My first 5k ever was the 2nd annual Harlem Hustle Turkey Trot, held in scenic Harlem GA. No, seriously, it is kind of scenic, if you like ancient little southern towns. Harlem's got a cute little downtown about a block and a half long, a lot of overgrown magnolias, and a whole bunch of somewhat run-down stereotypically-southern houses with giant porches and balconies. Really, it's kind of charming. If you like that kind of thing. Which I do.
I picked this race because it looked like a small, casual affair, which I figured would be nice and nonthreatening for my first race. Plus there was a t-shirt, and it's always nice to support the local high school basketball team, right? Right. My suspicion that this was going to be a super-friendly event was confirmed basically as soon as I registered. The dude running the race, Wade something-or-other (I think he's maybe the coach of the basketball team), sent out a LOT of emails. Not like an annoying number, but an endearingly enthusiastic number, with lots of requests for input and advice. It was kind of sweet.
Unfortunately, they had the bad luck to pick basically the coldest day of the year for the race. Seriously, it was about 15 degrees out that morning. That's not much in the north, I know, but for Georgia in November? Dude, that is fucking cold. But I was totally tough. I put on the only jacket I could find and tried not to whine too much about not having any full-length running pants while my husband stuffed both kids into the warmest things they own.
After the three-minute drive to the race site, I picked up my packet at the little folding table they had set up next to the starting line. And I have to say, the packet totally exceeded my expectations. Sure, there was a perfectly adequate cotton t-shirt featuring everything notable about Harlem (basically a basketball for the team and a bowler hat to represent Laurel and Hardy, the only famous people to ever come out of the town), but there was also a fitness band (not that I'll use it) AND a box of fancy spiced pecans from Lucky Lady Pecans. It was all I could do to not eat them right there before the race.
Thirty minutes later, all forty or so of us lined up at the starting line. The clock ticked down to zero, and...nothing happened. Wade Mysterious-Last-Name stepped up to tell us that they were still waiting for the volunteers to get to their positions. So we waited another five minutes. THEN the countdown began again, someone yelled "Go!", and we were off.
Unfortunately, my watch quit working that very morning, so I had no idea how fast (or, more accurately, slow) I was going. I just hung toward the back of the crowd and kept things comfortable. The course was pleasant. It wound through the residential areas around downtown. It's pretty hilly back there, including one particularly steep, windy hill about half a mile after the start. I was pretty pleased with myself for passing lots of people (by which I mean maybe 10) on the hills.
It being early morning and all, there wasn't a lot of activity to be seen out there, but there were actually a couple residents turned out to watch the action, including one 2-year-old kid with a cowbell, which was basically the cutest thing ever. Honestly, it felt like a pleasant easy run in a new place for the first couple miles, and since there were no markers, I didn't realize how far I'd gone until I got to a sign pointing 10k runners to the right and 5k runners to the left for the last quarter mile.
So I picked it up at that point and passed one last person. Wade Something-Something cheered me in for a finish with a time of 33:04 on the clock or 34:34 as recorded by the helpful people at the finish line. Due to the frigid nature of the morning, I knocked over not one but TWO glasses of water and felt like a bit of a buffoon, but other than that, everything was dandy. I'll run it again next time, and I hope they have a bigger turnout and better organization next year.
2014 Harlem Hustle Turkey Trot 5k Results
Time: 33:04 or 34:34, depending on whether I believe the timer or the volunteers
Place (Overall): 25 out of 41
Place (Women): 8 out of 17
Place (Age Group): 6 out of 9 women under 50