Race Report: Run Around The Square 5K AKA A Trail Run with Lots of People

Today I ran my first trail 5K and it was awesome. I got to the race early, got my chip and timed it perfectly so I could run a mile warm-up and get to the start about 10 minutes before the gun. As I was starting my warm-up I ran into two of the girls I coached Girls on the Run with, Lisa and Megan, and they told me they just finished their warm-up- an 11 mile run! As I was warming up, I saw some of the kids from the 1.5 mile walk that had finished earlier. They also had a dog race so there were lots of cute pooches- with bibs on their collars! At this point I am SO pumped for this race. It’s a beautiful sunny day, but warm (for Pittsburgh, not for the month of August) and humid. I stretch a little and head to the start where I chat with other runners before the National Anthem… and we’re off!

The race starts on time and we take off down residential streets that aren’t paved, but brick! I can only imagine the horror that would be me tripping at this point. And for those of you who know me, the potential for me to trip is more likely than not. I’m running dead on an 8-minute pace which I’m very happy with and a third of a mile into the race Lisa hauls right by me and as we turn a corner she is gone. I stick with my pace and I’m feeling great, but my mouth is getting a bit dry- yay a water stop! Boo a kid that could be no more than 8 years old cutting me off to grab water. Option A: Steamroll kid, possibly kill us both and maybe get water in the process. Option B: Hope there’s another water stop soon. I curse the kid for being so stinking fast as I pick Option B. Mile 1 highlight? Not just a spectator-manned beer stop, but a champagne stop complete with plastic champagne glasses! Pittsburghers are classy! Mile 1: 8:10.

This is where the race starts getting… fun? Is fun the word I’d use? Interesting, maybe. This is the part of the “race” where it become much less of a race and, as Lisa put it, more of a “trail run with lots of people.” Highlights of this part of the race: A steep downhill hairpin turn that is so steep and so sharp that again I only envison a downward death roll and headlines of “Runners Bowls Over Human Bowling Pins: A Strike with Casualties in Regent Square.” And while I mention this downhill, please do not be confused. This was not a downhill course. In mile 2, there was a 300 foot rise in elevation on trails. The elevation was a barrier to speed, but so were the multiple turns, the texture of the trail, and all the runners stopping to walk because they couldn’t tackle the hills. Mile 2 highlights? The water station where the volunteers, men included, were wearing huge tutus. So awesome! My friend, Kristin, also came out to cheer, but I didn’t get to see her even though she saw me. So excited I have so many wonderful friends! Mile 2: 9:40 (I swear it was the hills!)

The first part of mile 3 still had some pretty substantial uphills, 430 feet worth of hill in the first half, to be exact (in case there was any confusion, 430 feet UP). Every quarter mile or so they had a musician stationed, which was almost a little creepy to have a lone trumpeter standing in the woods on a Saturday morning. Mile 3 highlight? The bagpiper! In one 5K I had men in tutus and a bagpiper! I love this race! At mile 2.5 on the nose there is a sharp downhill to the finish. Let me repeat that: sharp downhill. Again, visions of me tripping and falling are flooding my mind and these are only made worse when a man behind me yells to his friend “Ow! My ankle! I rolled my ankle” (thankfully, he turned out to be fine). Falling while running this section at any substantial speed could result in the kind of tumble where at all once you knock out your front teeth, break your arm and sprain your ankle. And yes, if I wasn’t careful, it would have happened to me. Over the 600 foot drop (yes! 600 feet in 0.6 miles!) I was fast, but reigned it in a bit for safety sake. Mile 3: 8:20

The finish came up quickly and I hammered it out at 6:42 pace for an overall finish of 26:46. Even with the challenging terrain and the “group trail run” environment, that is still 20 seconds faster than a hilly road 5K I ran in April. Awesome! At the end they did the customary things like giving you water and clipping your chip. But this race had one of the best post-race set-ups I’ve seen. Runners got carnations, which I loved, and they had lots of food, including a grill with hot dogs, and booths (and the dogs from the dog race were out, too!). I got to spend some time with Lisa and Megan and it was such a lovely morning for a race. Lisa and Megan raved about this race and I can see why, today I added the course to a list of favorites, and a 20 second PR (even on trails!) to the record book