The Pumpkin Run has been a fixture on the Tour de Columbia for years, and has usually been a part of my personal race calendar as well. It was actually one of my better 5ks from the rookie year of my obsession, landing me one of my first top 10’s. Granted it was over 22 minutes and a total trophy hunt, but that’s never stopped me from blowing up my own ego before. Over the years, I realized the course was pretty brutal and on the long side of the certified range, so I skipped it. However, Erin Roof lured me back with great race swag, a masters division and a costume contest.
Costumes, of course, play right into my attention whore tendencies. And since I wasn’t going to set any records on this course in regular clothes, why not give it a go in full cosplay mode. Most people would run in a costume for fun, but since I know no other mode than “maniacally competitive”, I have always tried to see how fast I can go. The pinnacle of cosplay speed was definitely the 2017 Bunny Hop, where somehow I pulled a 20:21 in a seven-foot lava-hot rabbit costume. I don’t think I have ever sweated as much before or since. But hey, my usual sense of pride by blue shoeing thin and fit people is magnified 10 fold when they get passed by a chunky Sasquatch…dressed as a giant bunny.
While the bunny costume was a “gift” from Erin, I have tried to actually pick costumes for myself that are at least somewhat more runnable. My first Pumpkin run costume attempt in 2015 was an admittedly lame Hulk outfit that was mostly a mask and an ill-fitting green nylon shirt that was supposed to give me muscles. Since it was like size XXL it mostly looked like a dress. Hulk appeared to be dying of some terminal disease, or had just undergone gastric bypass. I ran like a quarter mile with the mask and had to abort since I couldn’t breathe through the two tiny air holes at mid 6 pace. Go figure. After the mask was gone it was pretty much a regular race. With masters money on the line, I caught Angel about 2.5 miles in, and we had one of the most epic battles ever to the finish. He kicked my arse on the final incline and my blue shoe kick was just not enough. I crossed literally one second behind Angel in 19:57, though I did make sure to “put the mask back on” for the finish photo.
Last year was my Egyptian pharaoh year, and my first, and perhaps my last, attempt at wearing makeup. The race went pretty well – the headdress and arm shields were insanely hot but at least my legs were fine. My golden staff couldn’t handle the arm pumping of the blue shoe kick though and broke in half only a quarter mile from the finish. Still got a rare “double” win of masters and 2nd in the costume contest. It seems I’m definitely at a disadvantage in costume contests with kids and attractive women. That’s probably because adult men in costume are just inherently creepy. And I’m probably not helping that stereotype.
This year I almost went as a gladiator, but was told it was too much like the pharaoh from last year. I was looking for something from Game of Thrones, and the Party City “Viking” was pretty close. With fur leggings (think Olivia Newton john 1982 physical video leg warmers) and fur sleeves, this thing looked cool but was hotter than Hades. But it had the critical shorts/dress like lower half that would make it race worthy. Improbably, the Viking horn headpiece must have been made to fit Andre the Giant because it actually fit my gargantuan cranium, even a little loosely.
On the way to the race I had a terrible realization. I had left my Viking battleaxe! It’s embarrassing to describe my profound disappointment at this fact. Just crushing firstworld problems. I get to the race about 45 minutes early, and my costume contest dreams were even further crushed almost immediately. One of the female volunteers was directing parking with THE EXACT SAME COSTUME. Oh, the shame. At least she wasn’t running. I tried doing a little warmup in the suit but I was going to have to save the effort for the race, because it got hot in a hurry. Plus, my Korean restaurant/beer/late night Superchunk concert in Charlotte routine the night before was wreaking havoc on me. Luckily I knew the secret bathroom in the Irmo Y (I’ll never tell!). Let’s just say pre-race pooping in full costume requires some delicate maneuvering.
Initially the crowd was looking trophy huntish and I was already second guessing my costume run. Luckily Sean Marden, Joseph Kiprotich, and Trey McCain showed up to make sure I didn’t think the holy grail was up for grabs. Angel showed up last second to try and repeat his 2015 masters win. Sara Bonner, Johnathan Kirkwood, 8-year-old phenom Kendra Miles, Roy Shelley, Tommy, Thomas and Cheryl Outlaw, Alex Ponomarev, Arnold Floyd, Leeds Barroll, Jessalyn Smith, Ronda Sanders, Christina McCarty, Heather Hawn, Stephanie Dukes, Luci and Jeff Smith, Alfred Baquiran, Hou-Yin Chang, Sue and Rich Weaver were some familiar faces.
