By: Brian Elder
What I am about to say is going to surprise some people, because when someone considers themselves and is known by many people as a runner, the distance that is almost always a "go-to" race on weekends is the local 5k. I am a little different from most runners though. If we are being honest, I have not run a 5k in four years. Yes, four years! The guys I run with on a regular basis asked: "How is that even possible?" It's been a long time since I raced my last 5k at the State Championship Race my senior year of high school, but it was time to get back on the course.
Throughout college I have done a marathon, quite a few half marathons, and 10ks, but the 5k was a distance that I had had enough of after running the distance most weekends for three years straight. A few weeks ago we did a race preview for the upcoming Twilight 5k in Athens, GA. This competitive race has seen a few changes as the course is a little different this year, but I knew that the competition would be great at this race and I would want to compete in the highly regarded event in our running community. To get a gauge of my progress in training, I decided to sign up one month ahead of time for the Great Exchange: Light the Night 5k. This is a strategy I would encourage any runner to do because if you are like myself and only race a few times a year, you want to make sure your training is going as planned so that the few race days you compete are a success.
Now to the race...
The Great Exchange 5k was held in Watkinsville, GA at Oconee Veterans Park. I was extremely impressed by how well marked the course was and how accurate the distance for the race ended up being. I always am concerned when I go to a local 5k that the course will be poorly marked or either too far or too short, but this was not the case and it was well managed. They had an array of volunteers along the course to offer direction and a water station at the halfway mark that you conveniently passed by twice.
The course was run entirely on the paved path in the park and featured two turnarounds on the course around the .75 and 2.25 marks. While the turnarounds did add some time because of having to start and stop on the course, the out and back route allowed you to know what to anticipate for over 3/4 of a mile at some points which was helpful. The elevation of the course was also beneficial because it featured only two minor hills. The thing which made this 5k difficult was the wind that blew 10-15 mph the entire race and the open jogging paths did nothing to prevent you from fighting it.
Whenever I am signing up for a local 5k, beyond supporting a great cause, which I was able to do for the Great Exchange, I also look for great prizes for finishers. The top prize for the winning Male and Female runners were $50 gift cards to Fleet Feet Sports in Athens so that was incredible along with $30 gift cards for the Masters Male and Female Divisions. The top three runners in each age division also received hand carved wooden medals which were some of the most unique finishing medals I had ever seen. So if you are looking to support a great cause then check out the Great Exchange and mark your calendars next year for the race again.
Brian Elder is a learner, amateur explorer, and runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere. He is a graduate from the University of Georgia where he studied English and Religion. After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels with an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive. Follow Brian on Instagram.