been reading my blog), you know that at every race, around the half way point or so, I start picking out random people to race. If I pass them, I just put an "X" on the next person's back and continue on until I cross the finish line. I call this technique - my "Jordan tactics." Michael Jordan was known to implore similar techniques. He was very competitive; and when he didn't have real competition, he simply created it.
The 10K started on time! Exactly on time.... way to go HBCU alumni org! The BMR brothers lined up together near the front of the wave. Jason carried the flag for the team (literally) and chose to do so for the entire 10K - bless him. With most of our fastest runners toeing the line and Jason holding the flag - BMR was off to an epic start.
They race directors were staggering the starts, so the 5K runners had a 10 minute lag before our race started, and the walkers were set to start 10 minutes after us (more on that later). We filled the time by talking and taking pictures. Oh and in case you are wondering why I ran the 5K instead of the 10K - I decided to take it easy and save my legs for the Peachtree Road Race the following week.
So 10 minutes after the 10K started, we were off! And people took off! I've run enough races to know that half of these folks will fade within the first mile, and the one's that don't are simply much faster than me. In either case, it makes no sense for me to chase the race horses right out of the gate. I'll find my competition about half way through the race as normal.
The race starts with a mild uphill section for the first half mile or so. I passed up a good number of the folks who shot out of the gate like the race was only two blocks long. I got through the first mile in 7:00 minutes flat and was feeling good. The second mile has a steep downhill and is the fastest mile of the course. I made a conscious decision to take it easy this mile and save my energy for the hilly and tough 3rd mile. I got through my second mile in 7:05 and banked enough energy to carry me through the last mile - the mile that will break the under prepared.
The end of mile two brought two revelations. #1 I passed up the last few folks on the steep hill that greets you at the start of the third mile. I was pretty sure I wouldn't pass anyone else after this point.
And #2 I found my competition - Lori from South Fulton Running Partners. I'm not sure she knew we were racing, but then again that never matters to me. It's my motivation, and the way my crazy mind works. We passed each other back and forth for the last mile or so. at the start of mile 3, she settled in behind me as we hit the big hill. She gained a bit on me here (I'd been slacking on my hill training). We hit the top of the hill pretty much stride for stride even with each other. At the top of the hill we turned the corner only to see a swarm of.... wait for it.......... zombies!!!
Yes, zombies! It looked like a scene from The Walking Dead.
Okay, so maybe they weren't zombies, but they were definitely walkers. Walkers whom the race directors, not so intelligently, decided to start 10 minutes after the 10K..on a course the loops over on itself! Which means that their first mile was our last mile, and they were hundreds deep! No exaggeration here! Wall to wall walkers for half a mile.
So I did what any fierce competitor would do. I ran through them like Daryl Johnson (old Dallas Cowgirls full back for the uninformed) ran through defensive lines. The only problem was Lori was tucked behind me like Emmit Smith! We weaved through the crowd and when we hit the last right turn (leaving the zombies) for the last 1/4 mile sprint to the finish, she shot past me like she came out of a cannon! Either she had one heck of a kick or I was seriously fading... or more likely a combination of both. She outkicked me to the finish by a good 12 seconds or so. Again, I'm not sure if she knew I was racing her, but she helped pushed me to the finish none the less. If you come across this page Lori, thanks!
I finished the race in 22:17. 17 seconds over my goal, but I'm blaming that on the fact that I spent half a mile wading through a sea of walkers. To be clear, I don't blame the walkers. They did what they were supposed to do - they signed up to walk, and that's what they rightfully did. I blame the race organizers for the starting them when they did. Poor planning to say the least.
Alll in all, it was a good race. I had fun. Might even do it again... it was great to see so many shades of brown faces in a single race. It may be one of the only races I ever run where minorities are the majority. It was a cool change of perspective.
Oh and I came in 29th overall (out of 1,803) and 4th in my age group. I missed a medal by mere seconds. I was also the first BMR brother to cross the 5K finish line. The 10K BMR brothers faired much better. They literally cleaned up the medal stand! 5 BMR brothers in the top 10 overall! 10 in the top 25! That's what I call putting in work!
***** Update ***** I recently received an email stating that the person who came in first in my age group did not qualify. Not sure why he didn't qualify, but then again that's none of my business. What is my business is that I was subsequently bumped from 4th place to 3rd, which means I medaled. Boom! Will be picking up my medal and prize (I think it's a Home Depot gift card) this weekend! ***** Update *****
Anyway, until next time...