My first 10K is done and over with, and I must say that overall my first 10K was a positive experience. Yes, there were some negative aspects to this particular race, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever participate in a Biggest Loser race again, but for this being my first 10K I’m walking away confident knowing that I can complete longer distance races regardless of the race circumstances or the weather conditions.
The excitement started Saturday afternoon at the race expo, which was held downtown at Penn Social. Although not your typical place to hold a race event, Preston and I found the location to be very convenient since it was only a two walk block from the Metro in Chinatown. While there, we had the opportunity to meet with one of my favorite Biggest Loser contestants, Michael Dorsey.
Preston and I talked with Michael and his wife for quite awhile, and also had the chance to meet their adorable son, Michael Jr. Michael’s transformation thus far is quite inspiring to hear about, and of course the topic of Preston’s marathon back in January came up during our talk with him. By the time we were about to leave, it was clear that Preston had done quite a good job selling the idea of Disney races to Michael (he asked Preston a couple of times if he works for runDisney), so much in fact that on race day when we saw Michael he recognized Preston by the nickname “Mr. Disney Marathon.”
We left the expo very excited about the next morning. We arrived at the race site, RFK Stadium, ready to go. So that we didn’t feel rushed or find ourselves having issues with parking, we left ourselves with plenty of extra time. It was so nice to arrive at a race not feeling rushed, and it definitely helped ease my race anxiety. We took our time walking around the race site, and got the chance to see other former contestants prior to the start of the race.
As race time was approaching, I started to become a bit nervous about the race itself. It was hot and humid, and by 8:30am the sun was already beating down on us. My excitement about the race though seemed to overshadow my nerves, and Preston being the great husband that he is kept boosting my confidence with reminders that I had already completed a training run further than 6.2 miles. He knew that I would have no problem finishing this race, and his believing in me boosted my own confidence in myself.
At 8:45am, Dan Evans announced that the starting line area was officially open. After our experience at the Firecracker 5K, Preston and I knew that we wanted to be near the front of the pack in order to avoid as much weaving as possible, so we quickly entering the start area once it was open. We were informed last minute that they would be creating waves of about 100-150 people (I think our group wound up being closer to 200) in order to minimize crowding on the course. This was such a great call on their part, especially since the course weaved through the parking lot of RFK Stadium and there were lots of turns throughout the race.
At 9:00am, Dan Evans sang the National Anthem and we were off with the first wave. Because of the heat and since it was my first long distance race, Preston decided to run the race with me. We decided in advance that we would run using Run-Walk intervals. During recent training runs I’ve felt that I’ve been able to maintain the most energy throughout the duration of a run with a 70-50 ratio (70 seconds running, 50 seconds walking), and other than stopping for the water stations we maintained this interval throughout the race.
During the first mile of the race I felt great. We received verbal motivation from Gail Lee, and high fived Michael Dorsey. Michael immediately recognized us, saying hi to “Mr. Disney Marathon” as we ran past him. However, we noticed at the first mile marker that it was mismarked (read 2 miles instead of 1). Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first sign of trouble for this race. When we got to the first water station, there were only two volunteers and we lost precious time having to pick our own water up off of the table instead of having it handed to us, which is what usually happens at races. It was clear that this race wasn’t well staffed, and this problem was especially noticed during the second half of the race.
During mile two, and then again during mile five, we passed several motivational signs, each which displayed a different quote to promote fitness. These were very inspiring, and I can’t wait to see more signs like these at future races.
As we passed the water station in the middle of mile two we noticed some 10K runners running towards us. It quickly became clear that these runners were completing their second lap of the course. I’m not sure if the cones in the parking lot were poorly laid out, or if somebody misguided runners in the wrong direction, but this became very confusing and was a major safety hazard. Our overlap with these runners was only temporary, as the last quarter mile or so of the first half of the race (and then later the second half) was only a one way direction on the course.
