With mid-September mornings you never know what you are going to get. It could be a pleasant 63º for perfect running weather, or hot and humid as a start to a sweltering late summer day. Caitlin and I knew it was going to be a hot one as we made our way to Front Royal that morning with temps already in the upper 70s.
The Still Standing 5K is held to raise awareness for infant death, stillbirth, and miscarriage. From the race registration site:
This race is a slightly challenging 5K, but we welcome participants of all levels! The course begins at Skyline High School in Front Royal, and takes you through a nearby neighborhood and along the Shenandoah River. You will get a breath-taking view of the mountains and trees as you are running.
Caitlin wanted to try to get her long-term goal of running a 5K in under 30 minutes, but I warned her at the start of the race that it was going to be a hilly one. For the first mile or so the course was flat and even slightly downhill….but we knew what goes down must come up in a race that goes in a loop. By mile 1 we were heading up a very steep hill for a good while. I could tell Caitlin was concerned the race was going to be all hills but I told her this was probably the only big hill. I should have kept my mouth shut.
After heading up the steep hill and coming to a straight away, we encountered another steep hill. Caitlin kept plugging along and eventually we came to a moderate decline which was a breath of fresh air for her. As we neared the completion of mile 2 I could tell she was struggling as the heat was really getting to her. Thankfully this part of the course was along a flat portion of a park path so I kept talking to her to keep her mind off of the running. As we neared the last half mile she started to really crash. She was close to giving up, but fought through and kept going after a very brief short walk. We hit the last downhill portion and Caitlin sprinted through the finish line for a time of 32:23.
While she was disappointed with her time, I encouraged her not to be for it was very hot out that morning AND it was also a super challenging hilly course. She finished 20th out of the 55 people attending, with a 3rd place finish in the female 19 and under category (out of 13). I was proud of her for beating this tough course, and she took away the important lesson of knowing to hydrate more the day before a race.