An Ocean Apart: Last Race of 2013, First Race of 2014

First Race of 2014

In the end, all that was driving me forward was my desperate desire to stay ahead of a ten year old girl. (Mind you, she is the speedy daughter of my friend Aaron Church, an elite local runner.) Having gone out way too fast in my first race of 2014, the Potomac River Running New Year’s Day 5K, I felt my lungs burn before the first mile and let a woman in my age group pass me in the last mile without even attempting a counterattack.

Definitely a grimace, not a smile...

Definitely a grimace, not a smile…

You could say my first 5K of 2014 didn’t go exactly to plan. Mind you, I can’t really say there was a plan. Having flown in from London 36 hours earlier, and coughing up a lung, I shouldn’t have expected much. But I don’t like to make excuses and so I lined up with the same goal I have in every race: to PR.

And PR I did. Well, for a non-triathlon 5K. I happen to have a faster 5K PR in a triathlon (of course at the time I was chasing my dream to make the US Triathlon team); I think it has something to do with the nice long warm up.

So I do have a shiny new PR of 21:00 for a 5K that doesn’t follow a swim and a bike. And of course I plan to break that in my next 5K.

Last Race of 2013

On Christmas Day, I joined my sister for Parkrun Cheltenham, a free 5K held every Saturday (and special occasions like Christmas Day) in Pittville park in Cheltenham, England. Parkrun is a massive and impressive organization that holds free 5Ks all around the world, most of them in the UK. The organizers of each local parkrun are volunteers, and participants are expected to volunteer a couple of times a year. There are no awards, but t-shirts are awarded to runners who complete 50 parkruns.

157 runners showed up for the Christmas Day Parkrun. At the pre-race briefing we were informed we’d be running 4 times around the lake, cutting out the football field section that’s usually part of the course. The race organizer, dressed as Santa, asked who’d traveled the furthest. One runner announced he’d come all the way from Hull, in Northern England. The crowed cheered. My sister pushed me forward. The organizer asked me where I’d come from. “Washington, DC, ” I announced. The crowed erupted into cheers. That was kinda fun. People joked that I’d come all this way just for the race.


I was planning on taking it easy, but then the start gun went off and I just couldn’t help but go into race mode. The first lap felt easy (my Garmin was having trouble finding satellites in the UK so I didn’t know my pace) and I spotted just one woman ahead of me. But after the second lap I started to feel the effects of lack of sleep due to jet lag, and the fact that I’d only woken up 30 minutes before the race start, when my sister knocked on my door and asked if I was planning to run!

My Garmin had finally found a satellite and indicated I was running around a 7 minute mile, slow for a 5K. I decided to stop trying to chase the woman in front and just enjoy the experience. By lap 3, we were lapping runners, and as I looked across the lake, I could see a stream of people, many in costume. Everyone running for their own time, their own goal.

After finishing (in 22:06) I was given a little piece of plastic with a barcode on it. I took this over to an official who scanned it, along with my own personal barcode, which I’d received when registering. This would pair my information with my result. It’s a unique and effective system that avoids the need for lengthy pre-race signup/chip distribution. My sister often shows up for these events about 5 minutes before they start!

Race results appeared on the site the same day, and I also received an e-mail that read:

Congratulations on completing your 1st parkrun and your 1st at Cheltenham today. You finished in 17th place and were the 2nd lady out of a field of 157 parkrunners and you came 1st in your age category VW40-44. You achieved an age-graded score of 69.61%.

Not bad for a free race, and my last of 2013!

With my sister, wearing shirts our sister-in-law gave us for Christmas!

With my sister, wearing shirts our sister-in-law gave us for Christmas!

Happy New Year!



  1. Nice work on both races!! I love those t-shirts you & your sister are wearing!! So awesome.
    Happy New Year! 😀
    Phaedra @ Blisters and Black Toenails recently posted..Lucky 2013: The Year in ReviewMy Profile

  2. Way to go on your new PR Alison :). 21 flat is an amazing time… heck, so is 22! I hope to break those barriers soon. That’s crazy about how fast that elite runner’s daughter is too- we have some fast kiddos here though, they start at an early age and get the competitive spirit and do really well.
    Amy Lauren recently posted..2013 in Review (July-December)My Profile

  3. Sarah Quekett says:

    great post, just proves your warm-up manta!

  4. You are blistering fast my friend. I’ll live vicariously through you! Congrats and happy new year!
    Marcia recently posted..Here’s the PlanMy Profile

  5. Congrats on 2 speedy races. Wishing you fast legs and strong lungs in the new year!
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted..Writing Our 2014 StoryMy Profile

  6. Well, you and the 10-year-old girl would kick my butt. That is super speedy. Way to go on your race despite the jetlagged.

  7. Sound like to great races. I am sure when you are not coughing up a lung you will PR even faster!
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted..A Long Run SuccessMy Profile

  8. I would LOVE that kind of timing system. The whole packet pick up, getting their an hour early thing, seems like so much for a 5K. A more streamline approach would be fantastic.

    Congrats on a great race! I know it didn’t go as planned, but do 5K’s ever go as planned? It’s a tricky little distance. That 10 year old girl sounds incredible too!
    Kris @ recently posted..My Running BuddyMy Profile

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      It was pretty awesome, Kris! Although I think I needed a longer warm-up. 🙂 You’re right, 5Ks rarely go as planned, although I don’t usually execute them this badly! Next time!

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