"Run your hearts out!" seemed like a strange encouragement for a "wellness" 5k, but then again, we were at Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson in Vance County. I guess if anyone did run their heart out, it was good to be at a big hospital. This morning's Foundation 5 is the 3rd annual event where Vance County residents are encouraged to run, jog or walk their way through a 5k around the hospital area.
Fall was definitely in the air, at least for the morning. Temperatures had dropped into the low 60s -- I kind of wished I had brought a long-sleeved shirt -- and I was thinking more about college football on the trip to Henderson than I was the race. But there were 91 finishers in the event, so the weather must have encouraged a good turnout. Check-in at the Medical Center was no problem, and both the Medical Center and another sponsor, Toyota of Henderson, had set up some displays for the runners to check out pre-and post-race. And there was some very good music being played on somebody's iPod!
A few horses and a lot of kids hugged the front of the starting line for the final runner instructions, and then they sprinted around the parking lot when we were turned loose. The first half-mile or so was enjoyably level or downhill, but then we had a serious hill facing us on the way up to the one-mile mark. I think the cool air was helping me as I got a faster mile split than I had expected and was really feeling comfortable and smooth.
The course led us back and forth on a street adjacent to the medical center complex, and then we circled the parking lots of some of the center's outbuildings. Navigation was not a problem, though, as there were plenty of volunteers on the course to give direction and encourage all the runners along. A small, brief hill then took us off the campus and onto a no-outlet service road that paralleled Interstate 85. We got another great downhill and an aid station in the second mile, but the biggest distraction was the wonderful smell coming from The Peanut Roaster, which had its main building along the race course and was roasting away as we puffed by. Some of the peanut employees stood in the doorway of one of the loading bays and checked out the runners going by. What a wonderful smell, just as good as jogging by Char-Grill or Krispy Kreme here in Raleigh!
After the downhill in the second mile led to another good mile split, of course we had to turn around and go right back up it in the third. It was nice to pass the roasting-peanuts smell and the aid station again, but it was a significant hill going back up and it really tired me out and knocked away those nice splits from the first two miles. With the encouragement of the volunteers and the medical center security staff, I finally plodded back to the crest and began the series of turns that would take me back to the finish line. I finally got a second wind as I wound my way back around the center, and I managed to generate a decent pace as I headed for the balloon-festooned finish line. Lots of volunteers and race officials, as well as previous finishers and the folks gathering for the mile fun run were cheering us on, and it was lots of fun to finish the race in that spirit.
The cool air made for a nice post-race atmosphere, too. There were lots of water, fruit, Chick-Fil-A and other snacks for the runners while a very festive mile fun run took place, and then the race organizers gave out the awards for the 5k. The awards table was decorated with a trophy made out of an Asics running shoe spray-painted gold and attached to gold wings like a shoe for Mercury. Very cute! The folks in Henderson and at Maria Parham did a great job hosting all the runners and putting on a very enjoyable run. Time to get some roasted peanuts for the trip home!