Spook-tacular Win & PR at North Jersey Haunted 5K

Name of the raceNorth Jersey Haunted Half & 5K

Where: Greenview Park on West Parkway, Pompton Plains, NJ

Date: October 24, 2015

Time: 8:15 am for 5K, 8:30 for Half (actual start time for 5K, 8:25 am)

Distance: 5K

Terrain: Loop flat road race

Entry fee: $30 with USATF discount, $38 without discount, $50 for early registration for half, $70 day of the race for half

Swag: Short sleeve cotton shirt for 5K, long sleeve tech shirt for half

Post-race Food: Water, animal crackers, Oreos, trail mix, bagels, & bananas

Time: 23:13

Performance: Overall: 5/103; Gender: 1/70

Weather: 39 degrees, 75% humidity

My last 5K PR was set in December 2013. Being that it was almost two years old and that I’ve been having a number of weeks of good training, I was hopeful that I would set a new 5K PR later this year. I had a couple of low 24:XX 5K in hot humid weather, so I knew I could sub-24 in cooler weather and if I don’t stupidly go out too fast. Jay, one of Ben’s running partners in Jersey  City, invited us to join him for North Jersey Haunted Half in Pompton Plains.

Like every other one of Ben’s running partners, Jay moved away (in all fairness, we moved away first, but we only moved to Brooklyn, while he moved to upstate New York). But for the next month, Jay is still around on weekends because of work and races that he had committed to do. When Ben told me about Jay’s invitation, I was pretty happy to go because I like the races that Pompton Plains puts on (they have a great spring 10K, Apple Chase) and there was an option for a shorter race. I’m still pretty fatigued from Wineglass and I ran a half marathon last week (race report to come). I didn’t feel like running a mediocre HM time, but I figured with the cooler weather and the recent speedwork that I’ve been doing that I was ready for a good 5K time.

I should do a post on things I’d like to see on a race website because of the difficulty of getting important race info. As we’re driving toward the race with Google Map set to the provided address, we get a call from Jay who asks where we are. We assure him that we’re only a few miles away and that we’ll arrive shortly. He then tells us that the race isn’t at the address that they provided. Okay . . .

Jay then tells us that he’s going to try to look for the race and will call us if he find it. Until we get more info, we don’t have much choice but to continue onto the given address. Some minutes later, he calls us back  to give us the new address, which luckily was only a few blocks away.

There was plenty of street parking. We register for our races. Ben and Jay were going do the half, with Ben pacing Jay, while Jay’s girlfriend and I were going to do the 5K. Jay and Ben watch us start since their race won’t begin until after ours. The 5K start was delayed while the race officials made sure the route was secured. The announcer tells us that when he says “Set” the air horn will go off and we were to start. Well, he says, “Set” but the air horn didn’t work, so I got confused as to whether we were supposed to start or not. He frantically motions with his hands that we were to go and I take off after the runners who didn’t wait for his encouragement.

My plan was to start at 7:45 and see how I feel. If I felt good, then I would try to go a little faster. If the pace felt hard, then I would try to hang on for the next two miles. I kept taking peeks at my Garmin. Each time for the first half mile, Garmin told me that I was going too fast. I kept slowing down until I felt that I was crawling and surely there was something wrong with my Garmin. Eventually I found myself behind a young blonde girl and decided to use her as my pacer when I realized that she was running at a nice and steady 7:30 pace. It felt like a good pace and I decided to stick with her. We were the top two female runners and there were no one but a few guys around us.

I was super impressed with a father who was racing with a running stroller. He didn’t have one kid; he had two! In less than a mile, he and his children disappeared and I never saw them again.

At 1.3 miles I realized that the blonde was slowing down to 7:40. I pondered over my choices. I would push on ahead of her and hope that somehow I don’t fade in the last mile. Or I could play it safe, run behind her and try to outkick at the end. I decided to run for myself and push on ahead. I picked up the pace and I could hear her sticking behind me. Pace for Mile 2 was 7:34.

The third mile was hard. I desperately wanted to slow down, but I pushed myself to keep up the pace. For a long stretch, I could hear the footfalls of another runner. I had no idea if it were a male runner or if it were the blonde girl. I didn’t want to turn and look (this is a rule of mine in running, never look back). I told myself that I was running the best I could and if she passed me, well, then clearly she was the better runner. Eventually at Mile 2.75 a tall bearded male runner loped past me. I couldn’t hear anyone else around me. I was running alone. At that moment, I knew I was going to win.

1st Overall Female Winner!

1st Overall Female Winner!

I turned a corner and saw a row of people cheering on either side. The announcer was out on the street. He looked up the number and yelled out, “Here comes our lead female runner!” Like Meb on his epic 2014 Boston win, I pumped my fist in the air. One last turn into the parking lot and I run through the chute, making it official.

It was a marvelous feeling winning a race. I won a 2-mile race before, but the crowd was much smaller and for that race, I wasn’t the lead female runner because the two faster runners were head of me, but they were doing the longer distance. This time I was the lead female runner almost two miles.

My official time was 23:13, a new PR too! For the longest time I didn’t know whether I should count this time as a PR or not. Garmin measured the course as being a little short. I know that Garmins aren’t perfectly accurate, but I’m used to Garmin measuring a course a little long. I didn’t want to count this as a PR if the course was short. Finally in this morning, I found on the website that the course was certified. Well, that was good enough for me! It’s a full 5K and I got a brand new shiny PR!

Jay also set a great PR for himself and came in 2nd in his age group. After the race, we went back to Jersey City to get lunch and hang out at The Coffee Shop with Dell, one of our friends from our running group. He was pleasantly shocked to see us come in because we hadn’t warned him that we were coming. It was fun to shoot the breeze and catch up with our Jersey friends.

Do you count PRs from short courses? 

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18 thoughts on “Spook-tacular Win & PR at North Jersey Haunted 5K

  1. Congratulations!!! A new PR and a win! Great job staying mentally tough during the race and hanging in their during mile 3. I agree with your rule – never look back! Must have been a great feeling when you realized it was a guy running right behind you rather than the girl. 🙂

    • The entire time I heard him hanging on, I was thinking, “Please be a guy or if you’re the girl, drop back, drop back!” I couldn’t run any faster. I was immensely relieved when out of the side of my eye, I saw a beard.

  2. Nice PR! I’d count it like you did, if the course was certified. If it’s a non chipped fun run, probably not. I have seen eace sites that didn’t even have the location or date on the home page. If I have to search for that stuff, I get annoyed.

  3. Nice job Elle!!
    It’s a shame that race morning had a few snags due to what sounds like poor communication on the director’s part. But it all worked out for you anyway 🙂
    I’d feel the same way about about counting a short course! My watch has only come up short in one race, which was an automatic PR because I’d never run that distance before. I ended up using a pace calculator to see what my real time would’ve been on the full length course. Thankfully I’ve beaten that PR though and don’t need to worry about it anymore (the course I ran wasn’t certified – if it was, I totally agree with the way you did it!).

    • Thank you, Amber! Between the course being certified and looking at how Garmin tracked the run (it cut a fair bit off the corners) I feel confident that the course length was accurate. So yay, a PR for me!

    • Thanks! I was so preoccupied with thoughts of the other girl catching up and passing me that I didn’t get to enjoy being the leader. By the time I was sure that I would win, it was pretty much all over.

      I’m pleased about the PR. I wasn’t expecting it this soon. I thought I would have needed to wait a bit longer.

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