Christopher and I have bounced around the Midwest the last couple years and have run races of all distances in both the areas in which we lived and places to which traveled. But we had not run a truly small, local race in a long time, so we took advantage of one this past weekend.
We headed to Sterling, just a short 15-minute drive west, for the Brad Onken Memorial S.M.A.R.T. Summer Sizzler 5K, a run that boasts a challenging course that starts in Sinnissippi Park, ends in Hoover Park and uses the Sterling Multi-use Activity Recreational Trail.
We were met with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s-low 80s, easy same-day registration (including goodie bags stuffed with a technical T-shirt and Snickers Marathon Energy and CLIF Mojo bars) and a small crowd of 180 runners and walkers.
We set off at a very informal starting line, down the road out of the park and into the surrounding residential area. Christopher and I ran separately, as we each hoped to set personal records.
The course wound through a quiet neighborhood and then back into the park on the paved multi-use trail. A few people stood at the end of their driveway to watch and a couple people out walking their dogs stopped to wave. The course was relatively flat except for the last 200 meters, which were almost completely uphill—and a steep hill at that.
I felt pretty good through the whole race. I never stopped to walk or catch my breath. I didn’t even stop at the water stop; I just grabbed a cup of water, pinched it and took a few swigs while running. I slowed down a lot on the hill in part because it was a steep hill and in part because my side hurt a bit, but I picked it up on the final straightaway, especially when I saw Christopher and heard him cheering me on.
I crossed at around 30 minutes and was stoked! I was convinced I wasn’t going to break 30 because of the heat and the hill, but I must have maintained a good enough clip earlier on in the race.
The race was not chip timed, and the brochure said headphones were not permitted, do I don’t have an exact finish time. The race results have my time at 30:09 and Christopher’s at 25:21, and I estimate mine was closer to 30:00 while his was closer to 25:10.
All in all, we were really happy with the race, with the exception of it not being chip timed. As much as I like races with course maps and mile markers along the course, I’ve come to appreciate small, homespun races that park districts and running groups put on just for the fun of running and to raise money for good causes. They often cost less money, are not stressful and lead to awards.
Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 30:09 clock time (30:00 estimated actual time)
Average pace: 9:42 per mile
I think the next race on our calendar is the Reagan Run in Dixon—a race with a relatively long history and lots of support. We’re pumped!