Saturday, June 5, 2021

North Olympic Discovery Marathon 5K race report

Late in 2019 a friend told me about a race series over on the Olympic Peninsula called "Run the Peninsula". The medals and swag were great, and it seemed like a great chance to plan five weekend getaways over the course of 2020 in one of my favorite parts of the state. 

We ran the Elwha Bridge 5K in January 2020, and then, well, COVID-19 hit and the rest of the series went virtual... and we dutifully completed each race, reported our results, and collected our medals.

When the series was announced for 2021, we decided to sign up again -- even knowing that at least the early races would be virtual. In-person events were held for the 2021 Elwha Bridge 5K and 2021 Railroad Bridge 10K, but we just weren't feeling like it would be safe for us to participate because we weren't able to be vaccinated yet. 

We even went to the race locations -- spending the weekend quietly in Port Angeles for the Elwha Bridge 5K in January and in Sequim for the Railroad Bridge 10K in April (but just running different stretches of the trail to avoid needing to be around a lot of people). 

But it was really exciting to be fully vaccinated and ready to attend our first in-person race in over a year!

In normal years the NODM 5K takes place the same day that all the NODM events do -- but in order to reduce crowding at the start, both the 5K and 10K were moved to Saturday. Even better, the organizers added a CHALLENGE. 

Now, I love a race challenge -- running events back to back is one of my favorite silly running things to do. So of COURSE I signed us up for the 5K for the Saturday!

We got up early and took the first ferry from Edmonds, making it to Port Angeles in plenty of time to get great free parking right near the start. 

First and foremost, it was so great to feel that "before the race" vibe ... even if it did make me feel a little weird to be around that many people. 

We picked up our bibs and shirts, dropped them off at the car, and then milled about. 

The permits for the race required everyone wear face coverings and the start, and the vast majority complied (happily). 

Eventually we were asked to go into our corrals. I'm not gonna lie, this made me slightly edgy -- this was the most people I had been near since February 2020! 

The organizers did a good job of separating out the corrals, sending a few dozen out past the start at one-minute intervals. It's a great way to start a race just to reduce crowding -- even in non-COVID times! I was jittery and antsy -- it's been a long time since I ran a race -- even though I wasn't trained or even really prepared to run. I was just excited to feel the "pre-race feeling" again. 

Finally it was our turn, and we slipped in at the back of our corral. Perfect. You can see the gap behind us, and the back of the race director as she held the next corral back. Oh, and you can see our masks, which we pulled down not long after this pic as they weren't required for the actual race. 

The race was an out-and-back along the lovely Olympic Discovery Trail. Almost pancake flat, and we just moseyed along. We chatted with some other runners, made a point of thanking all the volunteers we saw, and got to the turnaround surprisingly smoothly. 

Then back the way we came, this time into a bit of a headwind. It was fun to run into the finish chute with ACTUAL SPECTATORS. Not a lot, mind you, but people clapped and cheered. 

And, of course, we crossed the finish line holding hands :)

We picked up our medals -- super handsome, like everything in this race series -- as well as some post-race snacks largely for the experience of picking up post-race snacks like in the "old days"!

In general, this race was excellent -- great organization, great pre-race communication, nice shirt, gorgeous medal, a pretty, traffic-free course, well-stocked water stops, and generous post-race food. We even got to trade a tag on our bib for a post-race beer at a local restaurant (which we did later in the day). 

I certainly didn't run my best 5K -- heck, I barely managed any running at all. But being able to participate in an in-person event was exciting enough. And the next day we would be running the half marathon!

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