Inaugural Harbor Lights 5K Race Recap

November 25, 2014

November 25, 2014

This past weekend I participated in the Inaugural Harbor Lights 5K and Half Marathon in Norfolk, Virginia. This event is managed my J&A racing, the same company who runs the Shamrock 8K, Half Marathon, and Marathon in March.  

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Image: Harbor Lights Half Marathon

In July 2014 J&A sent the below email:

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  • Inaugural Event – Cool!
  • Special Introductory Rate – Yes!
  • J&A Race – Even Better!
  • Get Lit Challenge – Fun!

I signed up two days later and in August I learned I would be member of the 2014-2015 J&A Ambassador Team.

Traveling

Because the 5K was held on Saturday morning, I decided to head down to Norfolk the night before.  For those of you familiar with the area….even though we left after dinner….there is always some sort of congestion along I-95.   It took about 3.5 hours to get to the hotel…but the late arrival was sort of worth it.  I got a free room upgrade!  The room had a balcony and a waterview.  It also overlooked one of the final sections of the 5K and Half Marathon route. 

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Packet Pickup  / Expo

Packet pickup was available on Friday and Saturday (including the morning of the 5K).  I woke up at 6:30am (laid out my clothes the night before) and made the 10 minute walk to the Half Moon Cruise and Celebration Center to pickup my bib.  It was located in the same vicinity as the Start/Finish areas.  It was cold out (around 28-30 degrees)!

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Like other J&A races you needed your bib number and ID to pickup everything.  There was a computer available if you forgot your number.

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I picked up both my 5K and half marathon bibs (two races, two bibs and two shirts).   The shirt stations were clearly marked and located in the same room.

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The 5K tech tee and bib.

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The Half tech tee and bib (the shirt was a different material than the 5K, I am not sure how to describe it..but it was smooth and soft).

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The fun reusable bag! Love these!

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I browsed the vendor area (J&A and a local store) and used the indoor restroom (there were plenty of porta potties outside). 

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Pre race picture at the Convention Center.  There are some gorgeous views here.

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Race Goals (“A” least probable and “C” most probable)

I determined my race goals based on my performance at the .US National 12K the week before.  My 5K split at that race was 35:58 or 11:35/mile. 

  • A – 30:00-31:59
  • B – 32:00-33:59
  • C – 34:00+

I was realistic and knew a PR would be unlikely (30:58 at the Firecracker 5K) and going sub 30:00 was out of the question (no speedwork this past fall).

Harbor Lights 5K

About 20 minutes before the start I headed outside to drop off my bag at gear check and lined up.

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The race announcer was pretty funny and festive.

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The out and back course took runners along downtown Norfolk.  It was pretty flat with several turns and we had a nice tour of the city. We were also advised of the cobblestone along the Freemason Street. 

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Image: Harbor Lights Half Marathon

Before the start we learned it was the largest timed 5K in the Commonwealth of Virginia – I was surprised!  The race started promptly at 8:00am and the waves were spaced out about 1-2 minutes apart.

Mile 1: Took us along Waterside Drive – I passed my hotel.  Because it was so cold out – it was difficult to breath.  My nose felt like an ice block so I breathed through my mouth the entire way. 

Mile 2: We ran along Freemason Street (beautiful homes) and most of the people hopped onto the sidewalks once we reached the cobblestone area.  I tried running on it – but I did not want to lose my footing and trip.  There was a waterstop and we passed a pagoda!  My breathing was getting better and we even passed the USS Wisconsin right before the Mile 2 marker.

Mile 3: My legs were tiring as we passed the starting area along Waterside Drive.  We made a right by my hotel and ran the last half mile along the promenade that was parallel to the water.  It was beautiful!  With .1 left it was a straightaway to the finish.

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I finished with a time of 32:33, not bad not bad – hello B goal.

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I was handed my medal, banana, pretzels, and water. 

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We also received a finisher’s water bottle.

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There was soup at the finish.  The kid on the bottom right was the most enthusiastic volunteer that day!

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Vegetarian chili before volunteering at the expo. 

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There was also a post race band and Blue Moon beer garden.  I thought about heading back to my hotel to shower before my volunteer shift at the expo, but there wasn’t enough time. 

Final Thoughts

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  • Overall a great race morning – I would have not guessed it was the inaugural event.
  • Nice they  had race morning packet pickup (only on the morning of 5K).
  • Enthusiastic volunteers and plenty of police officers to assist with road closures.
  • I was in Corral 3 and I had plenty of running room.
  • It was nice race management made an announcement about the cobblestone.  If I had to make one recommendation, update the course next year to avoid that street or shorten the distance along Freemason (we probably on it for at least a quarter mile).  It was a beautiful neighborhood though – I hope there is still a way to see some of it.
  • Pretty nice race swag, medal and a waterbottle!
  • Post race soup – yes please!
  • Blue Moon lovers out there? You will like the post race festivities.  I heard there was a seasonal beer.
  • There was also a kid’s Mile Dash that followed the 5K.
  • Loved the running tour of Norfolk and that the course took us along the water and ships.

Next time: Volunteering and Part 2 of the Harbor Lights Half Marathon and Get Lit Challenge. 

Disclosure: As a J&A Ambassador I received a complimentary race entry.  All thoughts and opinions on the blog are my own.

Have you participated in an inaugural race before?

Have you run a 5K and received a medal?

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