The Lucky Leprechaun 5k has been the lead off to the start of the Irish Fest in Camden since 2018, when it was founded to honor the birthday of a local elite Irish-American athlete, Alex “Blue Shoes” McDonald. JAt least that’s my memory of it – it may have been a coincidence. Either way, I got to indulge in my cosplay fixation with my favorite character yet, the leprechaun. Leprechauns are known for their diminutive size and general cuteness, though I am certainly lacking in both these departments. The inaugural run of the leprechaun went off without a hitch, except maybe for the unexpected transparency of green velour. Erin Roof encouraged a crowd of unwitting Camdenites to sing Happy Birthday to me, probably wondering a) who the hell this guy is and b) why is he such a insufferable egomaniac and attention whore. Questions I struggle with myself. But it was fun and I didn’t miss a race since.
Until… one of my college friends got married on March 5, 2022. The nerve of him planning a wedding on Leprechaun weekend! Oh well, I promised Erin I’d be back. Though this year I briefly flirted again with the idea of running Myrtle Beach for the first time. My long run team of Silent H and Joyce were doing it, so there was definitely FOMO and peer pressure involved. Luckily my Achilles decided to weigh in on that decision and become a nagging nightmare for most of February. Blasting out the Buffalo 5k, Long Run 15k and the Dam to Dam relay didn’t help. But no way would I be able to muster a marathon with this injury. I was already committed to the Leprechaun so I figured I could at least slog jog it out if I had to.
So, I showed up to Camden on Saturday with no real plan, other than to try and keep all my tendons intact. I did a warm up with Kara, Clay and Thomas Crowley and realized it was ridiculously hot this year, especially in a thick green topcoat and hat. I really, seriously, toyed with running this thing at my daily run 9-minute pace. But who am I kidding? If I’m wearing a bib there’s going to be some effort involved. And I was already wearing my Vapors , if even for their leprechaun-ish aesthetic.
Pretty big field for this one, which was surprising, given the competition with 3 other tour races and the MB half/full marathon. Erin said there were 400+ registered. Sarah and Eric Allers came down from Fort Mill, and CRC regulars Regan Freeman, Steve Greer, Julia Ghering, Patrick Hall , Melody Kreiling, Ron Hagell, Pete Poore, Drew Dickerson, Shannon Godby, Phil Smith and Coach B were on hand. Erin’s son Parker, who was epically blue shoed in 2021, was back for revenge.
The course is a simple rectangle in Camden. Fairly flat, but a long gradual uphill on the 1.5 miles out and the opposite on the way back. Mile 3, if you have anything left, is blazing fast.
With the start, I take off awkwardly on my right leg and ease into a brisk pace. Everything feels OK at the start, though I can definitely feel that tightness in the left Achilles when we start the turn uphill. I’m lingering back in the crowd and it hurts my pride not to give Regan and Steve a good showdown, especially because they are leading. Oh well, just don’t rip anything. I manage to slowly increase the pace in mile 1 and hit it in 6:44, about 30-40 seconds off my non-costumed, uninjured self. After mile 1 I ramp it up some more and there’s this kid who is hanging on to my shoulder, resisting the pass. Little does he know, a few of my favorite things are buffalo wings, Asheville breweries and crushing the souls of high school cross country kids.
We hit the turnaround and start the plummet down towards the finish. Kid is still hanging on for dear life, but he has underestimated the power of my ego, my training, and potential energy of a 190 pound boulder rolling downhill. Mile 2 is slightly quicker in 6:33. By this time the Achilles has loosened up and I’m hopped up on adrenaline anyway, so out comes the real 5k pace. Kid finally gets dropped and I’m running all alone. Greer and Regan are in another zip code but I’ll at least throw down a decent finish to maybe grab some masters or age group glory. As noted, Mile 3 is pretty much all downhill. Last split hits at 6:08 and I’m pretty gassed. One more surge, a very poor attempt at a pic pose on the last turn, and a brief headless chicken only to see the clock flip over to 20. Finished in 20:05 gun/20:03 chip. Good enough for 6th overall, 2nd masters behind Muscledup. A far cry from the 19:03 of 2021, but considering the circumstances, I’ll take it.
There was green beer and nice pint glasses and growlers for awards. Ron Hagell paid a nice tribute to our late Patti Lowden and uncovered the new GRIT “Podium Patti” podium. It was definitely a good day for a good day.
Overall winners: Regan Freeman took first, edging out masters beast Steve “Muscledup runner” Greer in a blazing sub 19 showdown. Parker Roof redeemed himself for third. Really proud of my other Sunday long run partner Shannon Godby, taking the win in a comeback during a tough last few months. Kara Stevens continues to get faster and faster, clocking a 20:50 for another PR and 2nd place. The ageless Sarah Allers took 3rd. Masters winners were Muscledup, some oversized leprechaun and Coach B among the men, as well as Melody Kreiling, Angela Brewbaker and Kristin Wallace among the women.
Female age groupers: Dr. Julia Ghering won the 25-29. Clara Beaudet took the 50-54. Bertha Woehl won the 55-59. Mary Cassidy was champ of the 65-69 with a PR!
Male age groupers: Thomas Crowley won the 35-39, with Thomas Outlaw 2nd. Patrick Hall took 3rd in the 45-49. Eric Allers was champ of the 50-54, with newly 50-year-old Drew Dickerson taking third. Camden XC coach Mark Chickering took the 55-59. Clay Ham and Phil Smith were 1st and 3rd in the 60-64. George Cassidy and Pete Poore went 1-2 in the 70-74. Rich Wright and Ron Hagell were 1-2 in the 75+.
Notable finishers: April Joyner, Deanna Rennick, Maria Pray, Michael Beaudet, Craig Campbell, Jennifer and Jason Norris, and Kara Clyburn.