I raced my first 5K today and beat my goal time! (I think...)

Apr 11, 02:42 PM

I got back into running last year for fitness, not for racing. But when I found out about the UMass 5K Dash & Dine race, organized by UMass’s Dining Services, I decided to sign up. It’s a benefit for the Amherst Survival Center, which provides meals, food, and social and legal services for people in Amherst and the surrounding towns. And I figured that having a race on my schedule would help structure my running and give me something to work towards.

I’ve run only one race before, and that was in May 1995: the 25K River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Due to a foot injury that affected my training, I didn’t run that very hard, finishing in 2:03:06 (i.e. a 7:55/minute pace). I wanted to push myself harder on this one, despite being two decades older, especially since a 5K is fairly short in comparison.

It was a good race. The temperature was around 50°F, but there were winds from the WNW at 15-20 mph. Fortunately they were at my back for the two steep uphill parts of the race. I arrived about 45 minutes in advance, got my bib, bought some raffle tickets, and went for a leisurely mile and a half warmup run. By the time I finished that, it was time to take a last-minute pit stop and then line up for the start. I was a little bit behind a runner in a Gumby costume. I couldn’t see most of him, but his calves suggested that he was a serious runner.

The race itself

The start was muddled up; it was a mass start, with runners grouped by their goal pace, and a bit crowded, but the real problem was that a runner next to me dropped his cell phone right at the start, which led to some jostling that nearly made me lose my balance and fall. But I recovered. I also pressed the “stop” button on my watch, not the “lap” button, as I crossed the starting line/pad. I figured that out perhaps 30 seconds later, but it meant that my GPS track omitted a bit of the actual run and that my watch timing was off.

I had expected that an event with up to 2000 participants would mean that the campus roads we followed would be closed, but in a university the size of a small town, that apparently wasn’t possible. We ran on wide asphalt sidewalks (occasionally some concrete) and had to be careful with curbs at intersections. And for the first mile or so, it was difficult to weave among the slower runners. I kept my eyes on Gumby and did my best to keep pace with him. I did the first recorded mile at a 7:28 pace—not too bad given the crowding and the climb.

In the second mile, the crowd thinned out as I found myself among runners with a similar pace. The course descended gradually for a while, and I was able to run a 6:57 mile without too much suffering. Around the halfway mark I passed Gumby; I wouldn’t see him again until the finish. Mile three, on the other hand, had a steep uphill stretch—not very long, only a sixth of a mile, and the wind was mostly at my back, but it was followed by a more gradual uphill section. I’m glad that I kept some oomph in reserve; I was passing other runners by the end of the climb. And then it was a flat stretch, with a slight dip into a tunnel, to the finish line. The clock read something around 21:55 as I crossed the line. (Update: My official gun time was 21:50.8, and my net time was 21:43.9, since it took me 6.9 seconds to reach the starting line. Results here.) Gumby showed up a short time later. I can’t feel too good about beating him, though, since I wasn’t running in a stuffy foam costume.

My finishing time put me in 73rd place overall, out of 788, and fourth out of 29 in my division (Male 40-55). Not too shabby, if I say so myself, though it is a local race!

After the race

Though I had finished the race, I still wanted my GPS watch to have recorded 5K despite the bit at the beginning I missed, so I continued past the finish for 0.06 miles before pressing stop on my watch. Yes, I am that nerdy. Then I walked back to the finish, slurped down a glass of water, and—what else?—started running again for a brief cooldown. A mile at an 8:10 pace seemed pretty easy after the last 2.11 miles of the race. I ended at my car, where I got my phone and raffle tickets and headed up to the Berkshire Dining Commons for lunch.

Lunch was good, but the DC was very crowded and I couldn’t find a place to sit. I had a pita paneer sandwich, a chicken breast, and some fries—potato and sweet potato—and then called my wife, who was on campus for an event. We agreed to meet up at the tunnel through which I had run as I approached the finish. On the way, I stopped at the raffle table and discovered that I had won a gift basket from Peet’s Coffee and Tea, with two mugs and assorted packages of Peet’s products. This might be the first time in my life I’ve won a raffle prize!

Thoughts about the race and the event

I had a lot of fun running the race, despite the start. I pushed myself, but I didn’t start out too hard and burn out. I could probably have pushed a bit more, but my point was to challenge myself while still having fun, not to have a miserable experience. I definitely beat the 22:37 5K segment that I had run during a 7K run last December. My training runs have shown me that I speed up after the first mile or two, which is why I did a 1.5-mile warmup before the race.

The event was festive, with music playing and (mercifully brief) opening remarks by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and State Senator Stan Rosenberg. My only complaint involves logistical information. Maybe people who registered in person found out more, but I registered online and received no information about where and when to pick up my bib and timing chip, who was timing the race and whether unofficial times would be live online, how the start would be organized, how the costume contest worked, and whether the course would be closed to vehicles. I had to email an organizer to find out when bibs could be picked up, and I still don’t yet know where the official times will be posted (see the update above for my time, found via DuckDuckGo). The only detailed information online, apart from the start time and place, was the course route and the parking lots to use. I’m going to suggest that the organizers add a logistics page for participants to next year’s website.

Brian W. Ogilvie



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  1. Thanks for the race report and congratulations on your time!

    Redditor · Apr 12, 02:57 PM · #

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