As I am on my quest to run 30 races this year and only at 8 races in 5 months, I figured I would find a lot of community 5k races to help fill in through the summer. This race was exactly that. Whitehall is a small borough about 25 minutes south of Pittsburgh. I had found this race on one of the local race calendars and put it in the back of my mind. I told myself if I got up early to make the race, I’d run and if not, oh well. I didn’t do a pre-registration since it was mail in only registration, so I wasn’t going to lose any race fee.
Well, on Saturday morning, there was a small miracle and I ended up getting up at 7:30am. I really hate mornings, so not having huge motivation, this was quite impressive. The race had a 9:15am start but ended up arrive around 8:20am. Plenty of time to register, pee, warm up and just relax. Registration was super easy. I filled out a piece of paper, paid my $15 (Can’t beat that!!) and they handed me a bib and the long sleeve technical race shirt. Since it took all of 5 minutes, I just hung out in my car to relax until closer to race time.
The other thing about Whitehall is it’s in the South Hills area of town and as I was driving in, I drove through most of the course and OH, MY the the hills! While I was registering someone mentioned they changed the course this year to eliminate most of the hills. Well, I can only imagine how brutal last year’s course was.
Around 9:10am they started getting the runners together. I think 50% of the runners there were under 18 years old. There were lots of kids and what looked to be lots of high school cross country kids as well. Before all of the runners walked over to the start line (which was a random line in the middle of a road), we enjoy the singing of the National Anthem by Jeff Jimmerson. For all of the non-Pittsburgh, he is best known as the National Anthem singer for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
There was no chip timing for the race, so I lined up pretty much in the front row with all the small kids. Figured I’d try and get as most accurate time as possible. My goal for the race was try and go sub 32 minutes. I had no idea where I would be, but figured even with the hills, it could be doable. As soon as the gun went out those kids shot out so quickly with huge smiles on their faces and parents just cheering them on.
Within maybe the first quarter mile of the race, you got the taste of those wonder south hills. By the time I got to the top, I was sucking wind, feeling my legs burn and thinking to myself that this was the worst idea ever. The one nice thing about the brutal uphills was those nice long down hills. I tried to use them as much as possible to my advantage. I just honestly felt like a roller coaster going up, down, up some more and down some more.
Since this was a small race, there weren’t that many people out cheering, but a few neighbors working in their yards did cheer us on as we went by. One women even was snapping pictures and happened to scream out tell me a hashtag to us. I told to use #pghcitygirl and sure enough, when I looked on Facebook later that night, I saw some video and pictures.
Mile 1 and 2 of the race felt the same for me. The actual pace was slower than my final, but my Garmin said I did the first two miles at 10:14. Probably the most consistent I’ve run in along time! Mile 3 felt like it was mostly uphill and it was the slow upgrade type. Sometimes I’d rather just have the short, steep uphill and get it over with.
Somewhere around mile 2.4 we turn off of Brownsville Road and back into the neighbor roads and the course marshalls just kept saying it’s all downhill. Oh, why do they lie?! Yes, there was a very nice downhill for awhile, but there was also one small hill and then one very steep hill left. It was on this very last steep uphill that I walked for maybe 20 steps. I just knew I would actually get up the hill faster if I walked and I did. My stride was just so short trying to get up that last hill.
Finally though once you got up the hill you took a sharp left and it was all downhill to the finish line. I definitely kicked it in as best as I could. The heat was starting to kill and at one point going down the hill I thought to myself just don’t fall down!
Once I was done, I got some water and my Nuun from the car and headed back to the finish area to wait for the results. When they finally posted them, I was just about shocked out of my socks at the age group results.
I did hit my goal and went sub 32minutes with a final time of 31:33. Somehow this time was good enough for FIRST place in my 30-34 age group! Gotta love those small community races! I was so shocked! Once I saw that, I ended up sticking around for the award presentation to get my medal! I mean, this has never happened, so why not bask in all that glory!
I am really glad I ended up running this 5k and not just because I did snag the age group award, but overall it was a great confidence booster for me. I was very consistent on my pace on those hills, so it gives me so hope that I have slowly improved my hill running and a push to get back into running. Overall, it was a fun race with a great community vibe. Hopefully I’ll get to enjoy more like that through the rest of the summer.
Official finish time:
1/4, Females, 30-34