Last year I ran The Race That's Good For Life 5K on a whim. It was a well organized little race that was a little different that the others and I enjoyed myself. This year they decided to re-brand themselves with a title that is a bit less of a mouthful - Good For Life 5K. It is a community based race that takes place in a neighborhood in Oak Park. It also appears to be a family affair as with added kids events the whole family comes out to run.
I registered for the race early on. I took advantage of the early registration rate which made this race a bargain. I knew the early April date meant that weather should still be cool and the course itself is great for those gunning for a PR. Last year I didn't know what to expect and came away from the race with an unexpected PR. When I signed up I had visions of another PR, but got sidetracked along the way. Instead I decided to use the race as sort of a barometer or benchmark to see what kind of fitness level I'm at. I haven't done much of any speedwork yet this year and came off a rough March where I spent the first 9 days resting an injury before easing into mileage and then getting sick and losing another week of running. I still pulled off a decent Shuffle last weekend so I knew I could handle the 5K... just a matter of seeing how much work I needed to be in true race shape.
Come race morning I got up and got ready. I took the Clark bus to the Green Line and from there out to Oak Park. Base camp was set up inside the local high school which meant I was able to get out of the slight chill of the early morning. I easily picked up my packet and headed to the cafeteria to relax since I was a bit early. They already had refreshments set up for those who wanted them. Around 9AM I decided to finish preparing and drop off my bag at gear check. I ran into fellow running friend Lynton outside who introduced me to one of his friends. They hadn't run the race before so I gave them a little heads up on what the course was like. They had already heard about the deep field of runners. After a little bit of a warm up and some light active stretching I headed to the start corral.
The way this race is set up is that the men and women run in their own heats. The women started their race at 9:10 and the guys kicked off at 9:50. The women also got flowers as they cross the finish. Well anyways I picked a spot in the middle since I knew what kind of group was running this race and I didn't feel like getting run over by being up front. The gun went off and away we went. I felt real solid early on. My early pace was sub 7 and felt kind of easy, but I knew it wouldn't last. I slowed off the pace a little bit and clocked mile 1 in a time of 7:11 . Midway through the 2nd mile I started to feel the wheels come off. My body was definitely not ready to be running hard for a 5K. I passed the 2nd mile marker with a time of 7:37. The 3rd mile turned into even more of a struggle. I tried to keep up the spirits that I could still run a respectable time and that I'd just get stronger from here on out. We were now running into a breeze and that didn't help. I was at mile 3 in 8:00. I did somehow manage to muster a little strength for one last kick to the finish line and the pace for that last 0.1 was at a 7:04 pace.
Heading down the long final straight away - and it is long at nearly 3/4 of a mile - I was hoping that I just might be able to repeat last year's time. As I hit the 3 mile marker I knew it wasn't meant to be but pushed on anyways. I finished in 23:32 which was 12 seconds behind what I ran it in last year. The key difference is that last year I came into the race in excellent shape and ready and this year I'm still trying to build myself back up. I'm definitely satisfied with the result. Its still my 4th fastest 5K time... well official 5K since my split at the Shuffle last weekend was 23:28. I'm if nothing else pretty consistent.
If you're looking for a great, affordable, and well run 5K next spring then definitely give the Good For Life 5K a look. The course is down neighborhood streets with people cheering here and there. There are plenty of families involved so there are people of all skill levels. If you want to push yourself to your limits there were 121 runners who broke the 20 minute mark. The race is easy to get to and there are indoor and outdoor bathrooms. There are also plenty of refreshments after the race.