Almost 11 months after I slipped on the stairs and snapped two bones in my leg, I found myself at the start line of the Cottonmouth Quarter Marathon & 5k!
Yes, it was a live, in-person race, one of the first since COVID-19 led to lockdowns in our area. It was a long time coming, thanks to both a serious injury and a devastating pandemic, but I felt somewhat confident this would be a good place to start.
The Cottonmouth Quarter Marathon and 5K has been in existence for several years. For one reason or another, I just never got around to running it.
The race takes place in Elkton, which is basically farm country. Packet pickup and race day both took place at Sykes Family Farm, which had just closed their pumpkin patch for the season.
On Friday afternoon, I made the drive to the farm (about 20 minutes) to pick up packets for myself, Mr PugRunner, and my running buddy J. I figured it would be best to get that out of the way, even though the runner field was small. Pickup was outside, and the participants social distanced and wore masks while collected their race shirts, chipped bibs, and “goodie bag” (a pencil and Farm Bureau bumper sticker).
For the first time in forever, I got to assemble a flat runner. I went with Halloween colors – orange and green.
The race started at 7:45 AM, so we planned for a 7:00 departure. We carpooled with J and her husband: we have all been engaging in similar social distancing practices, so our families do socialize in these times.
We took the back way to the race, which meant we got stuck at the start line setup and had to redirect to the front entrance of the farm. Whoops. In our defense, I don’t recall seeing that mentioned anywhere, but the volunteers were cool about it and we parked without further incident.
It was a beautiful morning, cool and clear. There was plenty of room to distance from the other runners, so we milled about, and visited some of the adorable farm animals.
All races need animals. And beautiful sunrises.
Soon, it was time to gather at the start line. Again, everyone was very respectful with distancing, so even though we had our masks with us, we never felt close enough to anyone to need them.
The race organizers noticed that there were long lines at the portapotties, so they opted to hold the start until everyone was finished. I was so ready to go, but it was kind of them to allow for that. Again, since there weren’t a ton of runners, the delay was maybe eight to ten minutes, and I’m sure it was appreciated.
Participants registered for either a 5K or a Quarter Marathon (roughly 6.55 miles), and the course was easy: run about 1/4 mile down the road, turn left, run to the 5K or Quarter Marathon turnaround, and come on back.
I hate out and backs, especially with such a major straightaway, but OMG we were RACING! FOR REAL! All was forgiven.
Since the race was chip timed, we were able to shuffle to the start line without crowding and then we were off. Everyone separated out into their paces fairly quickly, and the road was wide enough for all the participants to space out.
J and I stuck together, with 3:1 intervals. It was just a touch warmer than I had hoped for, and we were in the full sun the entire time, but we kept a nice pace, definitely much quicker than we run in training.
Before long, we hit the turnaround and back we came. It was funny because we usually chat so much during our runs, but this time, our focus was on the road ahead, and we were much quieter. I missed the conversation, but I also felt so strong.
And then we were at the finish line – J’s husband had made the cutest sign and he cheered us in!
We collected our medals, cheered Mr PugRunner to his finish, and then popped back in the farm to take our finisher photos in the sunflower field.
Mr PugRunner ran a new PR! And J earned third place in her age group! I was so proud of and happy for them both, and I was also so proud to have gotten a chance to do what I love.
Back at the car, I pulled out some cans of rosé I had brought to celebrate a job well done by us all! I wanted to do something special for everyone, and it was a hit.
And of course, the medals were super cute: they double as bottle openers! I was thrilled to have earned a real-life medal to hang on my rack.
All in all, this was a great experience. It was small, felt safe, and was clearly much-loved by everyone participating that day. Everyone was all smiles, and seemed so happy to be there. It was so good to be a part of the joy and passion of the day, and I would absolutely come out again.
Next up? A 10K in December! It’s on!
Have you been back to in-person racing?
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