Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Race Report: Army Run 2011

I have been putting off writing this post because I've just been enjoying the memories for a bit.  I didn't want to write it the same day because I didn't want it to be really "over" and then yesterday we were busy all evening.  But here it is!  My Army Run 2011 5k race report.

The Event

This event's tag line is "No Ordinary Runners, No Ordinary Race" and it's definitely true.

They had a injured soliders start about 15 minutes before the official start, which also included athletes with disabilities.  I couldn't see it from my spot in the corrals but even to know it was happening was pretty amazing.  All along the route I was passing soldiers who had lost limbs.  I wanted to stop and thank each and every one of them.  It was definitely emotional.

At the end, we were given our "dog tag" medals by soldiers as well - soldiers who were thanking US for running when really all the thanks should be going to THEM.  Also, on the same day there was an Army Run at Kandahar Air Field, and they received the same medals with "KAF" on them.

They used a howitzer as the starting gun for the half marathon but sadly only an air horn for the 5k.  I suppose 8am is a little early to be shooting cannons outside on a Sunday morning.

Me showing off my "medal" by the "starting pistol"
The atmosphere was very different from the Ottawa Race Weekend.  There were a lot more families and walkers, and people had pictures and signs pinned to them about who they were racing for.  At the same time, there were plenty of runners out to run a race.  It felt like a mix between a charity event like Run for the Cure and a regular 5k race.

On a related note, the walkers got a little aggravating.  They were supposed to start at the back but many started ahead of me.  I spent the first 2km or so dodging walkers - walking several across or holding hands.  At one point a walker had those blow up noise makers than you bang together and she was swinging them around.  The only water station was also at the 2km mark, so you just finished getting a good spot and rhythm when everyone was trying to get to the tables.  The volunteers (and band!) were pretty awesome though and kept things moving.

The finish was really crowded because there was no where to spread out.  They were supposed to have the recovery area in the park, but it was all fenced off (no idea why) and everyone had to funnel from the road onto a path that ran through the park.  The website also suggested for friends to meet their runners in the recovery area, so people were trying to get in and go out at the same time (as opposed to the Race Weekend when they only allowed runners in the recovery area).

There was also a half marathon which we went to watch for a while after the 5k was done.  It actually ran by the Canada War Museum which I thought was fitting.  It is also a really beautiful building.

The Route

As I mentioned before, the route is almost an "out and back", down one side of the canal and up the other with a little jog around the block to start with.

The jog around the block had more hills than I remembered and also messed my Garmin up a bit because of the buildings.  I had no idea what my pace was for the first bit so I just tried to keep it up and go with the music.

It's a route that I really enjoy because I'm familiar with it from a previous race and from training.  There is plenty of room for spectators and it's a nice wide road which leaves room for getting around slow runners or walkers.

The Run

I tried to start out easy and then settle into a nice pace, remembering the rule of "refrain (from going too fast), maintain (the pace), freight train (sprint to the finish)".  I was worried for a bit that I was going too slow so I picked it up a bit.  Then I followed one guy for a while because I liked his pace (around 6:45) (mad props to the guy with the blue pants and the orange jacket around his waist).  When I knew the finish was coming and "Ali in the Jungle" came on (see music info below) I picked it up and pushed to the finish.

Overall the whole race felt really good, even awesome.  I felt 100 times better than I did at my first 5k on this same course about four months ago.  I couldn't believe it.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of me during the run right now.  It's a mystery as to who the professional photographers were on the course.  And despite our best laid plans, The American never managed to see me on the course.  We haven't quite perfected how he can find me yet.  (Unlike the people on bikes I saw/heard following their friends/family during the half marathon, with maps and time estimates and calling each other on cellphones.  Impressive!)

The Music

I must say that I made myself a pretty kick ass playlist for this race.  I listened to Adele while I waited in the corral before the starting line, and hit it over to The Weakerthans as I crossed the starting line.  The race went from there until Ali in the Jungle.  I built it to be almost exactly 35 minutes, with Adele at the start (not included) and a few buffer songs at the end because (1) I didn't want to run out of music and (2) I didn't want to jinx myself.

I try and put songs near the start that get me into a good rhythm.  I also plan my halfway song very carefully so I will recognize it when I get there and it will pump me up.  I find "My Life Would Suck Without You" to be a great halfway point song.  I loved listening to "Does Your Mother Know" (from Mamma Mia) and "Party in the USA".  I may have danced.  Or sang.  Or both.

The Swag

Of course you all want to know about the swag, don't pretend you don't!

We received an awesome long sleeved New Balance tech shirt and a "dog tag" medal that actually has quite a bit of heft to it.  The shirt fits really nicely and I will definitely wear it for cooler weather runs throughout the fall and winter.  The medal has a place for an iTab and I think I will order one.  We also got a small reusable bag with an Army Run design on it.

The Results!

Now what you are really waiting for... The results!

When I crossed the line my Garmin said 34:19.  I was pretty stoked right away because I knew my previous PB was 34:29 and I had hit the start/stop buttons a little before and after the starting/finishing mats.  I could not wait to get home and find out my official chip time!

Gun time: 39:38.8
Chip time: 34:06.3 (average pace 6:49 per km) (personal best!)
574/867 in age/gender category
2310/4285 overall

Overall I am really happy that I participated in this run.  It was a really unique experience and I'm super pleased with my performance.  I only reached my B goal, but nonetheless I am happy about it.  I will definitely participate in this event again.


  1. Awesome race recap! I love reading other people's perspectives on the same race. I definitely agree that there was a different vibe to the Army Run from Ottawa Race Weekend - I enjoyed both of them for different reasons.

    Congrats on the pb Jenn!

  2. Great job! And congrats on the PR- that's awesome! Glad you liked The Hours song =)

    On a side note, if you're looking to build up speed, check out Run Less, Run Faster. The training plan in that book has helped me shave time off of every single distance (well, except for the marathon).

  3. @Danielle - I loved The Hours song! Thanks again. I will check out Run Less, Run Faster soon. I want to train for my half marathon (Feb 2012) and then I think I will go back to shorter distances and increasing my speed as opposed to my endurance. I've heard a lot of good things about that book.

    @Jayme - Thanks!

  4. What an awesome race! Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a fun recap you wrote! Awesome job and interesting to read.

    Love the dog tag medals... very inspiring to have the injured soldiers there.

  6. And nice job on the B goal, too.

  7. Great job, great PB and great race. I'm tempted to do one of the two half in Ottawa next year as we have family there. We'll see.

    Good luck at the zoo!

  8. @Macnic - Thanks! Both the halfs in Ottawa are supposed to be quite wonderful - nice courses, well organized, etc. I think I would do the Ottawa Race Weekend half over the Army Run as it seemed a little better organized this year. I might be doing the Race Weekend half myself depending on how the Princess Half goes!