Saturday morning I went to the ever wonderful Spring Classic, held at Bonnie Park in Strongsville.
I have attended the spring and fall classics in various forms over the years. One of the biggest draws for me is also one of the biggest complaints I hear from others…the inclusion of children. Before I explain the pros and cons of featuring the youth groups, allow me to clarify I am not affiliated with either group…these are just my opinions.
In the fall the course is open to Girls with Sole. From what I have seen, this is a strong group of girls with very involved and supportive families. (Side note. I went to the website and it turns out this is a support group emphasizing fitness for girls who have been victims of abuse/neglect or who are at risk) Like most kids who are new(er) to running…and some adults…many will start out too fast. Many will stop suddenly to breath or tie a shoe. Some will run side by side or perhaps in little groupings. Part of me thinks they look like a school of fish, rushing around together…fast/slow…fast/slow. The fall kids I don’t think are training for anything major, just running, and seem to know common running “rules”, such as moving to the side, and not running in and out of the crowd.
In the spring …it is a different group. These kids are bussed in from Cleveland. I believe I heard they are training for the Rite Aid Cleveland 10K? Perhaps even the half for some of the older ones? I’m very pleased to hear this and love to see a passion growing for the sport. That being said…this group does NOT seem to know running etiquette. They perform many of the same actions as would be expected from their age…but they DON’T always move to the side. It’s a course of human speed bumps! Many scream/call to each other from large distances, some dart in and out of groups – running backward even. They run 3 to 4 across and some (not all) do not move when you say “passing”. What is one of the most noticeable differences for me? The starting line. In the fall, the children are asked to move to the back, so the faster runners can have the start…and they listen. This past weekend? I didn’t hear anyone ask them to move…so maybe they can’t be faulted…but the start was CHAOTIC. I could barely move with the sea of children/walkers/and FAMILY on the course! I was at a 17 to 18 minute pace until we took the corner onto the main road and Gale and I could break free. YIKES. Especially for a race which isn’t chip timed.
Please don’t think I’m being too sour, I’ve learned to love this aspect of the course. It is one of my favorite things to see the kids and hear them and join in their energy. I do also recognize how it may hinder performance. My group of people race just about every weekend, if it wasn’t for a few races here and there that we do for the FEEL and not the RESULT…we wouldn’t be the runners we are today. Still, some people train and work toward a goal…honestly my advice to them is simply picking a different 5K…there are plenty.
Now the race itself:
Skipping past the general “I woke up, drove to the site and picked up my bag” details. I do want to note I was able to park in my favorite spot, across the street from the main sidewalk instead of literally half a mile away at the bus stop.
Gale and I chatted to a woman named Cathy as we waited for the start of the race. This was Cathy’s first race in a while, and we tried to make her feel relaxed and welcome. Whenever I can I try to reach out to new runners, remembering how overwhelming it was to me to be alone and see all the tight group and family-esque love. We started to run and as I said, it was VERY slow moving at first. We chatted as we approached the main road and as we turned the corner and broke free of the mob, we managed to match each other’s pace rather comfortably. Honestly I was feeling strong as we moved down the road, and I joked about how the last time I was at this race my underwear was falling off and I had bronchitis!
As we neared the first sign, I checked my Garmin…I was liking what I saw, especially after the troubled start. BEEP. Average for mile one? 9:49! Not long after mile one we enter a lollipop type loop. This are is actually a parking section and is where the tables are set up for the water stop. In order to enter you move up and across a small bridge, I love pretending this is some grand accomplishment and as I push myself over the hump I glide down into the parking spots. Because of the lollipop shape the faster runners are on my left. I do my best to keep my form and my smile. Not going to lie, I also gauge how far away I am from the main grouping…and as I make it to the other side I gaze at how many are behind me…and smile.
By this point I’m usually feeling something of discomfort. My toes may be a little numb or my soles a little cramped. Given I was pushing my speed one of my major concerns was a side stitch. The best I could I controlled my breathing and kept my pace. Focusing in on my breath or my turn over or the scenery and ignoring the pinch in my right side.
I’m without Gale before mile 2 (I slowed for water back in the loop). If I wanted to I could catch her, but I didn’t need to overexert myself so I stay where I am. With a wave to the mile 2 sign I look down at my Garmin as another happy BEEP is heard. Average for mile two? 9:53. OK OK I slowed down a bit, but I’m still keeping under 10 and if I try, honestly try, I bet I could bring it in under 30 minutes?
The pain keeps tugging at my side and I’m not liking how my toes feel either. I keep listening to music, watching the smiling faces and telling myself I’m almost done and it’s FLAT and FAST. Strong and steady, strong and steady. Down the main road, around the corner, and I see the crowd standing in the intersection. The 10 mile runners are passing on the other side of the road, and I briefly feel silly for the 2+ miles I have endured compared to the 6 they have already accomplished. Keep smiling, keep the arms relaxed and before I know it I’m greeting the intersection cops and entering the bike path that will wrap me around the pond, through the park and up to the finish shoot.
I yell at Gale to keep going as I see her slow down a tad. Joy fills my head when I hear “5K runners, to your right and into the shoot”…yet disappointment fills my heart when I see a “3” starting the finish time.
According to Garmin my average for mile 3 was 9:55. My average for the last kick was 8:58 though! Overall Garmin time 30:55 with an average of 9:50 for 3.14 miles. Looking back at the start of this review…you will be reminded this was not chip timed and I was behind a sea of kids. Per the race my overall time was 31 something. A minute off from my goal doesn’t seem too daunting. 20 seconds per mile? Still, after the disaster of Towpath…I was pleased to do so well!
In fact…it was “good” enough to get me FIRST PLACE for my age group! Gale also won her age, Pati her age and our friend Matt (remember from the Tri?) won his age as well. We were all more than tickled.
Overall it’s a wonderful race and a wonderful day and I seriously suggest everyone give it a try at least once.