Real live, in-person racing is slowly returning to Southeastern Pennsylvania. The races are small, we have a 250-person limit on outdoor gatherings, and safety measures are in place, but this is the second race I have participated in this fall.
On a recent Saturday morning my husband, youngest son, and I set off for the Victory Brewing Company in Parkesburg, PA for the Thrill of Victory 5K. It was my son’s second-ever race.
We arrived close to the 10:00 starting time, as advised in the pre-race emails, and only one of us (me) visited the registration table to pick up packets for our group.
The race packets included our bibs, a good quality short-sleeved tech shirt, and a disposable mask, which we were instructed to wear while we gathered at the starting line. There were trash cans immediately after the start so we could dispose of our masks at the beginning of the race.
The morning was perfect for running – clear, low humidity, and cool, with a light wind.
As we walked over to the starting line, I told my son that my race strategy was to try and stay close to him, but I would run behind him if it was crowded. I wanted to allow him to set the pace.
We were self-seeded into small corrals of about 20 people each, based on our predicted finishing time. Each successive corral began the race 30 seconds after the previous one.
The race director counted down from three, and we were off. I was in the middle of the starting pack, so I could not easily reach the bin to discard my mask. I decided to run with it wrapped around my arm, rather than trying to weave in front of someone to pitch it or take the chance of missing the bin when I tossed it.
The race began on a narrow cinder path that wove around behind the large brewery. The path’s surface transitioned from cinders to larger rocks, then to grass.
After a quarter of a mile, we turned onto the road that runs in front of the brewery. The racecourse was not closed to cars, but traffic was tightly controlled by race marshalls on the lightly-traveled, gently rolling country road.
My husband, son, and I were able to stay together as we ran out the road toward the turn-around. I felt good and so, apparently, did the guys.
As we hit the turn-around and headed back to the finish line, the tailwind that I didn’t notice became a headwind that I did. After we passed the two-mile mark, I began to struggle.
Luckily (for me) at that point, my son decided he wanted a brief walk break, for which I was very glad. As we walked, a woman wearing the race shirt (my pet peeve) passed us. “Oh no,” I thought, “A woman wearing the race shirt is not going to beat us!”
That gave me the incentive I needed to encourage my son to start running again. As we turned off the road to retrace our path behind the brewery, we took one more very brief walk break, then pressed on toward the finish, passing the woman in the offending shirt.
With a little over a tenth of a mile to go, my son began sprinting. He dropped my husband and me like a hot stone. Or, rather, like two much older hot stones.
We crossed the finish line a few seconds ahead of our race times from a month ago. This course was tougher than our previous one, however.
After catching our breath and changing into dry clothes, we headed to the beer truck to receive our free post-race beer. I got a hazy IPA which I really liked. We sat at socially distanced picnic tables in the warm September sun and listened to a singer entertaining runners in front of the brewery.
I wound up winning my age group and my husband got third place in his.
I enthusiastically recommend this race for anyone looking for a fun, not-too-difficult 5K. The organization was excellent, the race director kept us up-to-date with emails before and after the race, the course was pretty, and the logistics were simple. Even though the roads were open to cars, traffic was not an issue. The post-race beer and music were the perfect way to celebrate the run (although I needed an afternoon nap from drinking a beer at 11:00 in the morning), and the race shirt was a stylish women’s cut (for me, not for the guys). The safety precautions put in place by the organizers allowed us to run the race, while still feeling safe. Oh, and we got free, downloadable race photos. Bonus!
I would definitely do this race again next year.
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