I first heard about the Runners on Parade last year when Derek and I went to advertise upcoming events with Stone Soup Promotions and support our friend Todd Hoffer. As a spectator, it was inspiring to see the streets lined on both sides with fans and thousands of runners charging past. The 22nd annual Runners on Parade 5K is held at the Three Rivers Festival in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. The festival’s parade immediately follows the race so there are people throughout the route in lawn chairs who cheer on the runners. The Fort Wayne Running Club puts on the race and donates a portion of the funds raised to Riley Children’s Hospital. I knew that I wanted to run this race since last year and have been looking forward to it ever since I submitted my early registration in the spring.
In retrospect, I have been training for this race for months. Coach Jake Gillette has been incorporating speed workouts in our training plans since the end of May to increase leg speed for our goal times at the Monumental Half Marathon in November. A faster half develops from improving speed in the shorter distances so the 5K is a good test of progress. Jake has been an excellent coach but in the end it’s up to me to run all out and do my best. Running is a very mental sport and I struggle with not pushing myself to my potential in training and feeling defeated. I was tired of my excuses and was determined to have a laser focus to put it all on the line and not give up at this race. My last 5K was the Red Regiment in May (And the band marches on…) and my next race won’t be until Logan’s Run 10K in August, so I really wanted to make this one count.
As Derek and I were driving back from Chicago the night before, we looked over the distance and realized that Fort Wayne is actually an hour and thirty to an hour forty-five minutes from Elkhart. Since I wanted to pick up my packet the morning of at 7:00 am and have time to find parking, this would require us to leave around 5:00 am. I looked for campgrounds but realized we would be getting in too late to check in and set up camp so we decided to book a hotel just north of the city to get a good night’s rest before the race. I woke up with a little anxiety but also excitement as we had breakfast and made our way to Headwaters Park. We were early enough to avoid the event parking and had a short half mile walk to the packet pick up location.
(Special thanks to my personal fan, Derek Jager, who photographed my race experience for the blog).
I timed out my 1 mile warm up so that I would only have 8-10 minutes of idle time before the race to stretch and stay loose. The weather was a nice, cool temperature of 75 degrees with not too much humidity.
We picked our post-race meeting place since I wouldn’t have my phone on me and there were almost 2,000 runners in the 5K and then I joined the masses on the street lining up with just 5 minutes to go. There were a lot of runners out there so I focused on staying loose and calm as my butterflies tingled.
And we’re off! I kept a steady, even pace for the first 0.2 miles as the crowd surged
forward. I have a tendency to start out too fast and build up my lactic acid so I wanted to pace myself evenly today. I saw Derek on the sidewalk after crossing the chip-timing pad taking pictures. I carried a note card with my goal split times but also had them memorized. My A goal was an 8:00 min average pace, B goal 8:05, and C goal 8:15.
By the first half mile, I was right on 4:00 min and felt really good. There was quite a bit of weaving around people in the beginning of the race with some runners slower than others so I tried to continue down the center of the road and maintain my pace. The route is very flat with almost no elevation but is a zig-zag of turns so I kept in rhythm by making wider turns down the center so I wouldn’t have to slow momentum around sharp turns.
At mile 1, my watch beeped at 7:48 average pace. I felt great and not too exhausted so I continued on with confidence to maintain my speed. I heard Derek call out to me around the 2 mile mark at 8:02 avg pace and charged ahead with renewed enthusiasm. I was breathless but enjoying myself in the moment. At this point I was thinking just how short a 5K really is and that I only had a mile left to go.
Much of the rest of the race is a blur in my memory. I zoned out most of the crowd cheering us on and kept my mind on the time by checking my watch every quarter mile and picking out runners ahead to pass. I was really feeling it in the last mile and reminded myself that this was the most important part of the race. If I eased off now it would cost me precious time and I really wanted to finish well. My watch beeped at 8:18 avg pace at mile 3 and I saw the finish line ahead. I gave everything I had in that last stretch to make up the time and cross that line.
My finishing time was an 8:01 average pace and the official chip time at 25:01. I came in 5th out of 45 in my age group. I was so happy to have met my goal and achieve a personal record. We messaged Coach and basked in the glory before an easy 2 mile cool down with our friend Todd.
I am so thankful to the support of Coach Jake, Derek, my family, and our running community. The moral of the story is that running is as much a mind-set as a physical challenge. If I give up on myself, I’ve already lost but by keeping a positive attitude and give it everything I’ve got, anything is possible.
We spent some time at the festival enjoying street musicians and a sidewalk chalk contest after lunch at a family diner. Stay tuned for separate blog post on the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary that we visited on our way back in Albion, Indiana.