A runner is one of the few people on earth who would actually be excited to turn 60, but that’s what I am (both a runner and excited), and I eagerly anticipated my 60th birthday like a kid turning 16 and getting his first car. Since I had just begun running at the age of 56, this was the first time I’ve advanced to a new age group. Over the past 3-1/2 years I’ve watched younger and faster guys turn 55 and enter the 55-59 age group as I’ve become one of the older people in the group, and in running as with everything else, the older you get the tougher it gets. I’ve been fortunate over that time in that I haven’t really lost any speed and have remained competitive in the 55-59 age group.
Possibly more than just changing age groups I’m relieved that I’ve finally reached an age where I can more honestly say that I’m an “old runner” and not get laughed out of the room by much older runners, who view people like me as youngsters. When I first started running I actually thought it was unusual to begin running in my fifties, but now I know that plenty of runners start in their fifties and even older. I named my blog “Old-Runner.com” because when I searched for a name that was still available it was one I found that I felt described me and was short enough to be easy to remember. It’s taken a few years but I feel like I can now live up to the monicker.
On this particular weekend I was eager to get back out and race, partly because it would be my first race in the new age group and partly because I had skipped last week because it was cold and windy and, as you may already know, I don’t like cold weather. Weatherwise, this weekend was shaping up to be as bad or worse than the previous weekend. It was warmer but the warm air was mixing with a cold front and all over the eastern United States there were tornadoes that killed dozens of people and the forecast called for the storm to hit our area early Saturday morning, although there was a possibility of the bad weather being over by the 9:30 starting time of the Strides for Seth 5k in Shelby. I had almost decided to stay home again but around 7 a.m. I heard birds singing outside. I looked out and the rain had stopped, so I got dressed and told Linda she could sleep in, which she was more than happy to do, and I headed off to the race in Shelby. It rained a little as I drove over, but once I arrived at Crest Middle School, the site of the race, the weather was perfect and not another drop of rain fell.
I was pretty sure this would be a small race with maybe 100 runners at most, but I was surprised to see that the parking lot was packed when I arrived. As soon as I hopped out of my car I saw Bubba Anthony, who is part of the great community of runners in the Shelby area, and who I’ve become friends with through the races. Bubba started running at the age of 56 just like me, and we also had in common that prior to becoming runners we were both folk musicians. Anyway, Bubba is one of the top runners in the 60-64 age group and will be going to the 65-69 age group before too long, so he’s now in that unenviable position of watching the younger runners (like me) coming along until he ages up to the next group. I guess it never ends.
The race started on the middle school track with race director and cross-country coach Brian Soash announcing that 483 people had registered for the race. As usual, the actual number of finishers was somewhat less but it was still a surprisingly large number of runners for a race that I thought would be small. Once we made a trip about three-fourths of the way around the track the easy stuff was over, as we headed up the wet grassy slope and through the school parking lot. We ran towards the street but probably 50 feet before the street the race route took a turn, running right through the grassy lawn in front of the school. I virtually never run on anything besides pavement or a treadmill and any other surface feels uncomfortable to me. The rest of the race consisted mostly of hills, which seemed more up than down to me although that could just be my selective memory kicking in, and unpaved trails, which I presume are probably the school cross-country trails. The race ran between Crest Middle School and Crest High School (I think) and I guess the trail system is shared by the two schools. Anyway, it was some tough running for me — possibly one of my toughest 5k races ever — and I was happy to see the finish line when it appeared out of nowhere about three-tenths of a mile short of a 5k (my Garmin read 2.82 miles). The race director commented later on Facebook that rather than worrying about a perfectly measured certified course his intention was to do something good for Seth Strickland, the young middle school student who is battling cancer, and that’s all you really need to put things in perspective.
Age Group (60-69): 1 of 10
Overall: 18 of 374 (4.8%)
* RACE RATING (100 Possible Points) *
Note: With my new rating system (started in December 2011) there’s not a chance of any race scoring near 100. If it’s important to you, look at each individual category to see how points were earned (or not). Just trying to be more objective with the details. I generally like all of the races I run. If there’s something that really rubs me the wrong way I’ll mention it in the summary above.
RACE COURSE (20 possible points)
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (at least 1 for 5k, 2 for 10k, 4 for half marathon) (2 points)
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
1 – Course Scenery: (0)bad (1)good
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
1 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
2 – Finish line: (0)mediocre (2)pretty good to excellent
0 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
0 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
REGISTRATION (6 possible points)
3 – Cost: (0)expensive (1)reasonable (3)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
RESULTS (3 possible points)
2 – Posted promptly online: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website: (0)no (1)yes
AGE GROUPS (13 possible points)
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
0 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
1 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (1)top 3 or better
0 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (1)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (1)yes
AWARDS (9 possible points)
1 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (1)yes (2)excellent
1 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (1)yes (2)excellent
2 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (1)yes (3)really cool medals
POST RACE (7 possible points)
2 – Food for Race Participants: (0)none (1)some (2)adequate (5)a feast!
0 – Entertainment: (0)no (1)yes
0 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (1)yes
REST ROOMS (4 possible points)
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
T-SHIRTS (8 possible points)
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice
0 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
PHOTOGRAPHY (12 possible points)
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
x – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
x – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes <– Maybe (will revise if found)
PARKING (8 possible points)
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
WEBSITE (5 possible points)
0 – Dedicated race website (0)no (2)yes
1 – No dedicated site but separate page on other site (organization, running store, etc): (0)no (1)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website: (0)no (2)yes
OTHER (5 possible points)
2 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (1)yes, some (2)excellent
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (1)yes