The course starts in downtown Portsmouth and then winds back and forth throughout the city before ending at historic Strawbery Banke. It is a relatively flat course and is enjoyable run. The major concern going into the race was whether the rain would end before the start.
Weather forecasts were predicting 2-4 inches of rain Friday night into Saturday morning. Luckily, the rain did pass by prior to start, leaving us with perfect running weather (high 50s/low 60s and overcast). The only downside was that the course was wet and there were some puddles and mud (where there was some road construction under way).
I met up with some friends at the start line; however, we started to seed ourselves in the crowd a little too late. So we started much farther back in the pack than I would have hoped. Once the race started, it took quite a while to break out of the pack. This left me with around an 8:00 mile for the first mile. Quite honestly, I’m not sure where I wanted to be. I was two weeks off of running a 50K, four weeks off of running a marathon and four weeks off of being injured and not having run for the previous four prior to the marathon. In my mind, I felt that I would be OK with around an 8:00 pace overall, but would really prefer to be sub-7:30.
For the first couple of miles, I picked up the pace but remained conservative while running with a friend. At about the half way point, I started to pick up the pace and started to push it a little more (but still remaining pretty conservative). Overall, I feel like I continued to pass people throughout the race and very few people passed me (that is always a great feeling).
Just before the final dash across the finish line, there is a little hill. I pushed up it and then picked up the pace some more. In the end, my official pace was 7:39 (7:31 on my Garmin). All in all I was happy with these results, and I look forward to improving upon that pace throughout the year.
At the finish line, there was ample water, sports drinks, bagels and fruit for the finishers. There also was a display screen and chip reader so that you could stand in front of it and immediately get your results.
Would I run the race again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. However, I have two complains:
(1) Picking up my bib and my wife’s bib the day before was not the friendliest of experiences. I didn’t have my wife’s ID or confirmation with me, and I had to go through an act of congress to be able to pick up her bib. The claim was that this was for “security purposes” and I was given quite a bit of attitude of questioning it. Having run many races (from 5Ks to marathon/ultra), I have never had a more negative experience in this aspect. And it just wasn’t me. While I was trying to work my issue out, this happened to other people also. There was even one man who thought that he had his wife’s printout, but it was the “wrong” printout. He didn’t click through all the links and print out what the organizers were looking for. He was left out in the cold.
(2) The starting line was chaos. I really appreciate it when larger races have pace markers/corals at the beginning of a race so that runners can seed themselves accordingly. There will still be people who disregard this, but at least it provides an opportunity to create better organization and make it a better race for runners focusing on their paces. Quite honestly, there are many novice runners who do not know where to line up and simply push to the front … only to become obstacles for the faster runners behind them.
Overall, the negatives could easily be fixed, and if they were, this would be an even better race in the future.
The York Days 5K took place in York, Maine, on Sunday, July 28. It is the fourth race in theSeacoast Road Race Series, which my wife and I are running this year. Being part of the Seacoast Series meant that the race would be one of the larger 5K races in the area.
We arrived at York High School, where the race would start and finish, early enough to get a decent parking spot, pick up our bibs (there was no pre-race pick-up … and we won’t mention that they didn’t have any record of our registration) and to warm up a little bit. The weather was relatively cool for a summer day, and the cloudy skies were occasionally giving way to rain.
After warming up, the crowd of runners had grown significantly, and we started to see many familiar faces. It was then time to head to the start line. We made sure that we seeded ourselves appropriately at the start line so as to avoid delays from the crowd as much as possible.
Just before the start of the race, a friend and I decided to run together to ensure that we would push each other. The national anthem was sung by a “barbershop quartetish” (but it was more than a quartet) group, and then we were off just as it started to rain slightly.
The course was relatively flat and fast with a small uphill about halfway through and a stretch along the ocean (which was much too short in my opinion). Our strategy was to go out strong and to keep pushing. And that’s what we did, keeping a pretty steady pace with negative splits of a couple seconds for each mile.
In the end, we finished with a 21:49 net time and a 7:02 overall pace. This was good enough for me to finish 68th out of 820 runners as well as to finish 9th in my age group. In reality, I wanted to run faster (at least sub-7:00), but I’ll have to save that for another day.
The Great Island 5K took place on Sunday, October 13, in New Castle, NH.
This would be the second time that I had run the Great Island 5K. I first ran in it in 1998 (with a time of 30:44 and a pace of 9:53 at age 27). There were a few things that would make it different this time:
- I have been training and running regularly (something that I wasn’t doing in 1998)
- I had run a marathon two weeks prior
- I was coaching a beginner’s 5K group
So I had some things that were going for me this time, and some things that would remain to see how they would impact me.
The race starts at the Great Island Common in New Castle. The course is composed of a few rolling hills as well as a short run on a gravel road. It’s a scenic course with views of the harbor and ocean from the Common as well as along the course.
After meeting up with the other coaches and members of the Runner’s Alley Beginners 5K Groups that had been training for this race over the past 8 weeks in Portsmouth and Dover, we all made our way to the start line.
I started the race running with a friend. Our goal was to try to run a sub-7:00 pace. The last time that we had raced together with finished with a 7:02 pace. At this point, neither of us were sure that we were physically ready to achieve this goal.
We ran our first mile at right around a 7:00 pace. I was feeling much better than expected at this point. Although I always feel bad leaving a friend when we’re running, we always agree that if the other person should always run their own race. So I picked up the pace to see what I could do.
My running started to click, and I continued to pick up the pace and pass people along the way. In my head, I was thinking about the irony of my race attire. I was wearing a shirt from the training group that I helped coach, and on the back, it read: “Beginners Runner’s Alley Group.” This actually became a topic of conversation on a run later in the week, when someone mentioned that she had been passed by someone in one of these shirts and was thinking that she must be getting slower or wondering why this person was in a beginner’s group.
As we entered back onto the Common for the final loop into the finish line, I continued to pass people. I crossed the line with a time of 21:10 and a pace of 6:49. So I achieved my goal and got a PR.
After finishing, I made my way to the entrance to the Common to cheer on the members of the training group as they finished up their run. Even better than setting a PR was to see these runners finishing strong after all the work that they had put into training over the past eight weeks.
If you have a chance, you definitely should plan on running the Great Island 5K in 2014. It has an added bonus of being part of the Seacoast Road Race Series.