Iroquois Hill Runners, a run club in Louisville, puts on an annual Thanksgiving Day 5 Mile Run/1.25 Mile Walk which I first participated in back in 2010. We spent a few Thanksgivings in Chicago and one in St. Louis, but every year I’m home for T-Day I sign up; this was my 3rd time running the 5 mile course. The first year was warm but raining, last year it was 23 degrees and this year there was snow BUT a pleasant 32. Perfect!
Typically, 5 miles isn’t something I need to prepare for, but this course – through Iroquois Park – takes runners to the top of the park, around the peak, and back down. That equates to a 2 mile climb, and not the kind that “feels like 2 miles”; the kind that IS 2 miles.
Mom, dad, Brett and Barksdale came to spectate and mom put her time to use by power walking a few miles while I ran. When mom is in tow, there are sure to be pictures:
I lined up with 2 minutes to go and shuffled my feet in attempt to “warm up”. This is a great home town race that has grown significantly since I started running it, but you still get the small race features like an unceremonious start. “We’re going now?!”, a girl in front of me exclaimed to her friend, and we were off! The first 1/4 mile is decently flat but a bit crowded so I took to the far right until it opened up and I could find my stride. Just then I heard mom and saw her camera!
The start of the hill is steep but there’s a band that plays as you make a sharp left into the park which helps keep your feet moving. Shortly after, we hit the 1 mile mark as a young volunteer yelled, “8:09…8:12…8:15…”. As her voice trailed off I pounded away at the pavement and picked off a few people in front of me as the road leveled out. Well, not so much, “leveled out” as, “got less steep”.
The snow on the branches made a beautiful backdrop against the gray sky, and through the bare trees you could see the rest of the park as we neared the top. I was thankful to see the sharp right turn ahead that signified the final (and steepest) ascent that would end at the top. The worst was over! I tried to hold steady around the summit, knowing that around 3 miles there would be one more sharp but short incline that got me by surprise last year. Not this year, suckah! I passed someone on the hill and muttered, “thank you” to the volunteers handing out water and focused on running the tangents as I tore down the sharp turn.
A stitch started to poke at me on the next straightaway to I focused on deep breathing and not loosing ground with the guy in the blue hat in front of me. I started to worry a little, but soon after heard another volunteer calling splits, “30:20…30:25…30:30”; I had reached 4 miles! The band was soon to come along with the steep downhill! I could do this!
I picked up my feet and let them fall with gravity and managed a semblance of a smile towards the bag pipe players as we turned right to the nearly flat, last 1/3 mile of the race. I suddenly felt my right hamstring saying, “hey there, HEY there, HEY THERE!”. I kept my eye on the girl in front of me and managed to not loose my distance as we approached the finish. “Men on the right, women on the left, men on the right, women on the left”, a man called out at the finish. This race doesn’t use chipped timing so you are guided into gender chutes and handed a card by the first volunteer who writes something-or-other on it and hands it to the volunteer to their right. I knew I was around 37:00-37:30 but was more concerned with regaining proper breathing and grabbing a water.