JROTC Amazing 5k – Blythewood, SC – 4/25/15


The JROTC Amazing 5k is a first year event put on to support the Blythewood High program and to celebrate the 99th anniversary of JROTC nationwide. It seems they were also trying to get as many participants as possible in order to qualify for a world record – the most people starting a 5k at one time. Obviously its held in conjunction with many other event sites around the country. I think they were aiming for 105,000. The event was also free if you didn’t want a shirt, in order to get the most people possible. That’s definitely a first.

In order to start everyone at the same time, they were holding the race at noon, which set up perfectly for a double dip…if you had two X chromosomes. Sadly, the morning race was the Women’s Lexmed Heart and Sole, so no way I could sneak into that one. I’m not known for my delicate feminine features. I did get to go take some pics from that race and enjoy the fact I didn’t have to slog up the Gervais Street hill in the rain. That looked brutal…at least from what I could tell sipping on my coffee under an umbrella. Congrats to Shawanna White and Kenzie Riddle placing in the top5 5, Shannon Iriel taking masters and Janice Addison winning grandmasters!

There was supposed to be absolutely awful weather for this thing. Ben Tanner had a giant splotch of red moving over the radar at noon. I was wondering if the race would even go on, since there might be a tornado watch or something. But when I got there it was actually perfect. Cloudy, no rain, and 50ish degrees. Almost a little cold. You can’t beat that for late April in Columbia.

With it being a first year event, I have to admit there was at least an inkling of a trophy hunt involved. Of course, this came crashing down pretty quick with my stalker Jeff Brandenburg showing up and then Plexico deciding to double dip the JROTC after the Imagine a Difference race in Winnsboro that morning.  It being a high school based race, there were also a bunch of  teenage kids there who might be cross country guys.

There was a decent crowd for a first year event – results have a 100 people.  A pretty good CRC contingent – JB, myself, Paul Laymon, Mike Compton, Matt and Brie McGrievy,  Janice Addison  , Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg, Alex Ponamarev, Jim Williams, Tom Beattie, Jennifer and Mario Tudor,  Tom Tanner, Lisa Smarr, Leeds Barroll, and Brigitte Smith were all on hand. Paul, a 2:20ish marathoner back in the day, was making his first 5k appearance in a couple of years. Matt McGrievy was also getting back in the saddle after a very long layoff due to a bum Achilles.  Janice, Lisa, Brigitte and Jennifer were our double dipping ladies. Erin  Roof (YMCA/Rose Festival) and Jaime Lomas (Eggplant Events/Crawdaddy Dash), our RD’s for next week’s Tour de Columbia events (along with the Able Club’s Race to the Press Box) were volunteering.

The course was a big question mark.  It’s a new certified course, starting and ending at Blythewood High. I knew the stretch on Blythewood’s main street was relatively flat, since Ken Calcutt, Diesel, Trophy and I used to run that as part of our Sunday long run. I  had no idea about the far part of the loop beyond the Langford Rd. intersection.


Like any race with a lot of kids, the start was super fast. I lined up front row and got passed by about 15 teenagers right off the bat, only to pass back all but a few by the quarter mile mark. Some kid jumped out to the early lead, with Lightning Plex striking right behind him. JB went out super fast too. I was just going to let him go, but I tried to make myself at least keep him in range. Paul was wisely using me as a giant wind shield and was breathing down my neck. After taking a left out of the school is a slow, gradual incline. Most of the kids fell by the wayside on this hill and surprisingly I was closing in on Brandenburg. Is he trying to take it easy on me? He usually likes  to crush my spirit from the get-go.  All of a sudden he’s right in front of me and we fall into a mini pack. It’s us overzealous masters psychiatrists and a tall kid who is inexplicably wearing some kind of cleats, clickety clacking along at high volume.