After finishing our first loop of the course around the 37 minute mark, Preston and I each took a Gu Energy Gel. We weren’t completely drained of energy, but we wanted to ensure that we could maintain our energy for the duration of the race. Within a couple of minutes, I noticed that the gel had kicked in, and I felt a surge of energy. Because we didn’t want to overdo ourselves, we continued to maintain our 70-50 Run-Walk interval. The course safety became very concerning as we entered the area of the course where we had initially seen runners running toward us – we were now those runners. At this point, the single water station in the middle of the course (there was a second one at the halfway point, where the 5K ended), which was serving runners on both sides of the table, was empty. Volunteers couldn’t poor cups of water fast enough to keep up with the demand, and we lost more time waiting for water.
Despite the heat and course confusion, Preston and I powered through the second half of the course. As we ran further and further, my confidence grew more and more. It didn’t matter what our finish time was, just finishing my first 10K was going to be an accomplishment in of itself.
During the last mile, we high fived Michael Dorsey a second time, and pushed through to the end. However, we noticed that we were finishing the course much faster than we had run the first half, and I knew we weren’t running any faster. I didn’t think much about the distance though until after we finished the race. After Preston and I crossed the finish line and we received our finishers’ medals, I went to stop the tracking on my RunKeeper app and saw that we had only run 5.61 miles.
Initially, I thought that my phone hadn’t correctly tracked our race, but the tracking on the Charity Miles app was consistent with RunKeeper. I started to wonder what had gone wrong. After we got home, I realized from posts on the Biggest Loser RunWalk Race Series page on Facebook that I wasn’t the only person who saw this discrepancy. I’m not sure if it was the course itself that was mismeasured, or it was the lack of direction that was provided on course during the race that caused runners to miss part of the course, but regardless nobody actually ran a full 10K. This error, along with other issues with Sunday’s race, has led to a lot of negative commenting on Facebook, Active.com, and other sites, and its clear that Biggest Loser has a lot to improve upon if they plan to hold this race again in the DC area.
Despite the negative aspects of this race, I still had fun and I’m proud to say that I’ve completed a race longer than a 5K. I’ve looked at my finisher’s medal everyday this week, still in disbelief that I actually completed a long distance race.
Last week, I set three goals for myself for this race:
1. Properly hydrate myself prior to the race, and keep myself hydrated during the race. Mission accomplished! This was definitely a priority prior to, during, and after Sunday’s race. Preston and I each took two cups of water each time we passed through a water station. I also had my hydration belt on during the race, which was great since I also needed water in between water stations.
2. Finish the race in under 1:20 (pace of 12:52). According to the race officials, my finish time was 1:09:25 (11:15 pace). The course wasn’t a full 10K though, and according to my own measured pace of 12:27, I would have completed the race in 1:17:22. Although this is only an estimate, I’m very proud of myself for running faster than my goal pace!
3. Have fun! Despite the issues with course organization and management, this was a fun race, and its the former contestants that made it so. Had it not been for them, running loops in a parking lot would have been a very boring way to spend my Sunday morning.
Despite the problems, overall this race was a positive experience, particularly since I was able to complete training runs and the race itself while raising funds for Feeding America, an organization that works to feed our country’s hungry as a result of its collaboration with food banks across the country. This race didn’t have a charity tied directly to it, so I used my Charity Miles app to run for Feeding America because of the show’s affiliation with the organization.
The biggest lesson that I learned from this race was that not everything goes as planned. It was evident that poor organization led to disappointed runners realizing after crossing the finish line that they hadn’t run a full 10K. There also weren’t enough volunteers at the water stations, and the directions provided on the course about which direction to run were poor, which led to runners running at each other and having to dodge one another. It took nearly two hours for official race results to be posted on site, and five days post race our race photos that we’ve been promised have yet to be posted to the race website, hence why none of the photos on this post are of Preston or I running. Hopefully they’ll be posted soon and I can share them with all of you!
In the case of this race, it was the race organizers that contributed to my negative feelings. At other races that I’ve already run its been the weather or my sprained ankle that have not made it a 100% positive experience. We can’t control everything, and even if we go into a race with high hopes there may be something that stands in the way of that happening, and that’s life.