This past weekend marked the celebration of Cinco de Mayo for local runners and walkers participating in the 4th annual Cinco de Miles 5K on the Mishawaka Riverwalk Trail. While each year has attracted more people, 2019 hit a record number of 488 participants on the sunny sidewalks of the St. Joesph River. Animal lovers alike flocked to the waterfront in support of #CDM5K‘s charity donations to the Humane Society of St. Joesph County. Every year I have heard positive remarks about the race but have had yet to sign up. With a month of consistent running under our belts, the Jager Game Changers were convinced by the great cause and signed up to race.
In the week leading up to the event, heavy rain was a daily occurrence with flooding throughout the area. Since Derek and I were late decision-makers, we held out on the weather and signed up race-day morning. Parking and onsite registration was a smooth process guided by a small army of volunteers to accommodate the large crowds with their dogs and families. Central Park was a great location for us to roam about and catch up with a couple of our friends before the race. While we would normally jog an easy mile before racing, the fitness instructors of World Gym led a cardio dance work-out that we jumped into for a fun change of pace to warm up with a little flavor before toeing the line. For once, pre-race jitters were non-existent as I skipped from the dancing to the start line internally reciting my pace goal of “8:30 min or less” each mile. The race took off with the festive music of the Mariachi Universitari as the herd of feet funneled forward.
The course was a single loop on the sidewalk trail circling gardens and trees with a sweeping view of the river rushing below. Several bunny hills along the course pushed me to maintain a steady pace on the inclines and then accelerate with speed bursts. I felt strong and fast in the cool air and pushed myself a little faster when I felt too comfortable by targeting runners ahead of me to catch up to, run alongside, and then pass when I found my rhythm.
The race atmosphere was festive and motivational with volunteers cheering throughout the course and the dancers of Baile Folklorico swaying their long, colorful dresses to song. I blew the little dancers a kiss and waved hello as I ran by. Portions of the trail had flooded over the past few days so the course was rerouted to cross the river over bridges strung with Mexican papel picado flags lined with intricate designs on colorful papers that flapped in the breeze. Inspired by the tunnel of banners, I kicked the pace up a notch with a half mile to go in the home stretch. The music of the mariachi propelled me toward the finish and I heard a “Go Ashley!” cheer from my friend, Kylee, as I crossed the line. Little did I know that I had just finished 2nd in my age group for a medal. More importantly, I surpassed my goal of pacing 8:30-minute miles with an 8:23 average pace.
It was such a joy to race well and be a part of a well-organized event. As we awaited the medal ceremonies, we took advantage of the post-race buffet with Einstein bagels with flavored cream cheeses, fruit, and sweets. Sponsors passed out pet leashes and water bowls and finishers posed for photos at the Cinco de Miles 5K backdrop. Derek and I met up with our friend Ed to celebrate together with a race well-run. I was impressed with the level of preparation in a well-executed athletic event but also with the celebration of Mexican traditions, support of a well-deserving charity organization, passionate volunteers, and timely schedule of events. The Cinco de Miles 5K was one of the best races that I have ever experienced and may become my new favorite annual run.