After the Langford intersection, the course becomes pancakeishly flat, and surprisingly remains that way the rest of the race. We hit mile 1 and I realize why JB isn’t way ahead…5:58. Whoopsie. I guess restraint was not in the cards today. I’m usually fine with 6:10-6:15. This was going to hurt. Still, I guess all the Team Utopia track torture on Mondays must be paying dividends, because I was pretty OK at this point. The next mile led us through Doko farms and into a neighborhood on the other side of Main st. I had no idea where we were. The only thing I could remember was that the mile 2 marker was somewhere on a curve on Boney Rd. Things start sucking about a mile and a half in, when I start paying for that sub six first mile. But JB was still there, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him go now. We hit Bethel Hanberry School and the Garmin spits back a 6:12. One part of me accepts this as a reasonable slow down from a too-fast start. Another side, the dark maniacally competitive beast within, says its time to get that sub 19 again. I surge ahead and get in front of JB, who then tucks into my sizable wake. Time to push all the chips in. I’m surging, riding an adrenaline wave when I blast out onto McNulty St, heading for home. One problem…it’s the wrong way.  The volunteer, as well as a very sportsmanlike JB yell at me to get back on course, and luckily I correct before going completely off-track.  The extra distance lets JB get back ahead and all that adrenaline goes out the window fast.  My spirit was broken. Almost. I fight to stay with JB on McNulty St and I can see Main just up ahead. JUST. HANG. ON. I’m not sure what happened but all of a sudden a kid comes down main st and passes JB at the intersection with Mcnulty. Not sure if he totally went the wrong way or he’s some guy that decided to cut the course. I think its the former, since he jets out to  lead over JB. I am just behind wishing I could crawl in the fetal position and cry for my mommy. Everything hurts and the finish cant seem to come fast enough. I’m painfully close to JB and the kid, but the body is revolting against a kick attempt. It’s hard to push it when you’re already past redline. Finally we hit the school entrance road and even this last quarter mile feels like pure torture. As I turn the last corner I can make out the clock – 18:20’s??!  Somehow I find another gear and about donate a lung and breakfast flopping across the line. 18:39. Holy crap.  4th overall, 1st in AG.

So my PR is 18:46, so I instantly start scrutinizing everything. It is a certified course, and the start/finish is exactly where it should be. The 3.06 on my Garmin is irritating me, but Plex had 3.14, and an informal survey had everyone right around 3.10. I’ll take it. In any event, it’s way under 19 minutes, and my first dip under that barrier since a fateful hike in Hawaii back in July 2013. Feels pretty damn good.

Plex won this race easily, clocking a 17:14. William Beacham was the 15 year old kid that I guess took the wrong turn and placed 2nd. JB finished in 18:31 and got 3rd. At least I made him earn it this time.  On the ladies’ side, Janice Addison crushed a 21:56 after winning grandmasters at the  Heart and Sole 5 miler. Not bad for a day’s work, and pretty incredible for 55. Stephanie Roberts and Michaela Brown finished 2nd and 3rd . Lisa Smarr and myself got consolation masters wins, since our competition was good enough to place in  the overall. In the age groups,  it was a good day for the McGrievys with a win the 35-39 for Brie and 40-44 for Matt. Matt’s 21:53 is especially impressive given his 2 year lay off. Brie almost broke 26 as well.  Jennifer Tudor captured 1st in the 40-44, also double dipping. Beth Tanner won the 45-49. Paul Laymon and Tom Beattie went 1-2 in the 50-54, with Paul sneaking in under the 20 minute barrier in 19:54. Jim Williams crushed the competition in the 55-59. Mike Compton won the 60-64 with his best time since 1995 – 21:41. Leeds Barroll took 2nd with a blazing Blue Shoe style kick. I was so proud.  Double CRC wins in the 65-69 with Brigitte Smith (double dip) and Alex Ponamarev. Arnold Floyd and Rocky Soderberg claimed the 70+.








3 comments on “JROTC Amazing 5k – Blythewood, SC – 4/25/15

  1. Amy Lauren says:

    Great job Alex! I wish we had a free race here like this, I would definitely do it! Way to go to the lady who double dipped a 5 mile and 5K in the same day bc I know that’s a hard one. You did awesome and I would consider it a PR regardless of the Garmin, because they are notorious for being off. Plus, others had the right measurement and it looks like the course is certified.

  2. Alan Deogracias says:

    Late comment, but I go here and I just had to when I saw Will’s name. His time was no course mistake, he’s been running low 18s for the past two years…
    I’m faster though… 😉
    See you in Soda City!

  3. William Beacham says:

    Hey, I was that kid who finished second in that race! Yeah, when I made the turn nobody corrected me but afterwards I asked someone and they said it was the same distance more or less so I don’t know. I ended up breaking 18 later that year twice and this race was a breakthrough for me in the middle of my freshman track season. Also I found this by googling my name and my school/town so interesting that it brought me here, just wanted to clarify.

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