A Cold and Scenically Challenged 5K

Saturday, I was awake early in order to prepare for then drive to a race in Winder, GA. By early I mean 04:50 AM. The event was the first of two scheduled for this weekend, the second being a 3D archery tournament on Sunday.

So many of the races I’ve done start early (The Puke of Dawn). The most common start time is 7:00 AM. A 7:00 AM race typically means setting an alarm for 4:00 AM. Today’s race start time was 8:30 AM. A reasonable time that would have been better if it were not for the nearly 2 hour drive from our place in Tignall, GA to the starting line in Winder, GA.

Departing at 6:00 AM I arrived a few minutes before 8:00 AM to pick up my race packet. I was glad for the extra time. The sign-in confusion had me questioning whether the registration desk clerks could complete the task of distributing race numbers before the gun sounded.

Registration was held in the gym of an elementary school. A good number of the runners were waiting there until the last minute since the outside conditions were 36°F (2°C) and windy. Taking their lead I hung inside among these weather conscious athletes.

Runner hanging out in the gym where it was warm

It necessitated an official with a blow horn to encourage the gym-enjoying competitors outside. She, the official, began roaring warning announcements that everyone in the gymnasium would be required to move out at 8:20 AM. She repeated the broadcast at diminishing intervals with religious zeal. I supposed she was giving everyone dreading the cold opportunity to mentally prepare for the plunge. (Not to mention refuge from the electronically amplified hollering)

Seriously, Y’all, you must go to the starting line!

Eventually, the toasty inside crowd sluggishly herded themselves outside. Shivering at the starting line hopping runners didn’t have to wait long to begin their trek. The lady with the blow horn bellowed a few noisy unintelligible remarks then sent the group away.

I’d queued up near the back of the pack. I was there to run and get a t-shirt. Placing wasn’t a priority. Placing might have been more crucial had the race officials allowed me to run in my age group. Erroneously, they’d assigned me to a younger age division but it wasn’t worth a confrontation to correct.

Folks finally coaxed out of the warmth moving toward the start line

I have raced over many very scenic courses. This was not one of them. We started in the parking lot of a school. From there we ran across a road banked with dead weeds, through a common breadbox housed neighborhood with car lined streets, back across the road from which we’d entered the neighborhood and returned to the school’s parking lot finish.

Because I’d started in the back of the pack, I began passing people rather quickly. It was nice to have seen so many people working to get into shape. There were some fast folks on the course, but it was obvious the overall phenotype of the group wasn’t lean. As a rule, I don’t allow myself to be fooled by someone’s body shape. More than once a big person has run past me. Today, that didn’t happen, probably due to the number of climbs on the run.

Five-kilometer runs are fast. Within minutes the event was over and it wouldn’t be long before I’d head back to Tignall. Passing a display with finishing places I observed I’d gotten third. The problem with placing is – should you want your medal or trophy you must sit though the ‘Awards Ceremony’.

These ceremonies can last an awfully long time. It was cold and I really didn’t care to wait. In fact, I could see runners were still finishing and from the look of things it was going to awhile longer before most were done. Finding a blanket wrapped lounging race official I explained I couldn’t delay my nearly two-hour drive any longer. I inquired if I couldn’t simply accept my medal from her a leave. She explained rather seriously, “Well, we have an ‘Awards Ceremony’” (meaning no and don’t trouble me).

Medal-less, I’d gone to my car, changed my running clothes to warmer apparel, grabbed my bib, walked back to the finish line and found a different official, a warmer individual, who understood as I elucidated my situation. She checked my bib against the finish board and awarded me the medal saying, “Go ahead, I’ll explain it.” I hope that explanation didn’t bring to her the wrath of the former wrapped and unyielding offical.

T-Shirt, 3rd Place Medal, and bib – rewards for running in the cold

I was glad to be gone. Some races are more fun than others. In December I did a colder, windier, and rainy 5K in North Carolina. It was a blast, the course was beautiful, the crowd pleasant and the post-run festivities a memorable experience. Today’s race was the opposite.