This rather “interestingly” titled race took place in Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida on the 8th of July, a mere 4 days after the 4th of July fun run which marked my return to running after a 3 month injury-enfored break. Steve and dad had signed up in advance, but I decided to wait and see how I felt after the fun run before making any decisions. With that race under my belt without any injury-related problems, I decided to enter the race on the day and just take it easy.
Fortunately, this race was no mystery as Steve and I actually took part in it 2 years ago when we were on our honeymoon. My memory of the course was of starting on the path that loops around the park, before going “off-road” onto a rather swampy trail section then finishing back on the main path. The depth of the swampy section, we were told, depended on how wet it had been in the days leading up to the race and veterans of the event spoke of years it was knee deep! My experience was more of running through mud, followed by a rather narrow path where it was impossible to pass anyone and many runners got held up behind others. I also remember going for breakfast barefoot as my trainers were so wet and muddy!
This year, things were to be different. Shortly before our arrival in Florida, there was a big storm which caused some damage to the perimeter fences of the park and to some of the trails, meaning that access to these areas was restricted. A decision was taken to change the route of the race to the main paths, so this year’s race followed one big loop taking us outside the park to the main road, then back in for one smaller loop before cutting off to finish on the grass.
This, however, did not necessarily mean that the “hell” was removed, as the later start time (8am) meant that it was considerably hotter than the slightly earlier race we had run in a few days before. Because of this, I again found it very tough to maintain any sort of pace. This, combined with the lack of conditioning in my legs, once more led to a couple of brief walk breaks in the last mile of the race to allow me to get a proper drink and pour some water down my neck. It became so humid it practically felt like swimming rather than running! I knew I wasn’t running it as well as 2 years ago, but once more this didn’t bother me as just a week prior to this I didn’t think I’d be taking part at all. For me, it was enough just to be able to run.
This race is organised by a running club and is an excellent example of how slick the organisation of races in the States can be. Race T-shirts are given out at registration, although on this occasion there were not enough so those who were registering on the day did not receive one. We were, however, told that more would be printed and they would be sent out. Sure enough, a race T-shirt arrived for me this week! Furthermore, the post-race food at US races is something to behold. While we in the UK tend to go for the omnipresent egg sandwiches, before moving onto a frankly unhealthy amount of cake and a nice cup of tea, organisers of this race supplement the water, sports drinks and fruit (watermelon and bananas) with a barbecue. Yes, you read that right, a barbecue. Bearing in mind that the race started at 8am, most runners could tuck into a hotdog or burger by 8:30, then follow it up with biscuits, brownies and crisps! Personally, I struggle to eat after running, particularly when I’m very warm, so I stuck to the watermelon and took some crisps for the car journey home. Dad and Steve, it would seem, are not so afflicted and got stuck into the barbecue while we waited for the prize-giving to start.
Both dad and Steve ran very well, with dad the runner-up in his age category and Steve placing 3rd in his. Both were presented with good quality plaques to mark their achievement. I found it interesting listening to the times in my age category as I feel sure that under “normal” circumstances (i.e. fit and well trained) I could run pretty close to those and perhaps even place. Something for me to remember as my training progresses.
After the prize-giving it was back to the car for some photos (Steve let me wear his race T-shirt) before driving the hour back home to relax by the pool with a book. I really could get used to this kind of set-up!
So all-in-all another enjoyable race. Ok, so not my finest running, but there’s plenty of time in the weeks to come for some serious training to get back on form!