Free fun

A free 5k, plus a $15 gift card to a new running store? Yes, please. Aid Station, 5kYesterday I started off my 5k frenzy a week earlier than I originally wrote about, kicking off four straight weeks of 5k races. This race was to celebrate the grand opening of The Aid Station, a new running store in Forest, Va.

It included the gift card, a free shirt, free GU and some other door prizes that were thrown out at the end (I caught some Shot Bloks and a pair of socks).

I used yesterday to help pace a co-worker for the first couple of miles or so to help push him to a strong time. I wanted to run hard, but not go all out.

The course was what I would consider relatively flat for this part of Virginia -- there was a gradual downhill first half and a gradual uphill second half, both which included going over an old-school wooden bridge.

The beginning of the race was crazy -- there were more than 500 people there with a tight start. The strategy was to just go with the flow the first half mile and not fall. We ended up hitting the first mile in about 7:30.

My co-worker struggled a bit after the first half and I got about 20 feet in front of him -- I slowed down a bit, gave him some encouraging words and things to think about and it helped pick him up a bit. As we neared the cross over of the wooden bridge again, I think the cold air (it was about 35), not running for a week and the brief hill got to him.

I ended up finishing in 24:11; he wasn't too far behind. Official times haven't been posted, and it's possible my posted time will show up a couple of seconds slower as an inconsiderate runner passed me and a boy and a woman in the finishing area as the young guy was throwing up. (He was saying near the end, "I'm gonna die," but he was very happy with himself a few minutes later.)

The huge turnout for this event, the gift card (I finally bought myself a handheld water bottle), a T-shirt, pushing another runner along, the free handouts, and seeing more people that I knew than ever before at a race made this such an awesome event. I also got to meet the Nutrition Nerd, who has a regular feature for my #runchat co-moderator Scott.

I can't thank The Aid Station enough for putting it together. I wish them the best of luck in their business and hope they'll be a part of more local events, as well as creating new events. I'll certainly be shopping there again.

As for my 5k time, it feels great to push it and leave something on the course. I haven't done that in a while. This sets me up well for the next three weeks and gives me confidence to close out the year strong. I can't wait until Thursday!