After sitting out the entire season last year of the Running Journal Grand Prix, I was really looking forward to getting back with it this year, and this is the first race of the 9-race series that will end next Memorial Day. For the past month or two I’ve had some relatively minor running injuries such as a pulled hamstring and a sore calf. My mileage has been lower than normal and I haven’t been eating as well as I should have so I was a little concerned that I might fall apart. Fortunately I made it to the finish line without any trouble, winning the 60-64 age group and finishing first among the Senior Grand Masters (60+).
The Midnight Flight consists of three races that begin about an hour apart and you can run any or all of them (1-mile at 9 p.m., 5k at 10 p.m., and 10k at 11 p.m.). It’s one of South Carolina’s premier road race events with a total of about 1,500 runners in the three events (296 finishers in the 1-mile race, 954 finishers in the 5k, and 246 finishers in the 10k). The 5k is the largest by far, partly because it’s the distance more people prefer but also because this 5k is part of the Palmetto Grand Prix, which is a statewide GP that’s popular among South Carolina runners. I was only interested in the 10k, of course, since it’s the race that counts for the Running Journal Grand Prix (RJGP). The races of the RJGP are spread throughout the Southeast and draw some great runners, one of whom I met about halfway through the race.
The course is out and back, and after I turned around at the halfway point I got a look at the people behind me. I was mostly looking for my friend Bob Nelson, who’s usually either a little ahead of me, a little behind me, or right next to me in a race. We usually finish 1st and 2nd in the age group (as we did in this race) and I had maybe a 100- to 200-yard lead on him halfway through so I decided to walk for a few seconds. As soon as I started walking I was passed by another runner who looked like he could possibly be in my age group. I started running again and caught up with him, and using all of the tact I could muster up I asked him what age group he was in. That might be a breach of racing etiquette, but I’ve been known to do it quite a few times. It’s nice to know whether it’s somebody in your age group. He was kind enough to inform me that he was in the 65-69 age group and I was a little relieved that he wasn’t in my age group (60-64). I picked up the pace a little and before long I had a lead of maybe 20 or 30 yards on the exceptionally fast 67-year-old, who later I found out was Sherman Stanford, who had traveled from his home in Louisiana just to compete in this RJGP race. During the race it didn’t occur to me that he and I were competing for 1st place in the Senior Grand Masters category (ages 60-69), but of course I wanted to end up at the finish line before he did anyway.
As we headed back along the course I knew what awaited me: a big hill about a mile long that I’ve never run continuously without stopping to walk. I’d sneak a peak behind me every once in a while and there he was, relentless, and I knew he was most likely waiting for me to walk again so he could make mincemeat out of the maestro once and for all. As I started climbing the big hill I thought about the hill training that I’ve been doing every week, running to the top of Crowders Mountain, and I tried to remind myself how much easier this hill was in comparison to that. I kept reminding myself, and I kept running all the way to the finish line, 16 seconds ahead of my sneakered stalker. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could actually climb that hill without walking. It just took a little incentive.
Click Here for Race Results
Time: 45:04 (chip time)
Age Group: 1 of 12
Overall: 37 of 246 (15%)
Average Heart Rate: 167
Maximum Heart Race: 179
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 35:37 (75.4%)
* RACE RATING *
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
3 – Course Scenery: (0-5) 1=bad and 5=fantastic
2 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
8 – Finish line: (0-9) 0=bad and 9=spectacular!
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
2 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
2 – Posted promptly online: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website: (0)no (1)yes
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
2 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
3 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
5 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes (*RJGP Only)
5 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
8 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
9 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice (5)beautiful!
2 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
x – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
0 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes (5)lots of free pics!
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
2 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
2 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Kids Fun Run: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Miscellaneous not covered above: (-10 to +10)