Over the years, I’ve found myself repeating plenty of the same races. Part of that is convenience and availability and part of it is force of habit. I do try to schedule one race a month and sometimes I just have to go with what fits my calendar.
Enter the Gratitude America 5K.
The race I usually run in June is not my favorite. It’s a great event, but it’s at night and it’s hot and I don’t love the course. The Gratitude America 5K was something different and I was excited to give it a try.
S agreed to run with me, and we arrived early at the venue. To be honest, the race website didn’t offer a ton of information: we knew it was held near Marineland, and we were fortunate that there was a big sign on the side of the road directing us to the parking lot and start line (which was across the street from Marineland and the ocean).
Packet pickup was day of only, and since there were only about 160 runners (including some who signed up that morning), it was a quick process. We got our bibs, t-shirts and Marineland wristbands (that’s right – part of the swag included admission to the marine center!), and went to the bathroom.
At about 8:15, we went to the start line. The race director had some instructions regarding the course: apparently, there was a lake-size “puddle” right after the actual start. The RD offered everyone a choice – we could be “purists” and run through the puddle as planned, or we could move to the side of the starting chute, cutting about 10 yards off the measured distance. The deal was that if we chose the shortcut, we had to live with the results. I was good to go through the water if everyone else was (although I had scoped out the driest route), but the overwhelming vote was for the short cut so we shifted over.
Next, we heard about Gratitude America, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “provide critical support for service members, veterans, and their families by conducting meaningful restorative retreats to assist participants affected by deployment exposures such as combat related stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.” They are completely donation-funded, and those donations are definitely put towards a worthy cause.
At 8:30, we were ready to begin. The National Anthem was played and off we went. The race was described as “all-terrain” and we quickly learned that was code for “trail.” It was a nice change from all the road running, and we were very grateful for all the shade trees to help protect us from the sun.
We had a bit of a scare when we emerged from the woods at about 1.5 miles, followed a paved road behind some structures… and saw the finish line about 100 yards away. We thought we had missed a turn or gone the wrong way, and slowed down to figure things out, when fortunately, one of the other runners pointed out that we were fine – we just had to go back in for another loop.
Done and done!
I confess, the late start made things pretty vile, weather wise. It was absolutely oppressive, even with the shade, and I had a hard time getting lungfuls of air. It took us a wee bit longer than I had hoped, but since we had already run that morning, I didn’t feel as badly as I normally might have.
We crossed the finish line (again, avoiding that giant lake as best we could), and then it was time to celebrate!
Rype + Readi was onsite, serving fresh watermelon and cantaloupe to the runners and it was just perfect!
Free finish line photos were available for download (mine were a little obscured by a person standing smack in front of the camera, but it’s the thought that counts).
The volunteers were all wonderful and pleasant, helping out with distribution of cold water and helping to take more photos.
I wish we had had more time to hang out and enjoy Marineland, but little man had his karate test, so we crossed over to the beach to get our obligatory medal pics.
And then it was home for us.
Honestly, this was a great race for a fabulous cause. Again it was on the smaller side, but since it was a trail race, it wasn’t as noticeable as it would have seemed on the road. I would absolutely run it again, and I’d probably bring in the rest of the family as well.
Have you ever received an attraction ticket as part of your swag?
Would you have chosen to go through the deep, gross lake or cut the tiny bit extra off your race distance? Ever had the choice?
Nay on the gross lake.
Not a fan of trail races but the medal and the watermelon – sold.
I have run a race where yo got tix to a minor league baseball game, the an amusement park and to the race track ad never took advantage of any of it.
Darlene recently posted…Brooklyn Ice Cream Social 5k Race Recap
We do have a race where you get tickets to the Jags game, but it’s a pretty pricey 5K and the seats aren’t that great. It’s a fun perk, though!
I love that medal. And you always take the best race pics!
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Aw, thank you!
Deborah @ Confessions of mother runner says
It’s hard not to like a run that benefits such a fantastic cause! Nice medal too
Deborah @ Confessions of mother runner recently posted…Summer Bucket List-Fitness and Family
Almost impossible! We are very fortunate to have so many races so readily available to us – it’s nice to be able to find something new with such a great purpose.
Kimberly Hatting says
I’d probably skip the nasty “lake” and stay dry…10 yards is not that big of a distance to skew the finish time, especially given the fact that it’s an off-road race anyways.
It certainly wouldn’t matter to my time but I could see people getting bent out of shape over it. I’m not so bothered by bending the rules a tiny bit 🙂
I would NOT be a fan of the lake! once I participated in a 10k (2 loops of 5k) and we had to climb a bit up an embankment, which was fine…. if it hadn’t rained for 6 days straight before the race *rolls eyes* it was a muddy disaster. I am NOT a fan of mud. So on the second loop I totally went a different way for about a KM until I was on the course again. Still had 10K! Funnily enough after I decided to do that a few others followed me! ha!
great race and medal though 🙂 congrats!
I am so grossed out by mud. Which is obviously why I am hoping to do an OCR this year. I make absolutely ridiculous decisions sometimes.
It was a really nice medal. I wish they themed them a little more for the marine life, but I wasn’t going to be too picky about it.
My question would be why they didn’t just move the starting line away from the lake. Weird. Sounds like a fun race, but I’m with you on the start time–even here, that’s late for a summer run! Congrats on a new race! Will you do it again?
I kind of wonder if they had everything set up and then it rained and puddled up overnight? I really don’t know the answer.
Ugh, it was SO late. I understand that for trails, you want it to be bright, but even at 7:30, it would have been fine.
I would totally do it again. It’s a good cause and it would be great if next time I didn’t have to rush off right after and could enjoy Marineland a little.
Stacie Seidman says
I run one race every year (even in the few years of my hiatus, I still show up for it!) and about 1 mile of it is in the woods. It’s super fun! I don’t think I would like trail running full time. It takes a lot of concentration on my part to not trip and fall over roots and rocks, but it’s definitely fun to do once in awhile!
I’d probably suffer through the puddle to get an accurate time, but I don’t really love running in wet shoes. I did a warrior dash once, and it was loads of fun, wet shoes, mud, puddles, and all!
I love what this race benefits, such an important cause.
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Trails are a little less technical down here, so it’s not so bad. You still have to pick up your feet, but it’s manageable.
I loathe running in wet shoes, but I would have sucked it up if the majority did. I wasn’t sorry they altered the start.
A great cause! But bummer the course isn’t the greatest… You’d think they’d address that and get more folks coming out!
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It’s a bit of a smaller race company – they only have 250 medals, and the roads down there are rather narrow, so I think they do what they can. It was definitely a change of pace from the usual races!
I’m not a fan of running, but if its for a good cause like charity work, then you can count me in! Oh hey I love the beach and watermelon pic! Cheers.