I wasn't sure what time to aim for in the race since I hadn't been running hard since my marathon. I just wanted to have fun, run hard, and see where my fitness level was currently. A friend of mine, Austin Balen, also on the store team and a senior in high school, said he was running it too and wanted to break 18 minutes. Austin ran in the Footlocker cross-country South regionals at McAlpine Park in Charlotte the week before. I thought I could pace him to his sub 18:00 5K goal.
Once we got to the school, the challenge became getting my shoe chip. The school campus was packed with runners. The building race day registration and shoe chip pickup were in was crowded and overloaded with runners. The race had over 1,000 finishers last year so I expected a big turnout but I also expected the layout and organization to be better. It would have been nice for a race of this size to use bib chips instead of shoe chips. Anyways, after finally making my way through the crowd to get my shoe chip, Jamie and I headed back outside.
It was a packed starting line. I talked with several friends while we all tried to squeeze in upfront. There was a woman with a baby jogger lined up on the front line, she did not belong there. The front should be reserved for competitive runners and a woman with a stroller is not one. Runners should do a better job of lining themselves up by their abilities.
After making the turn I picked up the pace to push the downhill. I realized I was running with masters runner, Ashley Bass. He would pull away a little bit on the downhill but I would draw even again on the flats. He and I were side by side running hard on the way back. The temperature and cloud cover was great for racing and I was feeling better the longer I ran.
I ended up beating my previous PR of 17:47 from the Myrtle Beach Coastal 5K by one second. It wasn't much but still a new PR. I surprised myself with my finishing place and time. I felt surprisingly better the longer the race went on. It's a shame it wasn't a 10K. I was very pleased with my time considering I had not been running hard or doing any speedwork since my marathon in November. Having other runners around me the whole time helped a lot. It's easier to go faster when you have people to run with and you're not all by yourself. I really liked the course and the race as a whole. They had some nice post race food from area businesses. Many ran in Christmas costumes, Santa hats, of course jingle bells, and reindeer antlers. It's a fun race and I recommend doing it.