With all the traveling to races that we’ve been doing lately, it was nice to just be able to stay home and go to a local race this weekend. Pickin’s were slim in the Charlotte area, but when I found out there was a race in Hickory I was happy to head up to my old hometown for a run. Actually, this was a 5k race and a 10k race, but very few people ran the 10k. Linda and I had both planned on the 10k but when we found out there were only about 20 people running 10k we thought it might be more prudent to go with the 5k crowd. I use the term “crowd” loosely because there were only 56 finishers in the 5k race, so with only 20 finishers in the 10k the total number of runners was only 76. I’m happy either way though, large or small, because each has its advantages and disadvantages. I do think the directors of this race would probably make life easier for everybody if in the future they would just make it a 5k and do away with the 10k.
The courses for the 5k and 10k seemed to be kind of intertwined throughout the race. The 5k would go one way and the 10k would turn and apparently run through another neighborhood and then rejoin the 5k route. It was all too confusing for the 10k runners and I heard afterwards (through the grapevine… nothing official) that only one person actually ran the correct route of the 10k all the way through. Ouch.
Back to the 5k though, there were some pretty big hills as I’ve come to expect in the Hickory area. The route itself was marked okay until the last quarter mile or so. For me, as I was running the final quarter mile of the race I was just behind 12-year-old Rachel Jones, Catawba County’s top female middle school runner. There was nobody else nearby and she was definitely giving me all I could handle for the last half of the race. Every time we’d go up a hill I’d slow down and she would zoom by, and every time we ran down a hill I’d pass her. Lucky for me that she was just a little ahead of me as we were finishing the last leg of the race, because I couldn’t see any markings telling us which way to go. She kept going straight ahead even though there was a “Dead End” sign on the street she entered and you could see the end of the street. If I had been alone I would have turned right at that point because I remembered from back in the day (I used to hang around some at this place when it was the Hickory Community Center) you went up the hill to the right, then turned left. I had forgotten the path up the dead end street, and of course her way was correct, thus keeping me on course (Thanks Rachel, if you ever read this!). So Rachel and I sprinted to the finish line, which was maybe a tenth of a mile away. It was probably a little bit of a strange sight: an old 58-year-old man racing a 12-year-old girl. I managed to beat her by a step at the end. My Garmin says we were at 12.2 miles per hour and my heart rate was 179, which is just about call-the-ambulance territory for me.
Despite the drawbacks such as the confusing course and lack of volunteers, there were some bright spots including good post-race food in the comfort of the C.O. Miller Teen Center where the awards ceremony was held, and as always, it was good to meet and talk to a lot of runners we hadn’t met before as well as a handful of runners we know from other races. We had fun, but possibly next year on this weekend we’ll end up at the Cooper River Bridge 10k in Charleston where I noticed the 33,000+ runners included 115 from Hickory alone.
Oh, one other interesting thing about this race is that it was my highest overall finish ever… 5th place overall! I was behind a 17-year-old, two 16-year-olds, and a 13-year-old, making me the top finisher over 18 years old. Too bad there’s not an award for that. Young whippersnappers!