Unless you are from outside of the United States (or perhaps Pomonkey, Maryland), you already know that the Race for the Cure is a 5k event held in cities nationwide as a gigantic fundraiser for breast cancer research via the Susan G. Komen Foundation. While I wasn't able to get J-Lo to travel to The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer last February, she makes a point of going to the local Race for the Cure each year. This year, I decided to join her.
I've done this race a few times, but not recently. The last time was in 2003. It's really a series of four events: a women-only run, a co-ed run, a walk, and then a survivor parade. This is NOT an event for a serious 5k runner looking to win hardware; there isn't any hardware. In fact, when it comes to timing the race, the best way to describe it is "sort of".
They have a clock at the end, but that's it. They don't utilize chips, and they don't collect the tabs off the bottom of runners' bibs at the end. They don't formalize results, and there are no awards. The point of the event is to raise money, raise visibility for the cause, and pay tribute to folks (women AND MEN) who have had to go through breast cancer. People like J-Lo. Lots of them, sadly.
It is possible to run this race and time it yourself... but unless you plan on starting at the very front AND running sub-7 miles (so, say, a 21:45 or faster 5k), you will be stuck in a thick crowd. This is certainly true about the co-ed run; as a boy, I've no experience with the women-only race.
Still, though, it is an interesting and exciting event for people whose lives have been touched (or stomped on) by the disease.
I decided I would attempt to run the co-ed run as fast as possible. J-Lo planned to walk the walk event with a bunch of her friends, and because she had recently broken her elbow, she planned on starting in the very back. I had enough time to run my 5k, recover, find them at the finish line, wait some more, and then walk the 5k route again.
My goal for the first race was "about 20". In a marathon, if my goal is "about x", that means I want to be within 3 minutes of that time. So, my goal of "about 3:45" at Kona means that I'm happy if I'm between 3:42 and 3:48. A 5k, however, is a much more precise operation. "About 20" is really code for "beat 20:30". A sub 20 5k is one of my big goals for the year, but I haven't really been training for it, and Race for the Cure isn't quite a race.
I lined up at the very front. I was one of 3 people, out of several thousand, who actually took a few warm up laps. Huh. I hoped I wouldn't get stomped on.
3, 2, 1. Off we went. I made two huge mistakes. First, I went out way too fast. I don't feel too badly about this. I needed to be running 6:30-6:40 miles, and that's faster than most of my non-treadmill training. So it was hard to tell. Still though, it was going to come back and bite me. Secondly, I did a poor job of reading the course. The Race for the Cure's course utilizes Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct - an elevated structure that is for the most part flat. Except that it isn't, not when you are running. The first half mile of this race is a fairly steep uphill. From the start, I was zooming UP a hill at a pace that was too fast even if it had not been a hill. My heart rate probably maxed out within one minute.
Off the line, I was probably 4-5th behind "the leader". I hesitate to call him the leader without using quotes because this guy went out at a dead sprint. Everyone around me, me included, kind of chuckled at that. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he was on the side of the road with his head between his legs. I figure he just wanted to make the picture in the newspaper.
The actual people who should be leading a 5k... the people in the CNW singlets... started pulling away from me. I wasn't stopped on the side with my head between my legs, but I had my own problems. Within five minutes, I was doing the wheeze breath. Yay.
For a race without real timing, The Race for The Cure is nice because it has mile markers. I hit M1 at 6:15. That included the hill. Uh oh. Shortly after that, we made the transition off of one part of the viaduct to a different part to make the return trip. Another set of hills.
M2 was 6:58. Nice that it still had a "6" in front. Not nice that it was over 30 seconds different from the first mile. I made up a new goal on the spot: make the third mile close but faster than the second.
My chest was hurting, and I was still wheezing. Yes, my typical 5k experience.
As I approached M3, I saw the leaders finish. This meant that they had finished somewhere around 18-19... not the area's fastest runners. Still though, they were way in front of me. M3 was 6:55. Ok, faster and somewhat close to M2 and I wasn't dead.
I was zigzagging women who had walked the women-only race which had started 30 minutes before the co-ed version. The last .11 was :42, for a finish of 20:50. Yikes. I have a lot of work to do if I want to get below 20. Plus I ran a poorly paced race. Ah well, it was my first 5k in over a year.
Besides, today wasn't about me at all.
Then I walked with J-Lo and her friends. Almost an hour and a half to repeat the same course. Very different the second time around. Insanely crowded, especially from the back. The picture at the top was taken just after we started. You can see the hill that got me in the first race... but it's now covered by a sea of people.
It took us almost 90 minutes to do this second 5k. Not sure exactly how much; I wasn't really looking at my watch.