The Dulles Day 5K was by far the most rewarding running experience I’ve had since I started running back in March. Not only was the weather perfect for running (it was a cool 53 degrees when Preston and I left for the race), but it was a flat, uncrowded course. On top of that, the race was on the runway at Dulles airport. How many people get to say that they’ve run on an airport runway?
As we pulled off the Dulles Toll Road and onto airport property, we encountered massive traffic. The combination of runners driving to the race along with regular Saturday morning airport traffic made for a huge headache. There seemed to be only one entrance into the lot that race traffic was directed towards, but it was hard to tell if this was the sole cause of the traffic backup. We began to worry that we wouldn’t make it to the Start Line in time, but thankfully we parked with minutes to spare, made it through Security without any problems, and when we got to the Start Line realized that they were delaying the start of the race because of the traffic.
Several older planes were brought over to the start area of the race, which created a very unique ambiance for this race. Because we were so rushed, I didn’t have time to take as many pictures as I would have liked to. Thankfully Potomac River Running, the local running store that organized this race, provides all participants with access to their Flickr page and you’re able to download race photos as part of your race registration. This is one of the many things that I’ve come to love about local races. Instead of nickel and diming you for everything associated with the race you instead receive everything for one small registration fee.
Because of the traffic, Preston and I started towards the back of the pack. Although I was worried that this would cause us to have to do a lot of weaving, the smaller race crowd (registration was capped at 2,000 people) and the wide course (runways are of course much wider than roads and paths that courses usually follow), made it so that we didn’t have to weave. Although we started nearly three minutes after the race started, I still enjoyed the race itself just as much as I think I would have had we started closer to the front of the crowd.
Unlike at my other September 5K races, the weather and course were on my side for a faster time than I’ve been able to finish a 5K in lately. The race conditions, coupled with the adrenaline rush of running on a runway, made for the perfect racing scenario. I successfully ran to the water station without stopping, and then took only 2 one minute long walk breaks after that. After finishing, I realized that I could have probably PRed had I only taken one of those walk breaks. Although I didn’t PR, I did finish this race in 32:27, which is my fastest time since the Jaguar 5K back in April when I finished only three seconds faster. My goal had been to finish in under an 11:00 min/mile pace, which I crushed since my pace was 10:27. After several weeks of being frustrated with the effects that the late summer heat and humidity had been having on my running speed, my Dulles Day finish time felt that much more amazing.
Not only was this a fun race on a very unique course, but part of our race registration went to Special Olympics. I also raised funds for Achilles International through Charity Miles, which is devoted to helping the disabled be able to participate in mainstream athletic activities.
Without a doubt, this race was an experience that I’ll never forget. I’m very hopeful that this new race will become an annual tradition, and if it does you can bet that I’ll be running this race again.
QOTD: What is your most memorable race experience?