The MLK 5k is one of Columbia’s older races, now in its 23rd year. It’s organized by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and goes to benefit their charity, Bridging the Gap.
I missed the race last year in my ill fated attempt to break 1:30 in the Charleston Half Marathon. Those 22 seconds still hurt. My only time running this race was in 2011 – I remember my run sucked (20:09 with a death march) but the race was a good one. Well organized, timely awards, interesting course.
This time around I was going to race it better. The course does have its share of rolling hills, but is generally flat in the Shandon area. The standout feature is definitely “the mountain”. You start at the foot of said mountain, and get to bathe your legs in lactic acid right off the bat climbing the thing. Kind of like starting the race with a punch to the stomach. Or maybe the lungs. Either way, sucks. On the flip side, the course is an out-and-back, so you get to freefall back down the thing on the way home.
I had little hope of trophy hunting in this race, since its Palmetto Grand Prix as well as Tour de Columbia. Sure enough, there certainly was a host of masters all-stars on hand: Arnold Floyd, Lynn Grimes, Lorikay Keinzle, Rocky Soderberg, Tisdale, Henry Holt, Birgit Spann, Albert Anderson and Thomas Tapp. I knew Paul Reardon was coming, so that took one trophy spot away, and then Plex showed up, so that would give me 3rd at best. Angel was there too, but announced at the last second he wasnt running, so at least my age group was up for grabs. J-Reeves, Brie McGrievy, Valerie Selby, John Gasque, and Pete Poore were representing the CRC.
I was feeling some pressure at this race, since I had just laid down 3 straight sub 19’s in the past 3 weeks, including a win at the VDP 5k on New Years Day. I still have no idea how this sudden breakthrough came about. I mean there was the Moses Mosop video that I had been studying, but I think its mostly been mental. As in actually believing I can hold a ridiculous pace. 5ks basically come down to how much suffering you can endure, and that seems to be my specialty. Just look at my finish photos. Whenever I start thinking I’m too cool, all I have to do is look at one of those pics. Damn I’m an ugly runner.
So WLTX’s Darci Strickland does the start, and immediately I abandon all sense and go charging up the mountain. Bad idea. By the time I reach the top I’m pretty obliterated. Generally its poor form to be gasping and heaving a quarter mile into a 3.1 mile race. You see, who need Runners World when you have advice like that? I feel Billy riding my shoulder again, and the suffer train has left the station. It takes me the whole 1st mile to regain any semblance of efficient oxygen exchange, and Paul has already left my zip code. Thankfully, Billy is still behind me…somewhere. First split was called out to me as 6:15, but my Garmin has 6:23. There’s a kid ahead of me about 20 meters and another guy right in front of me sporting a very new looking Spring Valley high cross country singlet. I tucked in behind him for most of the second mile, though who am I kidding about being able to draft off of anyone. I never look back, so I rely on my official trophy hunting in-race intelligence gathering skills to figure out Billy – 1) cheers/time calls of volunteers behind me and 2) whether the cops let any cars pass after i go through the intersection. In the second half of mile 2, these signs tell me I’ve opened up a decent gap. Mile 2 caller gives me a 12:35 split, so I know I’m way off the sub 19. What’s worse is Mr. Spring Valley leaves me in the dust and overtakes the kid ahead of him in the next half mile. I’m pretty much hating life at this point. I’ve apparently abandoned all form and have been unconsciously tensing my arms into a crippled velociraptor pose, so even my arms are freaking tired. But if I can just hang on to get to that downhill. Despite my lungs exploding and my honey bunches of oats wanting to make a repeat appearance, there is potential roadkill ahead, so of course I go for it. Just before the mountain I finally overtake the kid that Spring Valley took down earlier, and I go flopping down the mountain like a headless chicken. So much so, it seems, that the kid is riding my tail. Halfway down and I can feel it happening without any power to stop it….I’m getting blue shoed. DAMN YOU KID. Total sucker punch to my wilting spirit to live at this point. I turn the last corner and amazingly can still see the 18’s. I try to muster a kick but you can stick a fork in me. I cross in 19:16. 5th overall, 1st in age group.
Three weeks ago and I’d be thrilled with this result, but I’m pretty disappointed to be honest. Wasted way too much energy on that initial hill and I was running on fumes the rest of the way out. Just felt way worse than usual. Should probably lay off the wings, raw fries and beer the night before. Oh, and I forgot to mention it was almost 70 degrees. In January. Man, with all these excuses I’m starting to sound like the Code or Trophy.
Plex easily won the race in 17:18. Paul ran the whole race by himself as well, finishing 2nd in 18:40. Spring Valley , also known as Hugo Rodriguez, crushed that last mile to place 3rd in 19:02. The kid was 19 year old Wells Thomas, who finished 5 seconds ahead of me. Billy pulled a 19:45 on a rough day for him too. Albert Anderson is amazingly getting faster again at age 64, crushing a 20:26 en route to an 80+ percent age grade. Birgit Spann also went 80+ to finish 2nd overall female in 20:45. 16 year old Anna Johnson won in 20:37. Lorikay Kienzle finished third. Age groupers include Thomas Tapp, who also placed 10th overall and 2nd in AG behind Billy. Brie McGrievy had a strong race and won first in age group, despite John Gasque pulling an epic blue shoe on her. An increasingly lean and mean Valerie Selby scored yet another AG win, while Lynn Grimes, Pete Poore, Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg and both Henry and Margaret Holt also took home some AG glory. Interestingly, the male 70+ AG was more competitive than the 25-29. 30-34 and 40-44 groups. Hopefully I can still be out there in 2045!