My running club has races nearly every Sunday, with no advanced sign-ups required, and a cost of only $3 for members ($5 for nonmembers). I've run a number of times with them before, but not many lately. The three races I planned to run in July were the Strawberry Hill 5K, the Crissy Field 5K, and the Fort Mason 5K. I suffered serious lower back pain the day before the Strawberry Hill, and had to miss it, along with at least one planned training run. Fortunately I healed in a few days.
I ran the Crissy Field 5K on July 10, coming in at 35:06 for a pace of 11:18 min/mile. I jogged three miles to the start of the race and walked home after; definitely felt the burn in my legs after nine continuous miles on my feet. The simultaneous six-hour distance classic got more of the attention, and there was a breast cancer walk going on nearby, which made for a lot of traffic on a Sunday afternoon. But I enjoyed running out to Fort Point and watching the crashing waves.
I felt a bit lonely at this race; I recognized a couple of people from the club, but didn't manage to strike up any conversations. One tall woman with striking features caught up with me several times, but each time her watch beeped and she slowed to a walk. I practice this run-walk method myself on longer runs, but wasn't doing it for the 5K, so wasn't sure what the etiquette was; she had said earlier in the race "I like your pace" but then she didn't keep up with it. I hung around at the finish but didn't see her again.
The following Sunday I ran the Fort Mason 5K, improving my time to 33:53 for a pace of 10:55 min/mile. This was a new course for DSE but one very familiar to me, as it followed one of my two regular routes, going from Aquatic Park uphill to Fort Mason, then out to the Marina and back. Knowing about the hill meant I could pace myself well. I finally managed to use the lap timer on my watch correctly, and thus recorded my mile splits: 11:17, 10:34, 11:12.
I was again alone during this run, but boyziggy met me at the finish line and snapped some photos. I did talk with a youngish girl briefly in the last mile, as she seemed to having trouble, moving slowly, and I wanted to give her encouragement. She then informed me she had run into a pole earlier! That explained the wobbliness. She said she would run down the hill with me, and I encouraged her to take off if I couldn't keep up, as I'm particularly bad at running down hills. She did so, and I didn't see her again in the race.
The last of my 5K races was today, at the San Francisco Marathon. At $30 this race cost literally ten times what my club races do, and definitely wasn't ten times better. Despite the size - a field of nearly 1600 - there were no pace markers at the start suggesting where to line up. The loudspeaker was inaudible from more than 20 feet away, so if there were any instructions I didn't hear them. Walkers mingled with runners and did not attempt to move to either side; I was dodging people for the entire race. I didn't see any markers for miles two and three. I did not get a finishing ribbon or medal; if they were handing them out, I didn't see where, and I didn't see any other 5K finishers wearing them, though those who ran the same distance as part of the "progressive marathon" were.
Despite all this, I got my best time of the month: 33:05, for a pace of 10:39 min/mile. The completely flat course and cool weather helped, of course. I'd last run this particular race in 2005, when I was 30 pounds heavier and had barely trained for it at all; I managed only 42:21 then. I don't think I will run this race again; it's clearly an afterthought compared to the more popular and prestigious marathon and half-marathon events, although I did get a T-shirt (long-sleeved and a terrible color on me) and various food items at the finish, my favorite being Zico coconut water (yum).
Part two of the Summer of Racing will be written in August, after I successfully complete two 10Ks: DSE Walt Stack 10K on August 7, and the Big Gay 10K on August 13. All my races and workouts are logged on RunningAHEAD. Stay tuned!