It was a perfect way to start my second year of running. My first official “run” had been Labor Day 2008. We were in Tulsa that day, but I had seen the advertising for the Gastonia Labor Day 5k and kind of wanted to see if I could do it. For the previous couple weeks or so I had jogged around Martha Rivers Park a little, decked out in walking shoes and blue jeans. But for that run in Tulsa I wore shorts — just like a real runner — and running shoes (cheap ones from Shoe Carnival, but running shoes nonetheless). It turns out that Labor Day 2008 was the first day of the rest of my life, and that first 25-minute run was magical, instantaneously transforming me from mall walker to runner.
Linda and I were both excited about the Labor Day 5k. Out of 50 races over the past year, this was only the 2nd one in our home town of Gastonia. Equally exciting was having so many of the runners from the Gastonia Running Club in the 5k. There were at least 10 of us — Mary, Jennifer, Tammy, Aarin, Carrie, Linda, Shashi, John, Mitch, and me (hope I didn’t leave anybody out). I had driven over the course on Sunday so I knew what to expect. The first half mile was basically all uphill, but after that it leveled off for most of the remainder of the race, and we got to come back down that half mile hill at the end.
Throughout much of the race I chased Aregai Girmay, a Gastonia runner who I just met at this race but whose running reputation I was already very familiar with from his excellent times in such races as the Boston Marathon. I did manage to catch him once somewhere about halfway through the race, but he wouldn’t have any of it and passed me for good before we hit the 3-mile mark. Going into the last mile my main concern was not in outrunning anybody else but in trying to better my own PR (Personal Record) of 21:13 that I set last Saturday at the Charlotte Greek Festival. I felt good and thought it might be possible to knock 14 seconds or so off that time and finish in under 21 minutes for the first time. Turns out it wasn’t that simple though, and I wasn’t able to go under 21 minutes although I did set a new PR with a time of 21:05 (mile splits 6:57, 6:43, and 6:39), which was good enough for 1st place in my division, and 23rd overall out of around 309 runners.
The post-race food was scrumptious! All kinds of donuts (I think from Dunkin Donuts) and sausage biscuits as well as some fruit and drinks (including coffee). I’ve been doing more eating than running lately and had put on a few pounds, so for the past week and a half or so I’ve been counting Weight Watchers points and watching my diet. The apple fritters, which have always been my downfall, were more than I could resist so I grabbed one and scarfed it down quickly before I had a chance to think too much about how guilty I’d feel afterwards. The sausage biscuits seemed to be calling my name as well, but luckily the apple fritter triggered my guilt mechanism enough that I was able to overcome the sausage biscuit urge.
The awards ceremony was great, with small but attractive trophies for the winners, and it looked like a couple hundred people stayed for the awards, with the emcee announcing the winners from the steps of the gazebo where I first kissed my wife Linda 30 years ago (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
I took some photos and I’m including 62 of them in the slideshow. Sorry to say they didn’t end up too great this time, but they’re still free if you find your picture and want to download it (just click on the slideshow and get the full size picture from Picasa.