You never quite know what you are going to get when you sign up for a St. Patrick’s Day 5k in New England. You’ll likely get beer but you are also just as likely to get a snowstorm or a heatwave. It’s what makes early spring running so exciting and unpredictable around here.
Last Saturday’s forecast promised sun and upper 40s. That’s just about the best you can expect so I signed up online on Friday. More on this choice in a second.
The Guiness Shamrock Shuffle 5k in North Kingstown, Rhode Island is part of the larger 3-race Tour de Patrick series and it draws a bigger crowd than you might expect for a random suburban 5k race. There were almost 900 people entered last weekend.
One very nice thing about this race is that it starts at 11 a.m. Too many road races are way too early in my opinion. The later start time allowed us ample travel time. We (Michelle and my Dad were also running) arrived about 10:15.
The race started and ended at the high school track. Parking at the school filled up but handled the big crowd pretty well, especially if you arrived a little earlier.
Good thing we did as the line to pick up your bib was long. Race day registration line? Non-existent. Perhaps it wasn’t worth saving that dollar by pre-registering. I did get a tech shirt though. Not sure if the race day folks got that swag. No other swag actually.
Porta-pots were available but even 45 mins before the race the lines were just as long as the bib pickup. There were ample….nature opportunities that people appeared to be taking full advantage of.
There was a little delay (just under 10 minutes) at the start for various announcements and then trying to figure out if the police detail was set. It was just on the edge of getting annoying (and completely throwing off any warm-up) when the gun went off.
The start of the race weaved through the school parking lot before getting out to the surrounding roads. There were a lot of turns (and not the best pavement). It must have gotten tight at the back. It was okay closer to the front but you had to watch your step.
Calling this course rolling would be wildly exaggerating. This course is flat and made for a legit PR attempt. I was not going for a PR. Next up is a duathlon, so this was more of a training run. I’ve been doing a lot of strength, bike, and cross-training and trusting my run fitness would stick around. This 5k would be an interesting test case.
The first mile had the hills. It was a 17 foot net gain. After existing the parking lot, I just tried to settle in and not get sucked into a faster pace that would leave me heaving by the halfway point (see December’s 5k!). I hit one mile with a small group at 6:18. The big field definitely brought some speed. I was way way back from the lead pack.
The second mile was flat but into a decent headwind that had kicked up. It was on a relatively major road. There were police at intersections but it wasn’t closed to traffic.
Some of the overenthusiastic rabbits around me dropped off during the second mile. I felt pretty good, kept the pace even, and tried to pick off a few people. 6:21 for the second mile.
The third mile was were my lack of decent training miles started to show up. I had to work hard to maintain the pace. Actually, my heart rate graph is interesting. You can see I almost made a conscious decision at each mile. Look at it level up and plateau.
I also screwed up the finish allowing a guy I had passed near the mile mark to run up my back and catch me on the track at the finish. Last mile: 6:25, but I did kick that last 250 at a 5:45 pace so I felt like I finished strong even if that guy passed me back.
There were the usual slightly green bananas, plenty of bottled water, plus various donated granola bars.
The medal was hefty. The girls were thrilled to find out it also worked as a big magnet. So it will get more use on the fridge holding up art work than the usual finisher’s medal would.
There was a party and live music post-race at a nearby pub. We didn’t check that out, but just headed to my parent’s house for our own beer and boiled celebration.
St. Patrick’s Day always feels like the time when the hibernating runners start getting out and hitting the roads. Welcome back! Always happy to have more runners out there and starting the season with a 5k and some celebratory beer is a fine way to kick things off.
If you’re looking for a well-organized race with plenty of energy and plenty of entrants, you won’t likely do better than the Guiness Shamrock Shuffle. It’s worth the drive.