The Norwood 5K is a goal race of sorts for me. While I haven’t been able to do it every year I have been racing, this year would be my 5th year running it since I started racing in 2007. It’s billed as a fast and flat 5K (and it definitely is) and this year is part of the inaugural Triple Crown series made up of 3 local races. The races with the top 5 combined times from each of the 3 races will receive a trophy. I know I don’t stand a chance for one of the top 5 positions, but I’m hoping to be in the top 20.
While this race is perfect for hitting a PR, there is ALWAYS some reason I don’t. In 2009, 2011, and 2013, the race happened to be 1-2 weeks after I completed a marathon. Sometimes I’m just “off” for whatever reason. Anyway, here are my finish times for each year I completed the race:
I had 2 goals going into this race. The first goal was to set a course personal best, despite the fact that I ran a marathon 2 weeks prior. The second goal was to win an age group award. I know I have no control over who shows up on race day, but several times I have been in 4th place for this race, which stinks because it’s so close, yet so far.
Race day was COLD with temperatures in the low 30s. At race time it was supposed to be only 39 degrees. That’s actually perfect for me as I get really hot, but it’s not so good for standing around pre-race.
I parked, picked up my race packet, and went back to the car to hang out in relative warmth until time to warm up. My warmup went well, and I could tell that I was probably going to have a good day. I reviewed my race strategy of starting out at about 8:00 pace and dropping down to 7:55 for the 2nd mile, then 7:50 for the final mile, and gunning it to the finish.\
Because this race is generally fairly large (>400 runners), I got into the start corral early so I wouldn’t inadvertently end up at the back of the pack. Generally, I line up about 20-25% from the start because I typically finish in the top 20-25% (fair, right?).
After the announcements, we were off! I didn’t start my Garmin until I crossed the start mat……oops, there wasn’t a start mat, so I was a few seconds off.
The start of a race is generally pretty crowded, and you spend a lot of time weaving through runners. Soon the pack started to thin out a bit, and I kept reminding myself to run my own race at my own pace and not worry about others. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement at the beginning of the race.
I felt good. Garmin beeped 7:43 at the first mile, but I passed the actual 1 mile marker at 8:00 on the dot. I had been consistently passing people, so I made the decision to stop looking at the Garmin and just focus on passing people one by one. Turning right into a residential loop I could see the race leaders leaving the residential loop. Finally I spotted the first female, a woman who probably wins every local race that she enters (and happens to be in my age group). I had my eye on each woman who was ahead of me, coming in my direction. I’ve done so many local races at this point that faces are familiar and I know whether they are in my age group or not.
Even though I didn’t recognize anyone else in my age group, that didn’t stop me from reeling in each runner that I could. Hey, you never know….and I’m REALLY bad at estimating ages! If you’re not obviously 16 or 66, you’re my age.
I left that residential loop and headed down the road a bit to turn into the next loop. I continued to pass a few more people. Passing the 2nd mile marker I saw by the clock that I was under 8:00 pace but didn’t look at my Garmin for confirmation.
Leaving the last residential area I passed a couple of more women, one who I thought looked like she was in my age group but then again, who knows? There were a couple of guys and a woman in a knit hat (in my age group?), and we were going the same pace.
I was pushing as hard as I could. Everything pretty much hurt, but that’s a 5K — a good 5K just hurts.
We turned off the main street and made a right down the side of the park toward the mile 3 marker. I was pushing as hard as I could. Then another right turn for the last 0.1 mile to the finish. Pushing as hard as I could, I was still passed by an older guy and 2 young girls, plus Knit Hat got away from me too. But that was OK, because I could see by the clock that I was finishing under 24:50.
Official finish time was 24:40! Goal 1 accomplished!
I met up with a couple of friends afterwards, and we hung around to check out our standings.
And that’s when I found out that I won my age group. Not 3rd place, not 2nd place, but 1st place! Holy cow! Goal 2 accomplished!
I have to admit, though, that it was just luck that faster women in my age group chose to stay home that day. The 45-49 and 50-54 winners pretty much all beat me. Oh well, it goes both ways that you can’t help who shows up on any given day.