On the Run

Race Recap: Earth Day 5K

Bit tired, bit red, but happy to have another race under my belt

Yesterday, I ran my first race of 2022! It was a first for the race organizers as well, since this was the inaugural Earth Day 5K, sponsored by Heineken 0.0 and organized by Pittsburgh running company P3R.

The weather in the morning wasn’t quite ideal, with a chilly wind and some scattered rain showers. This made the pre-race amp up a bit underwhelming at no fault of the organizers, since many people grabbed their race packets and went back to their cars to wait out the rain.

P3R’s goal for the race was sustainability, in honor of the earth day theme. Measures included purchasing carbon offset credits, an athletic shoe recycling station at the race starting line, reusable timing chips, recycleable race bibs, and no paper cups throughout the course. The proceeds from the race benefitted Tree Pittsburgh, a local organization which as the name suggests, works to plant and maintain new tree growth throughout the city.

Packet pickup went relatively smoothly considering it opened only an hour before the race start–ah, the joys of a smaller race. Speaking of race start, this one is later than most I’ve done, with an 11:30am start time. Personally I like an early race, but I can see the later start appealing to those who like to sleep in at the weekend.

When we arrived to the starting area, parking was really easy to find, and super close to the starting line, which is a huge perk. As I mentioned, the vibe in the kickoff area wasn’t as hype as it could’ve been, mostly because of the weather but I’m sure this being the race’s first year didn’t help.

Still, as we approached start time and the rain went away, there were speakers playing amp up music and some announcements from the race coordinators and sponsors. There were only two portapotties on site, which meant a very long line of runners trying to handle their business before the race.

My fiance and I at the starting line

Eventually, we lined up and got ready to go, after a few jokes about the weather, which was alternating between sunny and rainy. Because of the difference between how it felt in the rain and in the sunshine, I had no idea whether to pin my race bib to my t-shirt or the sweatshirt I was wearing over it. I opted for the sweatshirt, which of course I took off around one mile in.

The course itself is beautiful, following along the riverfront trail for the majority of the course. We crossed a couple of bridges, as you do in a Pittsburgh race, and ran around the Point (a park with a gorgeous, massive fountain at the meeting of the three rivers in Pittsburgh). Sadly at this time of year the fountain still hasn’t been turned back on, so it wasn’t as magnificent a race moment as it could’ve been.

During the run, the wind stayed pretty strong, no doubt impacting race times. In spite of this, I ran pretty strong through most of the race (thanks in part to my digilient pre-race preparation routine).

A newish-runner friend joined Andy and I for the race, and I learned that we now have about the same pace. We alternatively passed one another through most of the course, which no doubt contributed to my pretty solid finish time, since my competitive streak wouldn’t let me lose sight of him once I realized we were fairly evenly matched. I’ve never had someone in my crew with a pace near enough to mine to make this happen, and it was a pretty entertaining addition to the race. Andy, who finished around the 26 minute mark, left us both well in the dust.

One of the race’s two bridge crossings

My left calf acted up around 1.5 miles in, getting tight as it sometimes does, so I opted for Galloway intervals for the remainder of the race. This is a run-walk method that is supposed to combat fatigue and help prevent injury. I run 1:30 minutes, then take a 30 second walk break. This helped relieve the tightness in my calf after a bit and I was able to push and run strong across the finish line.

I finished at 35 minutes 41 seconds. While not a PR, this is a pretty good race time for me, with an average 11:30 min/mile pace. I’m not training particularly for speed at this point in time, since I’d rather build up endurance for my half marathon later this year, but I’m still happy to see my body is capable of hitting my old race-day pace goal.

At the finish, we stopped to have our timing chips cut off our shoes, then showed our 21+ race registration bibs to recieve the race medal, which doubles as a bottle opener, a nod to the race’s beer-brand sponsorship, I assume. I don’t drink beer, so I doubt I’ll be using mine in this way, but it’s kind of cool to have a medal with a function.

The finish line itself was down the river at the North Shore, making post-race celebration options easily accessible. My crew (and several other people, judging by the number of bibs and medals I saw) opted for local chain Burgatory, a personal favorite of mine and less than a 5 minute walk from the finish line. I got my favorite vegan veggie burger and a giant peanut butter oreo shake to refuel post race, plus plenty of water.

Peanut butter oreo shake really hit the spot post-race

My one complaint about the course would be that it was about a mile walk back to our cars since the course wasn’t an out-and-back model. There’s not much around at the race start line so I understand why finishing where we did is more fun, but a shuttle or other means of getting back to our cars might’ve been nice. Then again, I’m sure my muscles appreciated the walk back for some active recovery.

In all, I really enjoyed this race! I would definitely run it again next year and probably will. P3R also organizes the Pittsburgh Marathon, which I’ve yet to run due to schedule conflicts and the pandemic. This year they have unfortunately decided to hold the race weekend on my wedding weekend, so I’ll miss it once again. With any luck, I’ll be there in 2022. This is the first P3R race I’ve joined, and it definitely made me excited to see what their big marathon weekend event looks like.

Today, I’ll be resting and stretching before my next week of training. I don’t have any other races on the calendar until my October half marathon, but suspect I’ll pick one up eventually. I just love that race day atmosphere.

Have you run any races lately? I’d love to hear how it went if so!