Bluebird 5K – Labor Day, September 3, 2018 (Tallahassee, FL)

I know, I know, it’s only a 5k, but it was the first race after my poor showing at Southern Discomfort in July, and I was eager to do a race no matter how short the distance. On Labor Day weekend I was supposed to be in Manchester, TN, for A Race for the Ages, a race I had signed up for almost a year ago. I was devastated about missing that race, but I knew that – given my recent stress fractures –there was no way I could do a 71 hour race successfully. That left an empty weekend – and I correctly figured that a 5k was better than watching reruns on television.

This race, along with an accompanying 1 miler, is a fundraiser for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It was begun several years ago to commemorate Brookie B., a young woman who died by suicide. The cause was special to us since our son Ben also died by suicide when he was 25. Since this is a community event designed to raise suicide awareness and prevention, it was possible to do the races with or without chip timing, depending on preference.

My whole family decided to race – my husband Darcy did the 1 mile race (and finished first in his age group!), and my son and our dog Shadow who did the 5k with me. Shadow is a black lab mix and very friendly. While we waited for the races to start, she made a lot of friends, especially with young children. The one mile event began at 8 am and Darcy took off. At 8:30, we lined up for the longer race, with David, Shadow, and myself at the rear. We had all opted for chip timing and I was eager to see if I had regained any of my ‘speed’ after being sedentary for so long.

The courses were trail so I was already at a disadvantage but the 5k was mostly grass, akin to cross-country, with only a few areas of rocks and roots. Still, in those areas, I had to slow down and pick my way carefully over the tree roots and stumbling blocks. David took off running with Shadow and I figured they would be waiting for me at the finish line. Imagine my surprise when – around the halfway point – I came upon them. David was standing patiently while Shadow stretched out comfortably on the dirt, taking what was a well-deserved break. It was only a half mile to the next aid station where we all drank our fill. That rest break and some water gave Shadow renewed energy and she took off eagerly, with David in tow. I followed closely behind and the 3 of us finished within minutes of each other. My time was 49:33, a personal worst for a 5k, but not so bad if I took into consideration attention paid to the trail and the dog.

All in all, it was a good race for a great cause and will probably be on my calendar for next year.


You’re Not Alone 5K – September 10, 2016 (Gainesville, FL)

It’s rare that I bother to sign up for a 5k race. The distance is too short for me to enjoy since it usually takes me 3 miles just to warm up and by that time the race is over. However, this 5k was special. September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day and this 5k race was sponsored by the Friends of the Alachua County Crisis Center to help raise the awareness of suicide and suicide prevention and to support people who have suffered a suicide loss. I shall always be grateful to the volunteers at the Crisis Center who managed to convince the Gainesville police to open up our son Ben’s apartment when he had been missing for over a week. His suicide was the catalyst behind the many walks and races I’ve done since in Ben’s memory and in support of suicide prevention.

So I had a personal reason for traveling to Gainesville to do this race. It also gave me a chance to visit the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden located in at the race venue, Cofrin Nature Park. In the words of the Crisis Center brochure that describes the garden “the Survivors of Suicide Garden offers a place of healing and solace for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide. The garden offers a natural landscape, sacred sanctuary and artistic symbols all meant to connect to those who are on the journey towards healing after losing someone to suicide.” It was very serene and peaceful.

The race itself was well done for an inaugural event. A concise but complete description of the course was given on the race website and included a map. I copied the directions on a small card that I kept with me just in case I got lost, but I never had to refer to it since signs with arrows were carefully positioned at all turns. There were two aid stations that offered water and both were manned by cheering volunteers. Additional volunteers were positioned at strategic places along the course – which, by the way, was all on city streets and sidewalks.

I arrived early, found a good parking spot at the church nearby (which offered its parking lot for the race), and walked to the park to get my bib and green cotton short-sleeve tee shirt. The race began on time and by 8 am we were all on our way. I can only estimate the number of participants since there were no official results; I would guess about 50-60 people took part. Most were runners but there were some walkers like myself. Despite the warm weather, I enjoyed the course and the occasion; it was great to do a race on asphalt again.

As I was waved back into the park at the 3.1 mark, I checked my watch and it was 8:40, so it took me approximately 40 minute to finish. We had been warned earlier in an apologetic email that there would be no medals (that was fine with me – I don’t need another medal) but there was plenty of food and drink, bananas and water and bagels.

Since this is supposed to become an annual event, I would respectfully offer a few constructive suggestions for future years:

  • Offer Gatorade in addition to water (September is still very hot and humid in Florida)
  • Use bibs that do not self-destruct when they get wet or sweaty
  • Have some kind of timing device – even just a few volunteers with stop watches – to capture finishing times for people as they cross the finish line (the Florida Track Club has a timing clock that it rents out but the club may be persuaded to donate its use for this organization)
  • Draw a chalk line on the ground for both start and finish lines
  • Set up mile markers to help racers pace themselves (these could be borrowed from the Florida Track Club as well)
  • Publish the results – names and times – on the web and on the Crisis Center’s Facebook page

This was an important race for me to do and I feel sure it will grow in popularity. It was definitely worth the 4 am drive to Gainesville. When I returned home and went through the good bag that held my shirt and bib, I discovered a thank you note addressed to me by name from the race coordinator thanking me for participating. That was a special touch!