Run Hard Marathon / Half / 5k – Columbia, SC – 3/5/16



The Run Hard marathon/half and 5k is now in its 3rd year, having risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Columbia Marathon’s two year run. How Jesse Harmon took on this huge project in 2014 with minimal prep time, is beyond me. The idea of directing a small 5k seems overwhelming. But somehow it was done, and the race seems to be a big success. Unfortunately Myrtle Beach moved their date to the same weekend this year, which may have cut down on the elite participation. It didn’t seem to hurt the overall registration though.

My favorite part about this race has been the relay. Team Blue Shoes has done well, taking the overall win one year and placing second another. I am notoriously late in throwing these teams together, since the CRC banquet prep seems to occupy most of my time until early February. This year I got the Code on board early, and he was able to semi-convince our Palmetto 200 teammate Julie Bitzel to join as well. All we needed was one more female for a coed team. Unfortunately, our attempts were unsuccessful. Given both of our track records with women, this should not be surprising.  To our credit, we were looking for at least a sub-24 5ker , so the candidate pool is relatively small. And it was inside of 2 weeks to race day. And it didn’t help that the late relay team fee came out to 47.50 a person either. Alas, our team did not come together. Code opted just to spectate, but I had to do something. At the last second, and even knowing that my masters archnemesis Jeff Brandenburg was signed up, I opted for the 5k. Somewhere in my melon-headed grandiosity I think I can beat him, despite being handicapped by 30+ extra pounds and the fact that my 5k is NOT a warmup for my 100 mile bike ride later.  I never claimed to make rational running related decisions.

So the 5k it is. Since I’m still in the throes of Boston training, I decided to make the race part of my long run for the day. Doing solo Sunday long runs a day after a race is pretty much nails on a chalkboard, so if I could get it done on Saturday with the race crowd, that would be considerably better. I showed up an hour ahead of time and put in some miles with Rob “the Yerg” Yerger and Randy “Don’t pronounce the H” Hrechko. The Run Hard races are like a party for the Columbia Running community, so tons of familiar faces. Even the Harbison Trail Runners came out of the forest and helped man the pace groups.

The Half and full went off 30 minutes before the 5k, so I took a bunch of pics at the first turn. Looked like a pretty good crowd. As noted, not a whole lot of elite looking runners. Anton Bodourov was there at the start, and I asked him if he was going to win. Just a smile. Dude knew he was walking into a trophy hunt.

A half an hour later I’m at the 5k start, where hopefully someone got some pics of me photobombing the 5 chick fil a cows they had there. Chick fil a was the sponsor and offered free weekly meals for a year to the top 3 overall men and women. Sadly, with Striggles and Parker Roof there, along with a young guy in a singlet (later identified as Miles Fowler), Travis Moran and yes, even Brandenburg, my shot at chicken was slim to none.  Drew and Tracy Williams, Leeds Barroll, Pete Poore, Alex Ponomarev, John Gasque, Will Brumbach, Ryan Shelley, Johnathan Kirkwood, Jennifer Clyburn, Joyce and Tate Welch, Tracy Meyers, Luci and Jeff Smith, Brittany Robbins, Henry Holt, Rocky Soderberg, Patti and Ken Lowden were the familiar faces. Pretty strong CRC turnout for what was clearly the trophy hunt undercard race of the day. I have taught my constituents well.

OK, quick course review. I had never raced the 5k but I know the USC campus like the back of my hand, especially those routes headed towards 5 points. Mile 1 looked blazing fast, basically the mirror image of the brutal Gov Cup Blossom street finish. Mile 2 looked to be precisely the opposite, making up all that elevation in almost exactly one mile. Mile 3 was fairly flat, with parts of Bunny Hop, the Long Run and Main St crit courses.

The start was predictably fast, a long flat straightaway on Sumter st in front of the Horseshoe, followed by a squiggle on Green and continuing on Main. Drew and JB are crushing it and gap me from the beginning. I’m always kind of sluggish out of the gates so I try and at least keep these guys in range. Randy and Brumbach should be nearby, so I assume just behind me. Some kid from the Run Hard program is latched on to me for the first quarter mile, and I have visions of getting a beat down by an 8 year old before he finally wears out. Main st turns downhill, slowly at first before turning into a freefall. The Blue Shoes paradox, familiar to readers of this blog, is that my sasquatch physique does terribly on downhills and better on climbs. I mean, gravity should be my friend. Unfortunately it turns me into a rubber chicken, flopping all over the place, heel striking and basically wasting all of my significant potential energy. I try to do all of this rubber chickening as fast as I can, since the JB and Drew tandem are trying to pull away. While far superior athletes, they both have been shamed by the Sasquatch on occasion, and have subsequent deep-seated fear of stomping blue shoes.

