Selfless Elf 5K Race Summary! 22:48 total, 7:21/mile, 7 Minute PR!


While I was all ready to have a faceless 2014, an opportunity came up to run an inaugural 5K charity race that Lisa had heard about. She had hoped we both could do it, but her work schedule wouldn’t allow for it … so I signed up on my own!

Downtown Corning holds a Sparkle festival each year as the culmination of a week of holiday events starting with the tree lighting at the Centerway. This year they added a 5K, sponsored by Wegman’s and benefitting the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (our local food pantry). And when Wegman’s ‘sponsored it’, it wasn’t just the usual ‘throw a few dollars’ at it … they paid for everything so that all money collected went to the charity!


Aside from registering for the race which also got you a shirt and socks, they were selling elf ears and jingle bracelets with all of THAT money going to charity – so we bought two each. Above is a picture of all my gear laid out – and Lisa wore her ears and bracelet to work. This is what I looked like all decked out to go:


For a bit of history, I have run THREE 5K races, all in 2012:
– My first was a 32:02 … but a HUGE personal victory!
– My second was two weeks later and 29.46, which stands as my PR
– My third was two more weeks later, and it was over 90F, and I still broke 30 minutes with 29:51

I have expressed my ‘fear’ of the 5K – it is more of a sprint than an endurance challenge. I was all nerves getting ready to go. But in my head I had three goals:
C goal: beat my PR
B goal: break 25 minutes
A goal: hit 8 minute/mile average
A+ goal: while breaking 8min/mile, why not break 24 minutes?!?

Honestly if I broke 25 minutes I would have been ecstatic – everything else was ‘gravy’. Also honestly, if I did NOT break 25 minutes I’d have been disappointed … which was definitely part of my fear.

The race start was at the Corning High School stadium, but finished in downtown Corning at the Centerway. So I parked over in the garage by the finish (brought my badge because it is normally restricted access) and walked back over the bridge. Since we’d been to that stadium many times (marching band competitions, also for the GlassFest 5 miler) – I assumed things would be open so I could use the rest room before the start. Nope. Ugh – fortunately it wasn’t urgent!

Here is a picture I took waiting at the start – I didn’t notice at the time, but the guy in the sweatshirt moved right in front as I gook the shot … there was a guy dressed like ‘Buddy the Elf’ from the movie Elf that I was trying to get in the frame.


I lined up a bit back from the start – I didn’t want to be TOO far back, but also wanted to let the ‘speedy elves’, as the announcer called them, go out first. I did a selfie to show how the crowd was starting to assemble. There ended up being more than 750 people registered – they accepted registrations for 750 and let people pay $20 at the race to join in with a tag.


Here is the course map:


It was a bit of a weird course, and totally depended on the volunteers! You might notice that the course took us to the same intersections more than once – which gets confusing unless you have someone directing you! Fortunately there were volunteers all over the course!

I went out strong, wearing my Garmin to help keep track of my pace and make sure I didn’t lag at all. I was asking people fairly consistently, and for the first quarter mile or so had the usual congestion – but people were actually pretty good about lining up according to their intended run/walk status. The biggest issue for me were the groups who were several across and not really pushing the pace – or getting out of the way!

While I knew I was doing more than a casual pace, it also wasn’t a hard pace – I wasn’t sprinting, and it felt like a pretty sustainable pace. When I heard the first mile go off I was a bit surprised – I thought I’d gone further and just missed the chime. I definitely slowed a bit then, but kicked myself in the butt and got moving again.

There were a bunch of times I wish I had more pictures – the outfits were great! I was just past the two mile mark when a couple of really young kids blew by me – it is just always awesome for me to see kids who aren’t even teenagers running so gracefully and effortlessly, chatting as they went.

I was worried about doing the underpass and heading over the bridge if I would sustain things – but I did! As I was crossing the pedestrian bridge I passed someone who looked familiar … who then just edged me at the finish. You can see his name listed above mine on the results below – it ended up being the boys middle school history teacher (and advisor for some activities and all around great guy). We chatted for a bit and it was nice to catch up on kids and life.

I grabbed a picture of the finish time board – I had no idea how quickly they would get things online (answer was very quickly!) The placement had no meaning at that point as it had to do with how many were finished when they printed.


When I approached the finish line the ‘minute’ numbers were obscured, so I had no clue on my time until I was within about 10 meters of the finish. When I saw 22 minutes? I couldn’t believe it! I was going to easily break 23 minutes … who WAS this guy running this race? A 7:21 pace? I NEVER do that! That is a *7* Minute PR!

I came in #77 out of 692 recorded finishers (they had to close the course at 5PM to kick off Sparkle), 49th man, 11th in my age group (the winner was in my age group as well!).

I am terribly proud of myself – no humble-brag here, I have cut 3 minutes per mile off my first 5K pace, and my per mile pace is about 50% lower than what I first recorded back in April 2012 (my first GPS run ever). I couldn’t be happier – and I have gotten some amazing comments on Facebook and Instagram from all of my awesome friends!

It is also a reminder that to paraphrase Tip O’Neill “all achievements are personal”.

Tuesday Thoughts – Junk Miles, a Request and My ‘Two Songs’


Day 2 of Megan’s Abs Challenge – Complete!

