Lucky Leprechaun 5k – Camden, SC -3/7/20

The Lucky Leprechaun 5k is now in its 3rd year, associated with the Irish Fest, a St Patrick ’s Day style party, in Camden. I originally balked at the idea of this race back in 2018, but race director extraordinaire and GRIT endurance CEO Erin Roof mentioned free beer, an Irish theme, a flat course..and did I mention free beer? To “sweeten” the deal she promised that there would be a special cake, since the inaugural event happened to be on March 3, my birthday. I thought she was kidding, but she really had a cookie cake and made the crowd sing. My giant head grew three sizes that day. Since it was held in Camden, about 90 percent of the people were like who the eff is this dude, and is he really that much of an egomaniac? Of course the answer to this question is “yes”, and I’ve come back every year since. Drew Williams is still bitter about the 2018 event, because when you get the overall win, you don’t expect a 5th place Sasquatch to get all the glory.

In year two, as a way of paying it forward, I agreed to come back and be the official Lucky Leprechaun. This saved Erin’s son Parker from the shame of replaying the role in shamrock boxers like the first year. He’s going to have a lot to process in therapy. I managed to find the most ridiculous costume I could find on Amazon that was still remotely runnable, complete with top hat and faux three piece green suit. What they didn’t mention in the description were the revealing, free-flowing green velour knickers. I still shudder at some of those action photos. Yikes.

But with some extra spandex this year, I was back as the Leprechaun part II in 2020. Last year I managed to run a 20:30 and place 5th, but this time I was going to make a run at a costumed sub 20. My only other success in this department was a 19:36 in the rabbit onesie at Bunny Hop. I’m still crushed I couldn’t find an extra gear to run down Brandenburg at that event. Sadly, he wasn’t coming to LL and was chasing free Chick Fil A for a year at the Run Hard 5k.

The moment I show up in Camden on race day, I realize the masters deck is stacked against me. Drew Williams is on hand to try and reclaim his 2018 glory, plus Sean Higgins is already there as well. Higgins and I have gone back and forth, but I’m pretty damn sure he’s not going to let me catch him in this outfit.  At least I’ve finally crossed over to the 45-49 this past week, where I get a brief respite from Drew, Yerg, Nance, Angel, Code, Phil Midden, Derek Gomez and whatever other superfit middle aged dad who decides to race on a whim.  The 40-44 is just brutal.

To maximize my speed with the increased weight of the costume, I bring out the Nike Next percents. With their bizarro heel fin and angular shape, they oddly fit the leprechaun aesthetic. I did half the course with Higgins to show him the route. Basically a rectangle in Camden, where the first half is a slow, gradual climb and the reverse in the second half. Makes for a fast finish and pretty fast course in general. No major hills.

Back at the start, I have to negotiate a Leprechaun portapotty visit, which is a bit of a challenge. While in line, two little kids stared at me with fear in their eyes, wondering what depraved 6’3” beast of a man would wear a costume meant for a little person. Some cross country kid was asking me about why I was wearing the Nikes. I forgot what I told him, though it was some politically correct version of TO BEAT YOUR ASS. I don’t know why he wouldn’t take an oversized middle aged man in green velour seriously.

Since the race is in Camden, and with the two competing races (Run Hard and March for Meals), there were not a ton of familiar faces, but a big crowd nonetheless. Pete Poore was back on the recovery trail after his brutal 2019 Justin Pepper 5k injuries laid him out for months. Will and Amanda Rowan, Kana Rahman, Martie McCallum, Ron Hagell, Patti and Ken Lowden, Shelley Hinson, Jennifer Norris, Mark Chickering, Jim Williams, Megan Buddin, Arnold Floyd, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance, Tom and Lisa Hart, and Sharon Sherbourne were all in attendance.

With the start, there is a big group blasting out from the beginning, and I’m already finding myself behind 10-20 people in the first quarter mile as we make our way on East Dekalb St. We suddenly take a left on Fair and enter the rectangle on Hampton Park Rd. Suddenly, quite a few kids drop off the pack.  I pass them, making sure to “buzz the tower” while blowing past portapotty line teen. Yes, I’m that petty. Making the right turn on Lyttleton , all you can see is endless straight road, with the turnaround far out of sight. I focus on keeping Higgins at least in shouting distance, though he is gapping me ever so slightly. Up above I see Drew in a knock-down drag-out battle with some dude in sweatpants?  WTF? Sweatpants dude appears to have the lead though. My mile 1 comes back in 6:24. Not too bad, especially with the uphill and my tendency to negative split. Sub 20 is sub 6:27 pace.


The long uphill is starting to kill me slowly, so I’m super relieved when I see Sweatpants take the right turn up ahead. I sense there’s another runner on the sidewalk nearby, and suddenly I see Whitney Keen. It takes me a second to realize he isn’t racing but running around his hometown, which is a relief since he’s still in my new age group. There’s a one block turnaround and I’m still close enough to Higgins to be in the that block, but only barely. There’s another cross country kid just behind him, so I’m sitting 5th. The second half of the race is all very slow, gradual decline. I’m pretty gassed but at least I can use my gravitational advantage to blast away downhill. Mile 2 in 6:21, so still below goal pace. With a mile to go, I can barely make out the turn back on Dekalb St, so it gives me motivation to try and kick it in. But Higgins only seems to be crushing it even more. Cross country kid is holding his own. I’ve lost sight of the Drew-Sweatpants battle. Luckily it’s a fairly cold morning, because there is some serious heat building up in this damn costume. Finally we hit the turn back on Dekalb. The kid is just ahead, but it turns out my tank is on E. Mile 3 in 6:05. I forgo a complete headless chicken attempt to get 4th place, crashing through the finish in 19:30, 5th overall. Pretty happy with the result, as it’s a full minute faster than last year. Plus, with three deep overall, I got promoted from 3rd to 1st masters.  The old dudes are brutal in this town!

The afterparty is very nice with this race, with free green beer. I’m guessing it’s Bud Light, but do you really want to drink an artisanal oatmeal stout after a road race? Kershaw health offered free massages/PT though I decided no one wanted to touch me after the amount of heat burning up in the undercarriage of that costume. Speaking of which, I lost out to a Viking Irish couple in the costume contest but still took home some Texas roadhouse swag. Awesome overall wooden shamrock overall plaques and beer mug age group awards. Great race, Erin!


Results: In the overall Aaron “Sweatpants” Vogel held off a charge from Drew to take the win 18:18 to 18:26. Higgins got third in 19:02. Martie McCallum took home the women’s win in 21:42 ahead of Rachel Simmons and Saskia Munn. Female masters winner was Shelley Hinson. Fifty nine year old Tony Yarborough was 2nd male masters.

Age groups:

 Women: Megan Buddin was 3rd in the 35-39. Fellow leprechaun Clara Nance was 3rd in the 45-49. Sharon Sherbourne was champion of the 65-69, while Podium Patti Lowden lived up to her name with a 1st place in the 70+.

Men: Dennis McAllister was 3rd in the 35-39. Go Pro Guy Will Rowan took 2nd in the 45-49, while Mark Chickering won the 50-54. Tom Hart was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams was the champ of the 60-64, while ageless Arnold Floyd won the 70+.


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