I ran one of Memphis’ signature summertime races over the weekend when I participated in the Gibson Guitar/Baldwin Piano 5K. This was the 17th running of the race, and despite the heat, it is a favorite of many Memphis area runners. And I now see why. My schedule or desire always conflicted with this event, but I finally got to participate in the event.
The middle of June in Memphis is not known for its comfortable weather, and race day was no exception. The race began at 6:55 pm on Saturday, June 15, and the temperature was a cool 89 degrees. Add in the fact that we lined up in the corral at least forty minutes prior to the race start to have the sun beat down upon us, most race participants were good and lathered up before the race even began! Luckily, the post race water stations were available before the race began and people were able to get a little bit of last second hydrating for the race. That was very beneficial.
1,995 racers registered for the race and 1,734 completed it. I do believe that this is the largest 5K that I have ever participated in and I must say that race organizers did a fantastic job of crowd control. I would have never guessed that there was that many runners there. I guess a part of that is since the race started on Beale St. and the majority of the course is incorporated into the St. Jude Marathon course, I am use to large crowds there, so what I ran in seemed smaller than normal.
Despite the heat, very little cross-training as of late, and so slow training runs, I ran a solid race. I was able to move my way towards the front of the corral so I would not have to weave through a sea of walkers for the first mile of the race. Of course, this probably hurt me a little bit as well because I found myself running a little over my pace and tired out a little quicker than normal. But, then again, that may have helped my overall pace.
The race is the third leg of the M-Town Series and was the first opportunity to collect the series race swag, so that was an added bonus. Bonus swag at this race was not exactly because of this race, but since it is where I collected the items, I should share it in this post. You can never have too many race tech shirts, especially when they look good. In addition to the tech shirt, you also was given a drawstring backpack and a ceramic coaster with the M-Town Series logo.
Race: A-: It was well organized with some good swag and a great course. The only real issue was parking. The race website advertised that there would be free parking, but since Tim Tebow was speaking at the FedEx Forum, there was no free parking to be found. Every lot near the race was sporting a $10 price tag, which is ridiculous for parking for a 5K, but I was able to circumvent the $10 charge by convincing the ticket lady that I was just coming downtown to eat dinner and escaped with a $4 parking tab.
Swag: B+: This would have been an A+ if the post race spread would have been better. Of course, I might be biased since I saw a banner for one of my all-time favorite pizza places, Camy’s, and there was no pizza to be found. Just cold cut sandwiches, smoothies, several beer stands, and some fruit. I will say that even with 400 more participants than Zoom Through the Zoo, it was much easier to get beer and water because there were multiple locations to get the liquid refreshments. Race bags were also superior to Zoom Through the Zoo. I received a tech shirt, two boxes of band-aids, sunscreen, facial scrub, Lifeblood support bracelet, and some food coupons. I received one for McDonald’s and Smoothie King, which the McDonald’s one seemed a little odd. Some participants did get a Chik-Fil-A coupon instead. Also, some race bags had Nike headbands, key chains, and various other skin care items.
Course: A: Like I said earlier, much of the course is incorporated into the St. Jude Marathon course. You run on Beale St., pass the National Civil Rights Museum, run along the Mississippi River, and then return to Beale to finish up the race. The only bad stretch is the return to Beale because you run up a steep hill to climb over the bluff, and this is where several runners hit the wall. I was able to complete the race in 29:28, which was a pace of 9:28. I was very pleased with this result, especially since it was so hot.
This is a race that I plan on running again if my schedule permits me to, and I would recommend it to other Memphis runners.