Despite what seemed like the longest year in the history of the world, when I arrived at Winter Park for this 4th of July fun run, it hardly seemed like any time at all since I had last lined up for this event – it’s funny how our perspective on things, especially the passage of time, can shift!
As ever for a Florida race, it was an early start. We left around 5:15am to drive in the direction of downtown Orlando, arriving in plenty of time for the 7am start.
It being a 4th of July event, many participants choose to run decked out in red, white and blue to mark the occasion. Although I’m not American, I thought it would be cool to have some of those colours in my own race-day outfit, so opted for the items I had bought at Track Shack the previous day when picking up my race pack – a blue Track Shack crop top (I’ve never been brave enough to run in a crop top at home, but it really is the best way to stay cool in the Florida summer heat so pretty much all the female runners go with crop tops) and some red Zensah calf sleeves. My running shorts are dark blue anyway, and I guess my Scottish skin provided plenty of white to get the full red, white and blue experience! I was also giving my new bright purple Brooks Ghost 7 shoes a go. I’m really pleased with these shoes as I love wearing funky coloured shoes rather than plain old white!
When I was at JFK airport on my way to Florida, I bought a US copy of Women’s Running magazine (I just can’t help myself!) which had a summer fashion feature. I was hoping to see someone dressed like some of the models there in some real star-spangled regalia, but sadly it was not to be.
While we were waiting for the race to start, Steve and I had a wander around to check out the various stands from the sponsors and had our photo taken next to a backdrop with the race route on it:
After the customary visit to the portaloos, we headed over to the start area on Park Avenue and found ourselves standing opposite the finish line we would be crossing a while later:
I really had no idea how to approach this one. I knew that the race would be untimed as it’s a fun run to mark the American holiday, so time was of no real consequence. I hadn’t run since the Edinburgh marathon, however a bit of a run through JFK to make a tight connection posed no problems and a little jog on the grass when we arrived at Winter Park also felt ok. I decided to try running at an easy pace and see what happened. Steve headed closer to the front, mum to the back with the walkers and dad, usually very competitive, opted to jog with me as he intends to race hard in a 5k on Sunday and wants to be fresh.
At 7am the American flag was held aloft at the start line and the Star-Spangled Banner was sung to (mostly) reverential silence. I say mostly as the national anthem seemed to have picked up one or two extra notes provided by the starting up of various GPS watches which bleeped and blooped in time to the singing!
Shortly after that, the race started and we began shuffling our way towards the start line. It’s a pretty big event (I’m sure I heard someone announce that there were around 3000 registered) but it’s also not a really competitive event, it’s more about taking part and starting the 4th of July celebrations with some running, because how else would you mark the day?
I was aware from the start that I was going to feel some discomfort around my leg where the injury has been, however it was not enough to stop me from carrying on. The biggest problem I faced was actually the loss of fitness over the last few weeks, compounded by running in the humidity which is always harder. I was flagging after a couple of miles, but managed to keep going at an easy pace to the finish. I actually found it helped to run slightly behind dad and just match his footsteps so I felt like I was being pulled along.
The race itself is great. The route weaves through a pleasant, leafy residential area and even at the early hour there are people out to support the runners. Road closures are managed by law enforcement so everyone is really safe and the streets are pretty wide so you can find some space to run in.
Eventually we turned into the final stretch and the finish gantry was ahead of us. My leg was feeling pretty uncomfortable, although it did settle a bit once I stopped running. I timed myself at around 31 minutes so it was far from my best, but I was pleased to have been able to take part at all after the last few weeks.
Once over the line we were handed bottles of water then carried on to find cups of Gatorade, bananas and, this year, a souvenir mini towel. We had already been given our race Tshirts when we picked up our race packs. Of course, there was also plenty of ice cold watermelon for everyone, hence the name of the race!
I had a seat to rehydrate and take the weight off my leg while we waited for mum and I also enjoyed a smoothie sample from Planet Smoothie. I was feeling a bit down as my leg was hurting, but the fact that I was able to run (albeit slowly) the whole way is a positive step. Hopefully I will be back to full strength soon, I just have to be sensible (always the tricky bit for an impatient runner!).
Once mum was finished and we’d all had enough watermelon and smoothies, we headed off for breakfast at the Ponderosa Steakhouse. It’s a classic “all you care to eat” breakfast buffet, but in honour of the day I started with a bowlful of red, white and blue before moving onto my French toast, bacon and eggs:
The remainder of the day was pretty lazy, relaxing by the pool and snoozing after the early start. My leg, which initially was inflamed again, settled down quickly although there was still some discomfort but I’m doing lots of exercises and massage to help. There was a question mark over my next race on Sunday, but I’m trying to stay positive (not always successfully) and remember that there has been an improvement, even if things are not perfect yet. Time will heal, I’m just not a very patient Running Princess!
Have you ever taken part in a holiday fun run? (4th of July, Christmas, Halloween, etc)