The start was pretty fast since there were a ton of kids racing. A lot of these little guys/girls were sporting Storm track team and team Utopia Youth shirts, so I knew they were no joke. There’s a flat stretch in the parking lot, a slight incline to the road above, then a nice flat to downhill stretch almost to the first mile mark. Maybe it was the late night and dehydration but I was not feeling it from the get-go. Ginormous Viking horn helmet was already falling off so I just grabbed it in my hand. I was getting the beat down by a lot of people, including several kids, even as we approached the mile 1 mark. Felt rough, but I felt better when the Garmin gave me a 6:27 split. Being a veteran of probably 6 other Pumpkin runs, I knew the worst was about to come. Sure enough, the misery starts right before the mile mark and seems to last forever. Multiple tiers of unrelenting hill. This is where little Alex cursed my name for getting him to run this in 2013. My pace had gone to crap, but I was making up serious ground on the field. All those trips up Laurel St from Riverfront park in 95 degree heat were starting to pay dividends. Some serious wind suckage was going on though. I was surprised not to see Trey and Sean coming back down as I neared the top, and I wondered what was going on. Finally I crest the last of the tiers and see why… The turnaround, which is supposed to be just over the top, was all the way down to the next intersection where Firetower rd ends. I’m in a bout of internal cursing as I see the painted white turnaround point for the last 10+ years of this race. Since everybody was doing the incorrect route, and a giant Viking cutting off the course wasn’t going to be subtle, I decided just to go with this new 5.2k.
As I rounded the turn, I had made up some ground on Angel but I knew he was going to torch the downhill. With masters seemingly out of reach I focused on one thing…not getting chicked by someone still in elementary school. Normally this isn’t a problem, but one of the Storm girls was leading the women’s race. She looked like a typical 5th grader except she was effortlessly bounding down the course with some ripped legs, so I knew my pride was definitely going to be threatened. I tried to burn it on the way back down, but staying for the encore in Charlotte and that last craft IPA were also starting to pay dividends. Mile 2 was, as usual, way off pace with a 6 fifty something. I do like out and backs since it lets you see the rest of the field. The costume game this year was way stronger than in years past. My personal favorite was Larry the Dr Pepper guy. Just after the two mile mark I finally pass mini Kara Goucher, but I’m still petrified of getting beat down by someone still trick or treating. I’m dying towards the end, especially when the decline ends and we have to make up the downhill of the opening stretch. I catch some teenage guy who is not liking getting Viking-ed one bit. He surges and repasses me but then dies on the same hill Angel beat me down on in 2015. Mile 3 goes off at the start of the same hill, so I’m guessing at least 3.25 miles in this one. Angel is still in sight but there’s nothing left in the tank and not enough real estate. I blast out a kick just to make sure the 11 year old girl doesn’t shame me at my own game. Finish is 21:09. Garmin had 3.23 miles and 6:33 pace, so probably around 20:20 for 3.11. Ended up 2nd in AG behind Angel, though actually 3rd since 40 yo Ross Shealy nipped Angel at the line by 2 seconds for the masters win. Still got the unofficial “fastest costume” award, though was beat out by Wonder Woman for the best costume prize.
In the overall, Trey McCain held off Sean Marden for the win in 18:42 (again probably more like 18 flat for the 5k). Joseph Kiprotich took 3rd so a good day for Team Utopia South (2nd and 3rd). Abigail White was the mini Kara Goucher in question and she took 1st female, 21:18 and all of 11 years old. Wow. Mackenzie Johnson was 2nd and Allison Spirek 3rd.
Heather Hawn won female masters along with Shealy’s male win.
Age groupers: Kendra Miles won the 10 and under girls, running 22:34 on the long course. Her brother Tyler won the male division in 21:48. Sara Bonner took the women’s 35-39. Angel won 1st in the 40-44 men, while Christina McCarty won 3rd among the women. Johnathan Kirkwood easily won the 45-49 without his nemesis Randy Hrechko to challenge him. Kevin Potts and Roy Shelley were top 2 in a fast 50-54 group. Sue Weaver was 2nd in the 50-54 women. Jeff Smith won 3rd among the 55-59 men. It was a good day for Team Outlaw, with Tommy and Cheryl both claiming top spots in the 60-64 groups. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll paced the 65-69 men, while Arnold Floyd, Henry Holt and Rich Weaver provided an all CRC sweep of the 70+. Rich gets extra points for racing in the CRC hoodie for sure.