Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greekfest Musings

The Greekfest 5k is probably the most popular and renowned 5k race held in Charlotte. The main reason for this is its reputation for being one of the fastest courses you can find locally. As any Charlotte runner will attest, almost all the local races have to negotiate a significant hill at some stage during the race. Not so Greekfest. Apart from one gradual rise as you turn on to Kingston from Park just after the mile mark, there are no hills of note. However it must be underlined that by no means is the course flat. You start off charging down East which is very slightly downhill and you end up running back up this direction for the finishing few hundred meters. Sections during the second and third miles run parallel to East and have its same grade. Still, all in all, Greekfest is definitely a course you can target a good time on. And everyone always does. You hear people back in April saying they are aiming to PR at this race.

However, for all the PRs and fast times that are set here, I would bet that there are an equal amount of disappointing results. As is often the way with something that is ‘over-hyped’, people often come away from Greekfest disappointed, “How can I not have run faster on this course?!”. Three main reasons for this I feel. First, people seem to assume all they need to do to run fast here is turn up. Wrong, this race needs just as much attention and focus as any other race, particularly during the second mile where there is a slight downhill section down Worthington that people tend to just coast down and get themselves prepared for the finishing stretch. Second, the course isn’t as flat as it is made out to be and the finish is on a very gradual uphill that can sap your time if you are not focused and fit enough. Third, the weather is often a factor, the late August humidity neutralizing the positive scenario of a fast course layout.

Speaking from personal experience, I have done this race 4 times and can say I have raced well twice and ‘badly’ twice. Greekfest will always have a soft spot in my heart as it was actually the first ever race I ran on Charlotte and American soil in 2005. We had signed the lease on our new apartment the previous Saturday and I looked immediately to get in a race to get a feel for the running community here. After a PR laden last few months in England, I had spent the previous month on ‘down’ time and was not in very good race shape. That combined with the ridiculous heat that I wasn’t used to (!) led to an 11th place finish in 16:33.

Next year was a different matter. My parents were in town, Sophie was 5 days old and I was in a training cycle for my first marathon. I ran well in 15:55 for third place and some cash if I remember rightly.

2007 was disappointing again. I had been running fast that summer and had spent a month in Australia with work where I was able to carry on my good form and training. However, Greekfest proved to be a race too far. I was burnt out, came home 7th in a disappointing 16:21 and immediately took some down time for a few weeks. Looking at the results for this race, a couple of notable performances. Coach Budic took second in 15:33, ten seconds ahead of local road legend Marchinko and 8th overall female was a certain young lady by the name of Alana Hadley, ten years old at the time, running 19:37!!

Back to the good the year after, when, deep into my training for the 2008 Richmond Marathon and having done no specific 5k training, my strength saw me home to a 2nd place in 15:53. A few weeks later I ran a Half Marathon PR but also got struck by a bout of plantar fasciitis and had to pull the plug on Richmond!

Last year I was unable to race. My stress fracture was just healing up so I jogged around the course before the race but was happy to watch everyone else do the race itself.

So here we are a year on and I’m ready to tackle Greekfest for a 5th time. I think I’m fit, I think I’m ready, just need to execute correctly. Even the weather seems to be taking a turn for the better.

A group of us are doing a course preview from the Dowd Y tomorrow at 6am if anyone wants to come along…

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