I ran my first race of the year, the Kelly Shamrock 5K in Baltimore, today. I took it a little easy since I'm in taper mode, which makes for a weird race experience, and came in with a 30:15.
This is the second year we've run this race and there are a lot of things I love about it, and a few things that are frustrating. It's much bigger than any other 5K I've ever run; there were almost 4000 finishers this year and that is both part of the appeal and part of the frustration.
The race begins at the corner of Charles & Franklin in downtown Baltimore, and begins with a pretty steep downhill. Not only is this a nice, easy start to the race, seeing the green-clad crowd racing down Charles Street ahead of me is one of the neatest things I've ever seen as a runner. And since it's a St. Patrick's day race, there are lots of funny t-shirts and costumes.
The course, through downtown Baltimore and around the Inner Harbor, is very scenic and it has the obligatory u-turn on Key Highway that almost every Baltimore race seems to include.
It's a great, fun atmosphere, the crowd for the race is great since the race is the prelude to the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the t-shirt is nice, and in theory there's free beer.
That said, there are a few things that frustrate me about this race. Because of its huge size, it's very crowded on the course and there are a lot of people who aren't prepared to run the whole thing. And let me be very, very clear -- THAT'S OK! But, I wish that more run/walkers would be careful to not suddenly slow to a walk right in the middle of the road. I had to make a highlight reel's worth of Brian Westbrook type cutback moves to avoid a collision.
Similarly, there's never been a race that needs pace signs at the start as badly as this one does, there's no order at all to who starts where, which contributes to the crowding as faster people get caught behind less fast runners or walkers. To be fair, I probably should have started a bit further up in the pack since I usually finish right in the middle of the pack at most races, rather than as close to the back as I did.
Lastly, although "Free Beer" is a rare gift that must be appreciated and treasured, the post-race party has outgrown its venue (Power Plant Live) in my opinion. This year, we couldn't even get in because it was so packed. I'm not sure what can be done about that, it's the price an event pays for success.
Despite my gripes, this is probably a race that I'll run every year as long as I can. It was a beautiful day, and Chris and I met up with a friend from collage and some of her teammates in the Baltimore Dragon Boat Club (they're looking for team members if you like to row and live in the Baltimore area! Don't think of the little dragon-shaped paddleboats at Inner Harbor, this is more like crew) and had an excellent post-race party of our own at the James Joyce Irish Pub -- that's right, everyone's favorite incomprehensible Irish author is now a bar.
Overall, it was a fun first race of 2011, and hopefully helps set the stage for a good race next week in Virginia Beach.
(Don't freak out...don't freak out...don't freak out....)