One of my high school best friends, Travis, was getting married back home in South Carolina, so Mary, Kate and I hit the road to spend several days seeing my family and high school friends. Even better, there was a road race near my house that gave out a little bit of money, so I decided to give it a go.
My last road race in South Carolina was in 2005 at the Cold Winter's Day 5k, which I ended up winning in 15:14. The goal for this race was similar to the Run for the Homeless a couple of weeks prior; run around 10k effort, but harder if I had to.
The race took place in Lexington, SC and was put on by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department and my old summer place of employment, Strictly Running. Two of my old high school teammates, Reed Fisher and Ryan Plexico were also running. Reed was a high school state cross country champion and a college cross country All-American but was running his first road race in years and had about a month of training. Despite running over 24 minutes for the 5k his freshman year of high school, Ryan went on to become a 16:30 5k and sub 10:00 3200m his senior year of high school and is still racing most weekends.
When Reed and I got to the race, we sought out my old boss and the manager of Strictly Running, Selwyn Blake. When he was over 40 years old and Reed and I were in college, he would toy with us on long runs and laugh as we would die. He mainly just runs for now as he's busy with road races most weekends. We also got to meet the director of the race.
As Reed and I went to warm-up, we ran into Ryan and one of our old rivals, OJ Striggles. We all warmed-up together and we also saw Eric Ashton, who is one of the top master's runners in the United States and has been one of the best runners in the state since before I was in high school. Warming up, I realized that I forgot how much more humid it is in South Carolina, which didn't help things as the temperature was already near 80 degrees.
When the gun went off, I hung back for a minute or two before taking the lead. We were rolling pretty quickly and I hit the mile in 4:40, with Eric about five seconds behind. I tried to stay around that effort but the heat started getting to me and I slowed down to a 4:48. Since I wanted to stay under 15 minutes, I tried to keep going and ran the last mile in 4:49 to finish in 14:47. The effort was probably a little harder than I anticipated but I felt like I had another 15 seconds or more in the tank. With the heat and humidity, I felt like this was worth close to a 14:30 on an ideal day. Eric finished second in 15:47 and Reed ran really well and somehow busted out a 17:27.
After the race, Reed, Ryan, the third place finisher, Judson Brooker and I ran the course again to get in some extra mileage. The awards started shortly after and I got a really cool plaque with a handcuff on it. Better yet, the race director told me hundreds of felons have worn that handcuff at one point.I then suggested that next year they let the prisoners run, with the small-time criminals in the front and the hardcore guys in the back, with the winner earning parole, but he didn't seem too keen to that idea.
I really enjoyed this race and hope to run it again sometime in the future. Strictly Running puts on a strong race presence and always does a great job with the timing and results. The race director also puts a lot of work into it to make sure it's a fun and enjoyable race. To cap off a good morning, I got an additional $50 from the race director and another extra $100 from Strictly Running for breaking the course record. Guess that covers gas money!