For the past four years, Labor Day weekend has meant Sweet Corn Festival, and my favorite activity, the Ken Keener Classic 5K. I always love running that course - I know it backwards and forward. Who knows how many times I ran it? This year I contemplated making the trek to Millersport for the run, but I decided not to - a 1 1/2 hour drive one-way for a 3.1 mile race made me decide against it. And then I heard they had to suffer through a thunderstorm (which didn't dampen the crowd - according to official results, over 400 runners and walkers completed the course).
Since I didn't get to race, I ran my own 5K on the Wellston Bike Path around Lake Alma. I ran 5K in 20:39, which I found out later would have been fast enough for first place in my age group at the SCF. But all was not lost, as I found out there would be a race in nearby Jackson on Labor Day itself.
I got everything ready to go, but when I was halfway there, I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin. I could either turn back and not get enough time to warm up or I could run "naked" (without a watch or iPod). I chose naked.
I don't remember ever having an easier sign-in for a race - there were no bibs or numbers or anything. I "paid" for my race with new clothing items to be given to area school children.
After warm-ups and stretching, we made our way to the start line. There weren't many who toed the line - everyone was hanging back a bit. I quickly found the kid who would eventually win - it wasn't hard to guess... the fit kid in the current year cross country t-shirt is probably a good bet for the winner. So I started by him. At the start, I wasn't surprised that he jumped out fast. After about 20 yards, I knew I couldn't stay with him, so I settled into my pace. One more guy was out in front of me, and another caught up to me right away. I stayed calm and just ran (and stayed on #3's shoulder). It was actually nice to not know my pace; I just ran this race for fun.
Somewhere along the first mile was a long, steady hill - not very steep, but enough of a hill to kill the #2 runner, and #3 and I ran him down. Not long after that, I passed #3 and though he was game enough to try to stick with me, that was the last I saw of him.
For an inaugural race (I refuse to use their "First Annual" terminology), they had marked the course extremely well and for a low-staffed race team, they had a great number of volunteers pointing the turns. Along the course were a few hills, nothing too steep, just enough to keep it interesting. Some of the course was through residential tree-lined neighborhoods, and though the roads weren't closed, traffic was minimal enough.
I never had any more competition, and #1 guy was gone (he finished nearly a minute ahead of me). I probably had 30 seconds on runner #4 (yellow shoes - he was the only other guy I had thought might be competition), who passed #2 and #3 somewhere back there. My finishing time was 20:06, my best time this season, enough for 2nd place overall and 1st in the 40-44 age group.
When I got home, my 6 year old was excited about my ribbon. My wife was just glad I didn't get a trophy ;-)