The Northeastern Honor Bus program was founded to give World War II veterans in northeastern York County a chance to visit, at no cost to them, the World War II Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. The program was based on a similar program in Mechanicsburg, which in turn traces its lineage to an educator in Ohio who raised money to fly veterans to DC to see these memorials. I suspect there are similar programs throughout the country; the last two times I visited Washington, there were bus tour groups of World War II veterans there.
I think it's a very worthy cause. Today, the men and women involved in that war effort are likely the grandparents of people reading this blog. It's easy to forget that 65+ years ago they helped save the world from perhaps the greatest evil mankind has ever produced. The WWII Memorial is still relatively new to other memorials in DC, dating back to only 2004, so many veterans have not the opportunity to see it.
When I saw several months ago that local volunteers and high school students here in Manchester were raising money for an Honor Bus program by holding a 5K, I thought it be a great race for me to run -- help out a great cause and have the chance to run a race right in my backyard!
To be honest, though, because the race was so close to home and not one that I'd heard about or gotten flyers about year after year, it slipped in and out of my mind as I considered upcoming races. It was always sort of on my race calendar to do it, but just never got around to -- you know - pre-registering. So sadly, in my case, it really took until the evening before to make a firm commitment to run this race.
We're in the middle of the rainy season here, apparently, and it was raining when I awoke yesterday morning. As I got ready to head over to the local VFW for registration, each time I would say to myself "It's not so bad out", the deluge would begin again. During registration, it was pouring, and I got what I thought was a preview of race conditions when I got rather drenched just walking to and from my car to register and then stash my goodie bag. Keeping in mind both the bad weather and the hilliness of the land here, I figured to just kind of take it easy.
However, just as the race was getting ready to start, the weather took a turn for the better. The rain let up, and local politicians who were kicking the event off kept their remarks short to take advantage of the break in the weather. The honor guard led the crowd in a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and we were off at the sound of the gun. Without the detriment of rain, conditions were ideal for me -- I've said on here many times that I much prefer running in the cold, and so contrary to my plan I ran the race as fast as I could in pursuit of a PR.
Despite all my fast runs lately, I fell a bit short of PR with a 24:29, but this is still a very good pace for me -- probably in my top 5 all-time, and given the wet road conditions I'm thrilled with the time and happy with my effort.
As I've kind of implied, the course itself, I feel was one of the more challenging that I've run. The race took place in Mt. Wolf and Manchester, two local boroughs located around some very hilly terrain. The course featured tough uphills and downhills steep enough that I felt the need to hold back a bit rather than risk knee injury by picking up the pace.
I was also impressed by the field. I'll be honest -- the only race I ever medaled in was a 5K in Newberry Township on a freezing October morning in which there were probably fewer than 20 participants. I took 2nd in my age group, and it might have been 2nd out of 2. This was a first year event without a lot of promotion, in a tiny borough, on a really rainy morning. Even without age-group specific awards, I thought the field might be small enough that I might have a shot at taking home some hardware. Nope! I got smoked! Which was fine...since schedule didn't really permit sticking around for the closing ceremonies, anyway. (See! Look at how I made it seem like I lost on purpose.) I'm not sure how many participants there were. I was number 92, but I don't think there were that many runners and walkers total.
I think the race organizers did an excellent job in designing and managing the course. In a small race like this that winds through small-town and suburban streets, I was a bit worried that if I was running too far behind the runners in front of me to see them, that it would be easy to wander off course, but there were volunteers at every corner to point runners in the right direction. The course did get a cheap quarter mile of its distance with a lap around the Northeastern High School track, which I think is cheating, and of course it ended on a steep uphill! (In the unlikely event that anyone who was involved in organizing the race reads this, please DON"T take these as serious complaints, they're just things I joke about).
But, other than the above-mentioned course layout pet peeves of mine, I really think this was a very nice event. The opening ceremony was well-done, the course itself was challenging and a nice tour of some of the side streets of two pretty boroughs, and there was ample food and drink after the race. Unless they can control the weather, I don't think there's anything that can be done to improve this race other than more publicity. I hope this becomes an annual event with more participants every year, even if that does totally crush my hopes of a medal.
Have a Happy Easter, and thanks again for reading.