August 9, 2014

5K for 5K

Baldwin City is about a twenty minute drive from Lawrence, headed South. A few thousand residents. It's one of the options I could give when asked where I'm from, given that I attended junior high and high school there. (Born in Portland, ME, but never lived there. Childhood in Abilene, KS. Adolescence in Baldwin. College to present in Lawrence.) It is also a running town - though I didn't start until I'd been gone for a few years - owing mostly to the fact that the boys have 11 state titles in the last 20 years, while the girls have 8. (Same coach.) This has raised the sport's profile in the town considerably. At least when I was there, the runners were very much celebrated athletes, and it was considered the cool thing to do. (Somehow my 3rd place in state debate didn't have the same result.)

So, there are 5Ks for many occasions, one every few months, never lacking for participation. Today's was a benefit for a junior high school English/History teacher who has recently been diagnosed with ALS. I had her, and so did my younger brother. She's been there over 20 years, so it goes without saying that many other students did as well.

As the purpose was simply to raise money, there were no bibs, chips, timekeepers, awards, etc. A start line and a donation jar. That was enough to draw over 100 starters and 5500 dollars, on rather short notice.

It is just running, yeah, and too often, I probably care too much about it. But I don't think there's anything else that could've attracted such interest in Baldwin. People wanted to get out, run/walk, then hang out. Small thing, yeah. But something.

The atmosphere was a difficult thing to describe. Serious and solemn at times, but never altogether unhappy. Post-race was borderline celebratory. The mingling you'd expect, with fruit, water, burritos, and ice buckets dousing random people.

The race itself went well. The course is hilly, and the grass is allowed to grow a bit, so it doesn't run like green pavement. A good turnout, with a few faster folks, including a couple high schools runners. I held off the faster of the two by a couple seconds. Those kids can kick, though.

Felt like this at the start.

Felt like this at the end.

Ran nine more back in Lawrence. Difficult day to get my head around.

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