Those who can, do.
Those who can't....watch their husbands do!
Last night the kids and I turned out to support my husband, Dan, in his first real race since 2008 (I'm not counting the hilarious but deliberately-not-speedy Muddy Buddy run and ride that he and I did as a team in 2010). In the summer of 2009, he injured his Achilles tendon playing ultimate frisbee, which he loved almost as much as I love running, and it's taken a very long time for him to feel comfortable on it.
But things have been better for his ankle lately. Last year he did some physical therapy for it, and recently he's been regularly running the steep trails behind the laboratory in Boulder where he works, mostly without pain. And when one of his co-workers asked about an easygoing race, preferably on trails, for all of them to do I jumped at the chance to live vicariously through them and did a little research.
What I came up with for them: the spring Dash n' Dine 5K series. It's a great little set of races. Every Tuesday starting in mid-April and going through May, the organizers have a laid-back out-and-back 5K that starts at 6:30 p.m. on a course next to the Boulder Reservoir. After the race is done, a local restaurant provides a dinner that's included in the race fee. Spectators also can buy dinner for $5 each. Last night's fare was tacos and burritos from Wahoo Fish Tacos, one of my family's favorite places to eat.
There's no chip timing or finishers' medals. It's just old-school racing. Because it's Boulder, there can be some fast winning times. (Top man last night: 16:28--pretty fast; the top woman was 20:57, fast to me but not as fast as it could have been). But there are also slower runners and walkers who turn out, and all ages from 7 to 70 were out there. The prizes for placing and for age-group placing (at least last night) were candles.
Another fun aspect is that the more of the series you show up for, the more likely you are to win "series points," especially if you place well. Last night's race was the second one of the season. Dan's friend Hannes, who ran 20:23 for 15th place in the race and 7th in the 30-39 male age group, got 10 points and is now ranked 15th overall in the series. With four more races to go, he could move up in the rankings depending on how many others he does and how well he does (which of course depends on who shows up on a given night and how fast THEY are).
Moreover, they have a prize at the end of the series for the runner who improves his or her time the most over the weeks.
I loved the laid-back vibe. The start/finish area is grassy and (last night anyway) nice and cool. The kids and I watched the start, then sipped some Max Muscle recovery drink samples and bought our dinner tickets while we waited for the runners to come back. We cheered in the winners, and then Hannes...and less than four minutes later Dan ran by! I had to restrain my son from chasing him. Then we waited for Dan and Hannes' other friend, Jim, and cheered him in, too.
Dan was really happy with his time given that he runs at most every other day and hasn't been specifically training. His 24:02 was good for 10th in the 40-49 male age group, and actually beat his second-to-last 5K, the 2007 Colder Bolder, which he ran in 24:07 (it was way off his 2008 Colder Bolder time of 22:42).
How was the course? The guys agreed it was mostly flat and had some nice dirt stretches, though the parts at the beginning and end featured a slight hill and were on pavement. The line for food was long, but there was plenty for both runners and spectators. Dan said later that he and Hannes will almost certainly want to do at least one more race in this series.
I, of course, think they should show up every week, but they are much more mellow than I am (and also not running-staved by injury). I'm also hoping Dan will consider doing the Bolder Boulder this year. Right now, he's saying he might. I think he'd forgotten how good the buzz after a good race feels!