Put on by Jesse Harmon and the Run Hard program, the Chick-fil-A 5k is one of many distance races all on the same morning in downtown Columbia. In addition to the 5k are a Half Marathon, Full Marathon, and even Marathon relay races. The Run Hard races are super well organized and supported by the community and I believe there were more than 1200 racers present between all the different races! While the marathon was an occasionally tempting choice, I couldn’t convince myself (or my coach) that running a hard 26.2 miles would be a good idea as I am gearing up into triathlon season. Especially if I want to remain injury free and be prepared for a long, hard season of training and racing. So I decided on the 5k which touted free Chick-fil-A for a year for the winners as well as to some lucky raffle participants!
The week leading into the race consisted of some hard workouts and I had no intention of backing down before the race. I often perform best this way, but this week sort had me feeling a bit off and not quite nailing workouts as well as I normally do. So when race morning rolled around and my legs still weren’t quite springy, I was a bit concerned. The race was going to happen no matter how I felt, so I did what I could to get things opened up and ready. The half and full Marathon started 30 minutes before the 5k and then the countdown to the start was on!
Lining up at the start line there were a number of familiar faces from the local running community. As Jesse Harmon signaled the start of the race, many got pretty frisky and I found myself in around 5th place at the very beginning. As I continued to build into my pace more people started dropping back in the first flattish minute of the race. Very shortly, the course made a turn downward and started the beginning of a long descent.
At this point, 14-year-old Zander Jeffcoat was in the lead with me keeping him from pulling too far ahead. I knew that Zander has very good opening speed from racing him at the Lexington Half Marathon a few months ago, and I was hoping I would be able to have the speed to pass and hold him off. Just over a half mile in while we were still going downhill, I made the pass and started to build a gap.
I came through mile 1 in 4:56 in what felt very controlled as the course started to flatten out some. Soon though, I turned and found myself facing the beginning of a proper hill. I had run these hills on the campus of USC many times in my past and just focused on staying strong and not pushing it over the edge. I came through mile 2 in a much slower 5:48 which was pretty expected considering the climbing. I still felt decent enough to hold a 5:20 pace for the final mile and was even able to smile a bit while I was at it! After all, why would I be running if I didn’t enjoy it?!
In the final stretch, I actually ran on the wrong side of the road for a bit as I got a little confused. I eventually found my way into the finishing area to cross the line in an official 16:37 and 1st Overall! I spent the next couple hours meeting new friends, catching up with old friends, and even squeezing in some cool down running. I made sure to get plenty of pictures with the famous Chick-fil-A cows in front of the State House which I think turned out pretty well! It was a beautiful morning and thanks and congrats to everyone who raced, volunteered, or just came out to support those running!