With lots of longer races on the schedule for this fall I decided to take this particular weekend to run a couple of 5k’s — one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Since I tend to be fairly miserable anytime the temperature dips below 60 degrees, the 5:30 p.m. starting time of the Jack O Lantern Jaunt worked out perfectly for me on this mild autumn day. It’s a nice small race held on the grounds Frank Liske Park in Concord, a beautiful 238-acre park that was once part of the working farm of Stonewall Jackson Training School, a boys reformatory built in the early 1900s. It’s the first time I’ve run a race here and it’s a special place for me because I was a member of that group of incorrigible boys who called Jackson Training School home for at least part of my youth. While The Beatles were producing their greatest music, Elvis was marrying Priscilla, and tens of thousands of people marched on Washington to protest the Vietnam war, I spent the greater part of 1967 learning how to behave myself in the confines of this now legendary reform school. For many of the inmates it was just a stepping stone to bigger and better things such as a permanent life of crime, but for me it was a valuable learning experience. I stumbled plenty for a couple of years afterwards, but ultimately settled down and decided to be a productive citizen. When sharing about my juvenile delinquent past, I’m always reminded of this quote attributed to Dr. Phil: “Instead of being ashamed of what you’ve been through, be proud of what you have overcome.”
Oh yeah, the race… The 5k followed the perimeter trail around the park, and about 90% of it was unpaved. I’m strictly a road runner so “unpaved” is not a word I’m fond of, but it was fine except in a couple of short areas where it seemed like there was a lot of sand and it was a little hard to get a grip with my running shoes. In the first half mile of the race I could count all of the runners ahead of me and I was in 10th place. Little by little I gained momentum and some up ahead drifted back, and I finally worked my way up to a 5th place finish.