Mile 1 comes back in 6:11, which seems actually a little slow, since we’re basically falling off a cliff. I’m apparently not very good at that. Just after the mile marker, Roy Shelley is there directing us into the torture chamber of mile 2. Up Laurens street we go.  Laurens is a nice walk up from Blossom to the Salty Nut Cafe, site of my many misguided beer and life decisions in the mid 90’s. Racing up this thing is even worse than that Jager mini bottle night in 1996. The pace feels absolutely glacial after the downhill freefall.  I start sounding like a wounded elephant hoofing up this mountain. But, as the paradox states, I start reeling people in. First Drew then some other random guys. Soon its just me and the Brandenburg. I had drawn pretty close to him by the turn onto Pendleton, but by the time my heart and lungs stopped pummeling my chest wall, he had pulled ahead again. At the next turn on Pickens, Code is taking pictures. JB does a blue shoes style pose and takes a quick look back. At least I’m in his head.

Mile 2 comes back in 6:48. Yikes, holy slowdown. All of the uphill on the entire course is crammed into that mile, so I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I had better kick it up a notch to make sure I at least get under 20. Mile 2 starts near Gervais and does a pretty flat rectangle back to the finish in front of the state house. I’m hurting pretty bad but the flatness is beautiful after the mountain climb. I can see JB and Shawanna up ahead but the male chicken dinner winners are out of sight. We head back home on Main after the turnaround on Taylor. The Soda City market is setting up so they send everyone through a chute in the middle of the street. I can see the finish far up ahead which helps me launch into overdrive. I’m getting closer and closer to JB, but just when I think I have him in range, he throws in one last surge in the last two blocks and breaks my spirit. I cross the line 5 seconds behind in 19:34.  8th overall/7th male/2nd masters. I had a shortish course with 3.06, but its certified and some others got 3.10-3.12.

I had to get a long run in, so I ended up running the half course in reverse with the Code. Got in nearly 20 for the day and I was definitely toast after climbing up Blossom at the end. Sadly, I missed the awesome awards ceremony with multiple Chick fil A cow mascot photo ops. Tragic.

Taking the overall was Rashad Striggles in 17:30, just ahead of Miles Fowler. Parker Roof took 3rd in 18:07. Shawanna led the way for the women with a 19:10, with Laura Holt and Jennifer Clyburn in 2nd and 3rd around 23 minutes. They actually did masters out to three places, though sadly there was no chicken for the old folks. JB, myself and Randy did a CRC sweep of male masters, while Joyce, Melissa Lance and Barbara Brandenburg won among the ladies.

Age grouper honor roll: Joyce’s son Tate claimed the 2-10. Ryan Shelley won 3rd in a tough 11-14. Brittany Robbins was champ of the 15-19. Travis Moran finished a painful 4th, just outside of the chicken, but got first in the 25-29. Drew Williams and Will Brumbach took the top 2 male 35-39 spots, with Luci Smith 3rd among the women. Chris Fawver had a blue shoe finish for the ages and got a PR 24:22. Johnathan Kirkwood and Tracy Tisdale-Williams were champs of the 45-49. Tracy Meyers and Tom Tanner did the same in the 50-54. John Gasque won the 55-59. Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll went 2-3 in the 60-64. Sue Porter won on the women’s side . Patti Lowden was 2nd in the 65-59 while Alex Ponomarev and Ken Lowden took 1st and 3rd among the men. Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg claimed the top 2 in the 70-98.

Full Marathon: Anton Bodourov made good on my prediction, crushing the competition with a 2:55 on this brutal course at age 45. Not too shabby. Palmetto 200 teammate Kevin Selinsky paced the 3:05 group only to finish alone and claim 3rd! Whitney Carpenter took 2nd and Jennifer Kryzanowski claimed 3rd among the women . Tracy McKinnon was also pacing and got 1st masters for his efforts. Age groupers: Ty Thomas was 3rd in the 45-49. Other finishers I recognize: Kenneth and Brooke Ebener, Scott Flicker, Blair Baldwin, Travis Cowan. Rick Gibbons, Rick Stroud, Winston Holliday, Dean Schuster also helped out as pacers.

Half: Kenny Rayner, Javier Torres, and John Krenar won the podium for the men, Caroline Day, Cymbeline Wilke and Katie Hammock won for the women. Cymbeline is the only local name I recognize out of those six. Toby Selix won masters in 1:26 while Larry Bates took 3rd in 1:36. Age groupers: Fiona Martin and Kimberly Hardin went 1-2 in the 30-34, while Ryan Sacko was 2nd among the men. Nance and Yerg took the top 2 35-39 spots despite Mike pacing and Rob doing his Boston marathon pace. James Lichty was 3rd in the 40-44. Sherri Mims won the 40-44 women while Jennifer Conrick took home the 45-49. Jeff Burgess and Phil Togneri were 1st and 3rd in the 50-54. Lisa Powell, Terri Pignone and Anita Recchio won the 50-54 women. Jim Williams was 2nd in the 55-59. Mike Compton was champ of the 60-64. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69 and Ron Hagell took 2nd in the 70-98.

Oh, and the relay. Three Michelin teams swept the men’s podium with 1st in 3:56, so clearly we missed that trophy hunt. Four Women and a Baby (Carol Wallace, Sandi Smith, Tricia Roland and Coleen Strasburger) won the women’s relay with JZ’s angels (Debbie McCauley, Brandi Bradley, Dawn Woodrow and Pam Zemp) winning female masters. I’m sure JZ (John Zemp) was proud.  The Coed relay was won in 2:57, so we would have been hard pressed to beat that.

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