Can you say crowded (but in a good way)?
|That sea of people behind me stretches on... and on... and on...|
To give you a sense of how very many people show up, I heard officials and volunteers saying that the last runner crossed the starting line about 15 minutes after the cannon, and the race winner came in about 2 minutes later...
The race kicks off with a bagpipe band, the national anthem, words of wisdom from the mayor of Pensacola, and a traditional Irish blessing.
Oh, and the starting gun is a cannon.
The race start at McGuire's is like no other starting line I've ever experienced. The 5k's uniqueness draws runners from all 50 states and from nations around the world. (One runner I talked with had traveled from Switzerland.) And unlike other events, where many runners are nervous - anxiously checking watches, and re-typing shoes - this race feels more like a moving block party. Runners compare costumes and talk about how many times they've run here before.
At 15,000 runners for a 5k, there is no way the course could not be crowded. But in this event, the crowd is part of the fun (as you'll see in photos below).
|A wave of runners takes off from the starting line at the 2012 McGuire's 5k.|
As we learned last year, this event is intended to be a fun run, not a racers-race.
|St. Pat's mariachi runners. How did they keep those hats on while running?|
And last, but certainly not least, parking is a bear. Hubby and I hoofed it over from a location about a mile away (a pre-planned choice). We walked past other people who were trying to park in the limited space available, and that re-affirmed our decision. If you have to drive, arrive early and plan to walk.
The course is flat and beautiful. But to be honest, you are more likely to see a sea of green-clad runners than you are to notice any scenery.
If you're willing to just relax and enjoy the ride, running in a sea of people can be a really amazing experience. The course makes a couple of turns that allow front-of-pack runners to see the back-of-pack runners (and vice-versa) and it is incredible to watch thousands of people all moving in the same direction.
The race also brings out some crazy costumes. While it's no Bay to Breakers, the crowd-watching is thoroughly entertaining.
|Photo op with the Grinch.|
First, the "prediction run" bit: When you register, you report a predicted finish time. To compete, you must leave your watch at home. Awards are given to the fastest overall men, women, and teams, and to the runners who finish closest to their predicted finish time.
|The Irish Wake rum punch is delicious. And strong.|
Don't underestimate it.
This year I broke away from the pack earlier than expected and
Either way, at least I made it to the start on time!