Riding over the Tampa Bay on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, my dad and I ventured into a sleepy little town called Safety Harbor. I like to say this quaint, picturesque neighborhood is the best kept secret of Pinellas County.
The reason for my visit was to run a 5k in a race known officially as The Best Damn Race. A few months ago I the opportunity to star in the race’s commercial. I was nervous, yet excited to run in my first official 5k race. I had only ran one other race. It was a mud run called Pretty Muddy. Though the course was 3.1 miles, it was more of obstacle course type race. In fact, not to go on a tangent, but I will be running Pretty Muddy again in December.
I had already picked up my packet and bib on Thursday so I didn’t have to worry about standing in a long line on race day. The race brought in over 2,000 people. Safety Harbor isn’t set up well enough for that many people to find a parking space. My dad and I drove up and down the streets searching for an empty spot. At one point I started to get nervous because the race would be starting in fifteen minutes. I found this small dirt field filled with palmetto trees but no empty parking spaces. A man and woman stood outside their van and I asked them if they were leaving. The man responded that they were not leaving but he would move his van so I could squeeze in next to him. My dad got out of the car to push aside the palmettos leaves so I could squeeze in between it and the van.
I gathered up my gear and we walked over to the start line. I was so happy to have my dad there with me for support. All the runners had their families cheering them on, and without anyone rooting for me would be disheartening. The day brought us closer, for it was a father daughter bonding experience. My dad could not attend school functions or do much with me when I was growing up as a little girl. To to make up for those lost times he will come to my races.
While I waited for the horn to start the race I fiddled with my Armpocket armband and ear buds. Want to know what was on my Best Damn Race playlist? Songs from the t.v. show Nashville. I like listening to country twang while I run. It’s upbeat and helps you keep up your pace.
Finally it was time to do what I like best – run! I waited for the crow to thin and then I sprinted down the road. To my left I could see the bay waters. It was the best damn view of Tampa.
I started training to run in January. My pace is a little slow (14- 15 minute miles), however, it didn’t matter. Jogging next to me were people of not only different sizes but age too. A woman who could have been my grandma sped past me. People lay out so many excuses for not running a race. They are afraid of being too old or too out of shape. Listen up from someone who ran her first 5k course, because I am telling you to throw those excuses out the window. If grandma can do it or all the overweight men and women I saw running that day, so can you. In fact I talk so much about how exciting and adventuresome racing can be that my mom wants to start doing them! Yes! I recruited a newbie run.
About half way through the dash I spotted a Starbucks. Seriously? What a tease. I was tempted to run in and buy a decaf iced latte and I would have except I didn’t have my debit card on me. Bummer. On the bright side was catching sight of my dad. He was standing alongside the rest of the entourage. I waved, smile and kept sprinting along. I was having a blast! I didn’t want the race to end. It finally warmed up so I was able to shed my sweater and proudly display my Best Damn Race t-shirt.
I panted and sweated. I ran as long and fast as my little legs could take until I could no more. Soon I heard cheering and the booming voice announcing runners name through a microphone. I was almost to the finish line. All I had to do was go down the black asphalt and loop back where I would meet the end. I passed my dad once more before finishing the race.
The race ends at the Safety Harbor Marina. Once I crossed the finish line I immediately received my medal and then met back up with my dad. He was being so supportive. He patiently waited while I browsed the shops at the health expo. I ended up buying a tank that says from Milestones Sports. I wore it the next day. Here is what it looks like
There was free food and beer but I did not want to stand in the long. I bumped into Beth Shaw (fellow Tampa Blogger and co-star of the Best Damn Race commercial and Nick Zivolich, CEO and creator of the race. Nick was kind enough to let me pose in front of the finish line to allow my dad to take a victory picture.
Here I am posing with my medal in front of the finish line.
The site of the health expo and where all the free food and beer was!
At this point of the day I was STARVING! It was time to feed my post race growling stomach. I should have eaten a larger breakfast that morning. Luckily I had a cliff mojo bar that was in my race goody bag. It helped tide me over until lunch. My dad didn’t care were we went so I chose NY NY Pizza in Ybor City. I was so proud of earning that medal, and I didn’t want to ever forget this moment and the way I felt. I was so proud that I wore it around my neck walking through the streets of Ybor and inside the restaurant. I had my dad snap a few more shots in front of Centro Ybor.
I was so damn proud of my victory and my medal that after dropping my dad back at home, I drove to my mom’s house and to Joe at work to show off my gleaming piece of jewelry hanging from my neck.
BEST DAMN WORDS OF WISDOM
From a newbie racer here is what I learned:
- Arrive early! Parking will always be an issue and the lines for gear check-in will be long (not to mention packet pick up- see line 2).
- If the race allows it pick up your packet early, not on the day of the race. This will guarantee first dibs on the free shirt as most races include this as a part of the fee you pay. On race day you could get stuck with an XXL in men sizes.
- No matter how early you get up eat a hearty breakfast. This was a lesson learned on my part. I got up at 6 am so all I ate was a banana, and a spoonful of peanut butter. I wasn’t hungry that early in the morning. My race didn’t start until 9:30 am, so I was hungry by the time it was ready to run. Why did I get up so early if my race wasn’t until 9:30 am? See line 1 above.
- Use the bathroom before you get there. Why is it that you always have to pee right before a big event? Besides do you really want to use that porta potty?
- Have all of your gear ready to go. I didn’t put on my arm band, have my ear buds ready, my bib on or my shoe chip on until just before the race started. It’s kinda frustrating to be fumbling with gear knowing the race will start any minute.
- Invite friends and family. Trust me your inner awesomeness will shine through when you have a pack of people cheering you along the sidelines. Plus you will have someone to watch your credit cards and ID as well as take pictures for you.
- This isn’t advice but I found it kinda funny. A few of my running friends mentioned they would wearing jackets in the morning while it was cold and then toss the jackets once it warmed up. I didn’t know they meant that literally. I saw jackets and sweaters thrown on the side of the race course.
- Wear proper shoes, socks and clothes. Go to a running store and get fitted. This is very important because the right shoes will prevent injury. I bought a pair of hot pink/lime Saucony’s that I love! Also you want to socks that wick away moisture and help prevent blisters. Feetures is a good brand. I wore a pair on this race. Lastly, do not wear cotton clothes! You will sweat and it soaks into your skin. TJ Maxx, Marshalls and even JC Penney’s has some great deals. You can find $7-10 shirts, pants, capris and running shorts. Trust me on this one. I was stubborn and didn’t want to spend the extra money, but after a few sweaty training sessions I gave in. And yes those socks will make a HUGE difference. DO NOT wear cheap cotton socks from Walmart!
- Sign up for a training program. The internet is full of free programs, and some can be downloaded as apps. 3 miles is longer than you realize because you will be on foot.
- Make it fun. Sign up for a race that supports your favorite cause. Create a group and run with your friends/family.
- Now it’s time to just run. Running takes away all of your fears and worries you accumulate throughout the day. Just let go and clear you mind and let your body become a part of terrain.
The Best Damn Race was one of the best Damn Days I had. Ok, sorry, I’ll stop! 🙂
Do you run? If not what is keeping you from running?