That One Time I Won the Whole Race

The other night at dinner we were telling some friends about a race the hubs and I ran recently. One friend asked me, “So did you win?” And for the first time ever, I got to answer, “Yes!”

The first week of August the fam bam and I headed up to Washington to visit the hubs’s family. Before the trip, we had decided that while visiting we would run a a 5k, the Galloping Gertie (named for the original bridge that crossed the Tacoma Narrows that moved vertically in windy conditions that opened on July 1, 1940 and collapsed on November 7, 1940). I knew that this would not be a PR race for me since I had only raced Wharf to Wharf three weeks earlier and because this was not exactly a PR course (I’ll come back to that). Additionally, with the exception of a some one-minute pick ups with my teammates before I left, I had done zero speed work since Wharf to Wharf. But not every race has to be one to PR and I knew it’d be fun to run a race along with the hubs and my father-in-law (FIL).


We headed out to the race start, at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, to get to the race about 35 minutes before the race started. This allowed plenty of time to park and for me to get in a warm up (the guys opted to just hang out). I ran about 1.5 miles, a minute of tempo, and some strides. This is pretty much my pre-race norm, albeit a bit of a short warmup. I found the porta potties and then the hubs and FIL. We chatted a for a few minutes and then I headed to the starting line. It was a pretty small race (108 5k runners,   126 10k runners, and 207 half marathoners, who started 15 minutes earlier). Despite knowing that I wouldn’t being throwing down my fastest times, I did know I had a pretty good chance of a podium finish based on previous years’ finishing times (of course, you never know who might show up race day). So I went right to the front … oddly I was the only woman there.

The race started and my main goal was to not go out too fast, which would be an easy mistake because the race was largely down hill until the turn around on the bridge. I told myself no faster than 6:20 and ran 6:19. Pretty good. I kept near the first male runner and the cyclist leading the 10k (no cyclist for the 5k). One guy in a large wig passed me but immediately fell back within a tenth of mile, saying he just wanted to be in the top group fo ra moment. Ha, made me laugh. Anyway the race is small enough that the roads were not closed and we kept on the shoulder, which was fine. We weaved around to the main road and down to the bridge. The 5k turn around was only a short distance on the bridge and the first male runner continued on, clearly running the 10k (which he won). So it was just me and the now first male runner, who had passed me in the first mile.


Making a pretty face right before the turn around

We turned around and began to make our way to the start. I noted that the second woman was about 30-45 seconds behind me.  I had hoped to see the FIL and hubs on this out and back. However, the turn back to the start cuts across the runners and thankfully the first place runner knew this and I was able to follow him. I think I would have missed it otherwise. Just as I made that turn, the hubs saw me and cheered for me. Yay! I was stoked to see him and the FIL.


FIL & the hubs

The rest of the race was all uphill and into wind (I’d guess about 10 mph – so not crazy but not easy either). My second mile clocked at 6:36. This made sense and since I was still ahead of the second woman, I saw no need to try to run any faster. I’m not sure where exactly but somewhere in the first half of the third mile, I passed the first runner. I figured he’d catch me at some point. I had slowed a great deal, but this was a climb of about 160′, so it didn’t bother me. I looked back a few times to see where the next woman runner was and seeing as I didn’t see her, I again saw no need to hurry. I knew it was best to run a smart race not a fast one. I finished the third mile at 7:37 (I really am excellent at the 5k positive splits game). Soon I turned left and headed toward the finish. This included yet another little climb and then across the finish. I ended with a time of 21:42, nearly two minutes slower than my PR. But I had won the whole race! I was disappointed not to have tape to break but I had plenty of support from the volunteers and spectators.

I didn’t hang out for long. I headed back out to find the hubs and FIL so I could run them in as my cool down. I was so excited to have won and to have done so at a race where the  hubs was there! I quickly found them, climbing up that last mile and told them the good news! The FIL was feeling good so he picked it up a bit and I was able to run the rest of the race with the hubs, until the finish line. I purposely avoided crossing the line again (and had some volunteers who didn’t realize I had already finished yelling at me that I was going the wrong way). Then I met back up with them to properly celebrate my victory and their races.


Number 1!

After the race, we hung out so we could collect our AG ribbons. The FIL placed 2nd in his AG, the hubs 4th, and I was 1st. It was a bit interesting as the same announcer listed these winners while simultaneously announcing the names of the 10k and half marathon runners still crossing the finish. He was impressively good at it! Then we got a couple bagels and picked up some coffees at a nearby Starbucks before we headed back home.


Picking up my AG award

General information about the Galloping Gertie:
– Offers three distances: half marathon, 10k, and 5k.
– Personalized long sleeve shirts (honestly I could care less about this stuff but it was kind of neat to have your name printed on the sleeve and have a choice of color: black, blue, and red).
– Medals for half marathoners and ribbons for 10k and 5k
– Specialized ribbons for AG group placing
– Free photos (although they focused on the bridge photos, which meant less 5k runner photos and no finish line photos for us)

There was a lot I liked about this race. For a small race, they had a lot of little perks (see above). They had fun signage at the start of the race, it was cool to start in a small, local airport, and the scenery of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges was really cool (the half marathon goes over the whole bridge, the 5k only makes it about a quarter mile onto the bridge but still fun). And anytime a race has free photos, especially a small one like this, is just awesome! But I did have some feedback. The volunteers, who all seemed very nice, were unprepared for the first runners of the 5k and did not direct us to turn off the bridge or back toward the finishand we had to cross through other runners on this first turn. Thankfully I didn’t miss any of these turns (largely due to the male runner who was still in front of me at the moment). As I mentioned earlier, selfishly I wish there had been tape to break as the winner but I understand that’s not common at these very small races. And there was no overall winners announced. I didn’t need a special prize, but it’s always fun to have a podium announcement (regardless of an actual podium). That said, when I got my age group ribbon, the announcer did acknowledge that I was also the overall winner.



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