We are getting to the end of my 10 Days You list, and as I keep saying I have enjoyed this more than I expected and learned a lot along the way. The comments have been amazing, and I have added stuff to my various watch and wish lists as a result – thanks to all for sharing! Today along with the second-to-last day, I have a couple of other quick topics, so here we go!

No Such Thing as Junk Miles

The concept of ‘junk miles’ is one that fascinates me, and Carson at Running Southern mentioned it in her latest post, in the context of taking charge of her busy life and ditching ‘junk’ miles that don’t get her anywhere in her fitness. I am not bringing her up to disagree or criticize – I support her choice, and if you read her post you will see it makes perfect sense for her.

So what ARE these junk miles? The term ‘junk miles’ came as part of the ‘run less, run faster’ fad, which many have picked up and some have had great success improving their times and staying injury-free. But are they right? Can runners simply cut miles, run some more speed work and end up better for it? Um … maybe, maybe not.

From Competitor:

So who’s right? Science offers no clear answer. On the one hand, studies that have looked at various training variables in groups of runners competing in the same race and compared these variables against their finishing times have found that weekly running mileage is usually the best predictor of performance. In other words, those who run the most tend to achieve the lowest finishing times in races.

On the other hand, numerous prospective studies have shown that runners can achieve large improvements in performance without increasing their mileage by replacing some of their slow running with faster running.

When you look up and down the running literature there is evidence to support either side – and also to debunk either side. Bottom line – there is no absolute definition of junk miles.

But what matters more is looking at how and why you are doing workouts. Are you training for a marathon? If so, those long runs are contributing to your endurance, as well as your recovery. Or maybe you are using them for ‘active meditation’, stress relief, hanging out with friends, or some other non-training purpose. Again, in that case they are NOT junk.

Image Source

The common context applied seems to be that miles – or workouts in general – are junk when you are in the midst of a training cycle and that specific workout contributes nothing to your training.

There are also three REALLY good reasons to focus on maximizing your training efficiency in fewer miles : injury, burnout and frustration.

If you are injury prone, or recovering while training for a new event, every mile can make you more prone to getting injured. And if you are getting stuck in a rut of doing the same thing again and again, chances are you aren’t improving and might be getting burned out and lose interest in your training. None of this is good.

So my advice would be to ditch someone else’s definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ miles, figure out based on your own personal experience what YOUR balance of ‘quality vs. quantity’, and develop your own optimal training plan … regardless of how someone else would judge it.

A Quick Request

I am fortunate to not have been in a position to ask for money for a very long time other than for charitable support, and as a result I try to support charities for others when I can. This weekend I got a request from Ann Brennan, the blogger at Ann’s Running Commentary. Ann’s site was one of the first I found when I started tracking blogs through a guest post she did. Eventually I did a guest post for her, and she remains a good blog friend. Here is what she is asking:

This year I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon for the 7th time. But this year is different. This year I will be running with my dear friend Jeff Prs who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Please help me by donating and/or sharing this link on your page. Jeff is an incredible man and does so much for so many. Raising money and awareness for prostate cancer is the very least I can do.

Check out her donation site, and thanks in advance if you can do anything at all to help.

10 Day You Challenge

OK, so now I am up to Day 9, and the theme is Two Songs. Wait … what?!?! TWO … W.T.F. Anyone who knows me knows that music is a HUGE thing for me, so picking just TWO songs is impossible. So I chose to do something different … I chose one song for myself and one that has special meaning in my life. And once I made that choice – the two songs were immediately chosen and I am satisfied. So let’s go!

Day Nine: Two Songs

1. ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis – I have written about this song here and here, saying:

within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

And it really is one of the singular pieces of modern music, featuring a double quartet (two drums, two basses and two keyboards) as well as multiple ‘world music’ influences and contributions from rock and classical and funk music. Yet it has a harder edge than so much ‘free jazz’ of the period while remaining harmonically tethered and loose all at once. The musicians were young and dynamic, and so while they had no preconceived ideas of what was happening … once the recording started they let loose with some of the greatest music of the last century.

Here is a live version from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival (in Western Massachusetts):

And here is the original album version … all 27 glorious minutes …

2. ‘Skywriting’ by The Bible – Music is important to both Lisa and I, and we have shared music back and forth through the years. I lent her tapes of Pat Metheny and Miles Davis, and she gave me late-80s British new wave stuff like The Lilac Time and The Bible. We really enjoyed listening to why the other one liked certain things, and over time The Bible’s album ‘Eureka’ became ‘ours’ … and the lead song ‘Skywriting’ became our song, played as our first dance by the band at our wedding. Traditional? No … but who the F cares?!? 🙂

The song tells the story of a young couple trying to succeed against the odds and opinions of others. While I was already employed as an engineer (i.e. not broke), just as we fell in love Lisa moved to Albany for a year of graduate school in medical technology. So we had the long distance thing going – and plenty of people ready to cast doom upon us.

Now Lisa only had this on tape, and it was out of print (this was 1990-91), pre-internet, MP3 or YouTube, so it wasn’t something easy to get. But I did some poking around record stores in Boston and was able to special order an import CD through one of those shops – and ‘our songs’ were safe.

We still listen to this CD all the time, and it remains a special part of our life and our family. Here is a live version circa 1990:

What do you think about ‘junk miles’? Have you ever run for a cause? And what are YOUR two top songs – and why?