This past weekend I ran my second 10K race and spoiler alert: I set a new PR!
I signed up on a whim for this race because it was just too cool to pass up. So when Saturday rolled around we headed in to Trenton and had some minor issues getting to the start. See, Trenton isn’t the easiest city to navigate. And while the participant guide did everything it could to identify parking lots, there’s no exact address given for the lots, and there are also a handful of other nearby lots that look the same at 6:15AM when no one else is around! So we ended up parking in the wrong lot. A few volunteers or flags or signs would have gone a LONG way. Thankfully we spotted some runners in the lot across the street as we left, and moved to that lot (the correct lot!) with no problem.
The other issue involved the shuttles: the participant guide noted two spots to pick up the shuttle, but no one seemed to know where that second spot was, so we all ended up walking the mile and change through quiet neighborhoods to the start line. Not the worst way to warm up, but still minorly stressful.
Once we got to the start area, everything was perfect: the port-a-potties were plentiful and clean, the crowds were electric – it was awesome! And the fact that we started right outside Trenton Thunder stadium was just too cool. I met up with my friend Alex and cousin Heather, and we hung out for a bit chatting and warming up near the start. It was overcast and around 60, which was perfect!
Once we lined up with the almost 4,000 other runners for the 10K and Half start at the same time, it only took about 10 minutes of milling around before the gun went off. We took off right onto the highway and up an inclined ramp past the Delaware River, then back down the ramp on the other side of the highway and past the stadium once more. That was cool – Mike even got to hang out on the median with a bunch of other spectators and caught me going by near mile 1!
I can’t say it enough: this race was fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much! I’ve only ever felt energy in a race like that in some of the larger NYRR races I’ve done. I also give the race directors major kudos for how well signed and organized the actual race is. Even though there were many people running three distances at relatively the same time – 5K, 10K, and Half with three different courses, no less! – I never once felt confused or crowded.
We ran through Trenton for about 2 miles or so, then jumped onto the Trenton Makes the World Takes bridge – what an experience! All the recaps on this race mention how strange the bridge feels to run over, and they aren’t kidding: the grating on the ground is like 3 inches apart, it feels so weird! I clung to my phone for dear life because the grates looked just wide enough for an iPhone to slip out of a sweaty runner’s hands and fall to its doom in the Delaware. Thank goodness it didn’t happen to me, but I can only imagine the horror!
Once we crossed into PA, the support on the sidelines was unbelievable. I truly felt like I was in a parade, even at the back of the pack. Folks lined the streets – one guy even had a cooler and was handing out bottled water to us! – and I was so energized, giving high fives to the folks who had brought their dogs and kids and whole families out to cheer us on from their folding chairs.
I especially liked that the half marathon course coincided with ours: our mile 4 was about mile 7 for the half-ers, and so the speedier folks passed by us at a steady stream, providing some nice motivation.
At about mile 4, we crossed a second bridge back into NJ for the final few miles. I was feeling great at this point – my legs were strong, the hills were rolling along, and the crowds kept me energized like never before. Plus the scenery was breathtaking.
Along the final 2 miles, I started to flag: those hills were harder than I expected! While I was maintaining a good 12:20-ish pace even with photo stops and water breaks, I didn’t expect to PR but kept pushing anyway.
And I’m glad I did: the final stretch of the race is by far the best ending of a race I’ve run so far. Once you get back to the stadium, you run single file through a short tunnel surrounded by cheering folks into the Trenton Thunder stadium, around the outfield, and through the cute to finish at home plate! I had goosebumps and had to keep from crying the whole time. The feeling is really indescribable. The wall of spectators truly took my breath away, and I told myself to keep running because I had so many eyes on me now!
So I pushed to a final pace of 12:17/mile and crossed the finish line with a huge smile at 1:16:22 – a PR of more than 2 full minutes!!
Once I crossed, I was handed my medal and made my way back up into the stands to meet Mike and Heather (Alex spotted me at the finish because she finished before me), and we hung out enjoying the post-race pretzels and other goodies.
I was super psyched – I didn’t expect to PR at all, with a week or two of light running/training at best, I just wanted to finish happy. And I completely surprised myself! All in all, it was a top notch race that I cannot wait to run again next year.