What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race
Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and my dad
Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, and NEADS
-Mile 1: 11:48
-Mile 2: 10:26
-Mile 3: 14:07
-Mile 3.8: 13:11
Photos: (there’s a ton… brace yourselves)
This next series of photos, courtesy of RaceWire, shows just how freaking happy I was to be crossing the finish line. No intense beast-stares or awkward poses here – just pure giddiness!
Recap: This was the race I had been looking forward to for nearly a year, one of the two most important races for me this year (the other is a 10K in August; more on that at a later time), and I was so, so happy that my ankle had healed in time for me to run it. This is the race dedicated to the memory of the Worcester 6 – 6 firefighters who gave their lives protecting their city during the Cold Storage Fire of December 3, 1999 – and it’s a 6K in honor of those 6 men. The WFD6K website gives a brief history of the race here.
After my first hot race experience of the year the day before, I was super prepared for this one. So I thought. I was wearing my fancy new tank top with “Omni Freeze Zero” technology (it has little dots inside that claim to react to your sweat and cool you down… I got it for almost 80% off retail, score!), and I had a giant water bottle full of Nuun and ice that I was prepared to lug around with me so that I hopefully wouldn’t faint. I had been hydrating like crazy the day before (after my other race), and I was decked out with my hat, sunglasses, and all kinds of sunblock. I was ready.
The one thing I neglected to do was warm up before the race started. I was running a tad late (late enough that they had run out of my size shirt, even though I had registered way in advance for a small) and decided to stand around in the shade and chat with my dad rather than warm up and stretch. As such, my right calf seized up for the entire first mile, making it a very unpleasant experience. I was struggling to keep running after less than a half-mile, urging myself to just make it to the mile marker, since I knew from past experience that calf-cramp due to shoddy warm-up usually clears up for me after a mile.
I didn’t make it to the mile marker and had to stop to walk for a while. I wasn’t the only one! I don’t think I’ve ever taken part in a race in which so many people had to walk because of the heat. Even the super hot races I ran last July! Luckily the course took us past two fire stations that featured God-sent firefighters and their hoses, spraying runners as they passed. It made such a difference, not just for me, but for pretty much everyone else on the course around me. Everyone was so grateful.
After my calf started behaving itself, and after I enjoyed my first firehose misting, I was able to pick up the pace a little in the second mile. It helped that there were some downhills, including one nice downhill in a shaded tunnel, and it also helped that I caught sight of two firemen up ahead of me. They were running in their full gear, heavy tanks and all, and I could see the people looping back the other way running by to high-five them and say thank you as they passed. I think it was the same two firemen who ran the Jay Lyons Road Race in their gear, and I hadn’t been able to catch them in that race. I was determined to high-five and thank them myself, so I upped my pace to catch them. After I did, I was so pumped that I kept running a bit faster for a while.
That “speediness” did me in a bit, and my next mile was dead slow. I had to walk most of it as I was starting to feel a bit fainty. I kept thinking of the sign someone had at last year’s London Marathon – “Run if you can, walk if you must, but finish for Boston” – and used a modified version of that not only as reassurance that it was okay to walk, but also as a mantra to keep going and not faint: “Run if you can, walk if you must, but finish for the firefighters.” It kept me going, even when my head started swimming a bit and I thought the race would never end.
I walked almost all of the last mile, because I decided I wanted to finish strong. I knew my dad and Drew would be at the finish watching for me, and it just felt right to cross the finish triumphantly, rather than pulling myself over it with my lips. I walked until the bottom of the hill (the race finished on a hill! Damn you Worcester and your hills!) then sped up and crossed the finish line with arms aloft and a giant grin on my face. I was thrilled that I was able to run the WFD6K this year, giddy to be able to stop dragging my sorry self around the course, excited to stand under the misting machine and get some free ice cream, and just overwhelmed with the great feeling of community around me.
The whole race had a real community feel to it, with a big post-race barbecue in the park next to the course, full of events for kids – including a 1K race before the 6K – and many local businesses and charities were represented. Each year the WFD chooses local charities to donate the proceeds to, which is awesome. One of the city’s high school football team manned each of the water stops, some Worcester Roller Derby girls joined them at one and then skated around to encourage runners, and there was a firefighter at almost every intersection. One of them clapped for each and every runner that struggled past, yelling out “thank you for running” to everyone and giving high-fives to anyone within reach. Even a parking attendant at a lot along the course was giving out high-fives and shouting encouragement to everyone. I loved it.
As a bonus, the race was very well organized (except for a bit of confusion at the starting line and the way they had everyone get there… so many walkers ended up at the start, and if you watch the video of the start you can see so many people dodging around walkers) and there was just a good feeling about it all. I got to see parts of my home city that I had never noticed before, like really cool architecture (walking has its good parts!), and I can’t wait to run this race again next year!