The Seven and a Half Mile Warm Up {Recap of Paoli Race for Refugees}

11 miles were on my to-do list this weekend. For me, that wouldn’t usually go hand-in-hand with a 5K, but it was forecasted to be 66°F on Saturday morning. After a hot and humid summer I couldn’t let that lovely weather go to waste, so on Thursday I started toying with the idea of running 7.5 miles to get to a local 5K. That way I could get in my long run and my race. I talked it over with Matt and the idea grew on me as I described what route I would take and which race I would run. Maybe I could do this!

When I went to bed last night I still hadn’t registered for the race, but my mind was made up. Then, this morning I woke up at 6AM to the sound of rain hitting the windows. I checked the radar and there was a huge blob of green and yellow rain over the entire Philadelphia area. Hmm.

As if running for an hour to get to a 5K wasn’t going to be challenge enough, I decided that I was going to do it in the pouring rain. I signed up for the race at 7:22 and headed out the door a few minutes later with a running backpack stuffed with 1.5 liters of water, two energy gels, and a dry set of clothes wrapped in a grocery bag. Paoli or bust!!

Paoli Race for Refugees 5K

September 8, 2018 | Paoli, PA | 8th overall, 1st F (results)

My rain-soaked seven and a half mile warm up took my through the rolling hills of Willistown Township. Along the way I saw a caravan of police cars headed towards the race for traffic control. As I got closer I passed the race’s 2 mile sign (at the top of a wicked little uphill section of Grubb Road that always kicks my butt) and passed a group of raincoat-clad volunteers setting up a water station. At 8:45 I trotted into the Paoli Presbyterian Church parking lot. As water dripped off my hat, shirt, and elbows, I happily picked up my bib, changed my socks, stashed my bag, and lined up at the start.

This was a no pressure race for me and it was fantastic. I started farther back in the crowd than usual and I think I smiled ear to ear throughout most of the first mile as an upbeat song pumped through my headphones and positive thoughts rolled through my brain. “I ran TO a 5K! I am so much lighter without my hydration pack on! It is cool out!” Mile 1 beeped by in 8:16.

Mile 2 felt even better. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery as the course followed Valley Road past a historic schoolhouse, along an old stone wall, and around a huge grassy field. Then I tackled the Grubb Road hill and felt much faster going up it during the race than I had during my warm up. Mile 2 was over in a surprising 7:57.

The water station came into view next. I thanked the kids who were holding out cups but didn’t need anything to drink. I was almost done! Right around this time I realized that I had reached 10 miles. That’s the longest I’ve ever run and I still had nearly a mile to go. I was now in uncharted territory!!!

I turned my attention to a woman in a white shirt ahead of me. I had slowly gained on her since summiting the hill and I wondered if I could catch her. I kept getting closer and eventually pulled even to her as we pounded down Valley Road with less than a half mile to go. We exchanged a “good job!” and I made my move past her, hoping I had enough energy left in my legs to hold on.

And I did!! I zoomed past the police car at Waynesborough Road, turned into the church parking lot, and crossed the finish line as the clock hit 24:10. Woohoo!

Matt arrived just in time to take a photo of my finish and he hung out with me as we waited for awards. This was the only part of the day that did not go quite as planned. I loaded what I thought were preliminary results on my phone before the ceremony began and was concerned to see that my name was not shown. Furthermore, the runner listed as the first place female had a time of 25:17. I soon found out she was the woman in the white shirt. Although I wasn’t listed in the results, I figured that since I beat the woman in the white shirt I might have actually finished first place female overall, which was (thrilling!) news to me. Yay!

I ate popcorn and waited for the official awards, figuring that the timing company would have the rest of the runners added by then. But nope, the incomplete online results were the exact results that were read aloud. White shirt had already left for the day, so the female overall prize envelope went unclaimed as the announcer worked his way through the age group awards. It quickly became clear that my result was not the only one missing, and by the end of the ceremony a small crowd of soggy runners had formed around the awards table.

Fortunately the race timers had a handwritten record of the top finishers and they confirmed that I was indeed 1st place female and 8th overall! I thankfully accepted the prize envelope (which contained $75!!!!!), then gratefully crawled into the towel-lined passenger seat of our car for the ride home. After 11.2 miles I was tired, wet, and so, SO happy that I went outside of my comfort zone and added a 5K to my run this morning.

Local runners! If you’re looking for an early September 5K next year, I definitely recommend the Paoli Race for Refugees. The course was beautiful, the volunteers were friendly, the DJ was energizing, and the after-race party had food, music and tons of activities for kids. I will plan to return in 2019, but maybe with a slightly shorter warm up. 😊

Miles since last post: 31.4
Days since last post: 7
2018 MILES: 957.4

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