While I only live minutes from the ultra-hip South End neighborhood in Charlotte, I gotta admit: I don’t really get to run around here very often. And unfortunately the Rail Trail, South End’s runners’ red carpet, is a bit too far from home to become a routine route for me. So when I discovered that the South End Shuffle 5k would be taking place on these colorful, uber-flat streets, I knew I had to be a part of this race.
I showed up for the race a wee bit early, making sure I had plenty of time to squeeze in a light warm-up jog and a few stretches (running on cold legs has never worked out well for me). But as I walked up to the festivities, I had a mild panic attack that I was late for the party: because all of my fellow bib-clad runners were cheers-ing and dancing next door at Wooden Robot Brewery as if the race had already taken place! (I guess that’s just what you get when you host a race at the doorstep of one of the hottest breweries in town. 😜) But once I realized that all of these energetic folks were celebrating the fact that they were about to run, I knew it was going to be a great race.
See, this was the perfect atmosphere for stellar run: the music was loud, the energy was high, and the weather was beautiful. We were a crowd of 200 who electively chose to forego spending our Saturday afternoon cheering on our favorite college football teams, because we wanted the thrill of a good run even more. (Gamecocks, yes I wore this garnet tank just for you. And I promise I was thinking about you the entire time 😉 ).
But the pregame party came to a halt when the DJ reminded us that we had a race to run, starting in exactly ten minutes. So I made my way to the starting line and got my mind into racing mode. Minutes later, the music dimmed and a silence spread throughout the crowd, because we knew it was go-time. The big ten-second countdown came and we were off.
For the first 1/2 mile, I was on fire! I couldn’t believe the pace I was holding. I mean, I always kick off my races a bit faster than I probably should, but somehow I was actually at the front of the pack with the five other blood-thirsty leaders. But that’s when practical me reminded ambitious me that if I hold this 6:30 pace for too long, I will easily be making a permanent stop at the first water station. So when we turned the corner and an unforeseen hill appeared, I pumped the brakes and settled into a 7:20 pace.
The first mile led us through the heart of South End, winding and whipping around all the hot bars and restaurants, rewarding us with an overly cheerful crowd. The curious sensation of having complete strangers root for me as if I was running for an Olympic medal gave me the energy boost I needed to push my pace when we landed on the Rail Trail. In fact, for that 1/2 mile stretch, I passed a couple of dudes and slowly inched my way to the front of the pack.
As we turned off of the Rail Trail and winded back in the reverse direction, I couldn’t believe the oncoming race sign that alerted us we already hit the 2 mile mark. Now I know what you’re thinking: time doesn’t fly by when you’re running a race. But I’m not joking guys! This race actually did fly by! And before I knew it, I was turning the corner for my last 0.1 mile kick!
I sprinted across the finish line, making sure to eyeball my finish time on the way….. 23:01. Damn. My one goal for this race was to complete it under 23 minutes, and I was a mere 2 seconds away. What a bummer. But on the other hand, I was super proud to walk away with a 2nd place female finish! That’s a victory I haven’t had in quite a while. So even though I missed my target time, I think that surprising accomplishment absolutely warranted the slightly-too-full glass of Prosecco I downed immediately post-race.
Before the race, I got to share a brief chat with Ron Skufca, founder of the South End Shuffle. He shed some light on the The Purple Promise Foundation, one of the charities that was benefitted by this race. He explained to me that it was founded by a family who lost their beloved 30-yr. old daughter, Jessica, to melanoma. Jessica’s story is absolutely heartbreaking, but it opens our eyes to the horrors of skin cancer. If you weren’t able to attend this race, I urge you to read her story and see how you can spread the word about this battle that affects so many. Knowledge is power and prevention is key!
Ron was also gracious enough to share some of the team’s big plans for taking 2017’s race to the next level. Their goal is to build on the festival-like atmosphere of this race and add even more fitness vendors to the mix (aka, this race will be THE block party of the year). So mark your calendars for next year, Charlotte #fitfam, because you absolutely won’t want to miss out!
2nd place Female
2nd place F25-29
18th place Overall
23:01 finish time
7:24 average pace