Race Recap: Shamrocks & Shenanigans

By: Scott McMahon

March is my favorite month of the year. The sun starts to shine again after months behind the clouds, the temperatures start to climb (usually), and non-winter sports begin to move outdoors again. For me, this means that I can finally run outside without gloves and a hat, with sunlight that doesn’t fade until long after I arrive home from the office. This just makes me want to run more.

March is also a great month for road races. Directors use the lure of spring and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day to bill their races, and for good reason. For whatever reason, runners love to drink beer after a race–and although St. Patrick was the patron saint of engineers (as my engineer parents reminded me every year around this time), the St. Patrick’s Day holiday has always been associated with drinking. So why not pair the two activities together?

My original plan was to head to Detroit for the Corktown Race, but I decided to stay in Ann Arbor for Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K on March 10, which was conveniently being held three blocks away from my apartment. I rolled out of bed about half an hour before the starting gun, had a light breakfast, and headed to the starting line.

Having lived in Ann Arbor for nearly five years, I have gotten to know the downtown landscape pretty well. I know the hills, the roads, and the landmarks, which was why I was somewhat worried about the many small but lengthy climbs on the course. I had come to peace with the fact that I would probably struggle on the hills and finish with a higher time than usual.

The race began at 9:30 and the 2,000+ runners/walkers began to weave their way through Main St., Ashley St., and First St. After a bit of a log jam through the first few turns, I was in a comfortable position with plenty of road to work with. The first uphill “climb” was just a few minutes into the race, but was short enough that I could hit it pretty hard and then briefly relax on the downhill immediately following.

The course along Main St. in downtown Ann Arbor

The course along Main St. in downtown Ann Arbor

Almost a mile in, I hit the longest hill on the course, a gradual grade that stretched about a third of a mile before coming back along the same path. I usually don’t care for out-and-backs, but I think knowing that i would be running downhill for the same distance on the way back pushed me through the uphill portion. I made the turnaround and came to the downhill portion that led back to downtown AA.

Of course, once I reached the bottom of the grade, I immediately had to climb again. By this point, I was more than two miles into the race, and still had plenty left in the tank. I got up the small hill and took the flatter ground slightly faster, while trying to keep up with a mom and her son that were booking it past me. We went downhill once more before coming to the final tenth of a mile, which was a decent hill leading to the finish line.

Now I’m not entirely sure how accurate the speed measurement was on the app I was using to track my run, but after the race, it said I ran that final stretch at a sub-6:00 pace. Either way, I turned onto Ashley St. and approached the finish line.

The clock read slightly over 27 minutes, and considering I hadn’t started until at least a minute into the race, I was extremely surprised to see that time. I stopped my app as I crossed, and saw that I had apparently run this race in 25:40. My official time was 25:41, which I estimated to be my fastest 5K time in almost two years.

The after-party took place outside of Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub downtown, with plenty of beer, music, and food to keep a party going. Costumed runners filled the space behind the restaurant with large hats, green knee socks, and even kilts. I felt underdressed the say to least–I hadn’t gotten out to buy high socks like I had wanted to.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the race experience. The staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful, there was plenty of room to navigate on the roads after the first couple of turns, and the location was optimal (at least for me). I was initially surprised that the course went by a construction site that blocked a lane of First St., but it didn’t turn out to be that much of a bother. I would recommend this race to someone looking for a St. Patrick’s Day event in 2014.

One more thing: kudos to the young kid who sprinted past me at the finish line. Closing speed is crucial.

 

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