an all-terrain 5k for gratitude america

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?

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