Now, I wasn’t planning on doing more than a few races this year, all of them marathons (if I could help it). But last week I stumbled across a runner’s dream – a FREE race on a FREE weekend in YOUR OWN CITY! Boom! So, a few clicks and a shirt size later, I was signed up for the Bandit 5k!
First off, I think the name is great. For those of you who don’t run, to “run bandit” means that you run a race without paying for registration and usually just means you hide in a bush, jump in when no one is looking, and run the race. Sometimes if you want to be a fancy bandit (a great band name, if I do say so myself), you print fake bibs. It’s awful and unfair, but people do it. Well, for this race, nobody paid! So, Bandit 5k seems pretty great.
It was hosted by the local Armory in Mason City to encourage interaction between the soldiers stations there, National Guard from what I could tell, and the civilians. It was a fun time and it was great to interact with some service members. 67 people showed up to race, which isn’t too bad considering there wasn’t much in the way of advertising. The route was a pretty basic out-and-back design with no real elevation change, save for the crazy steep bridge over the railroad tracks first and last thing on the course.
I know the map says 2.9, but for a free race, I’ll gift myself the extra .2 miles. Overall, I was really pleased with the run. It was a PR for me (21:10) and a great little interval workout before my marathon next Sunday. I ended up averaging around 7:00/mile, which is flying for me, and got third overall! Even got negative splits!
Despite my 3rd place finish, only age group winners took home a special prize and the overall winner was in my age group. The prizes, and all of the race packet goodies, were things that the armory had already – National Guard tees, lanyards, cinch bags, and water bottles. AG winners could choose between some really awesome military grade backpacks (my first choice, had I been given one) or a travel mug (can’t have too many of those).
The race was well organized with soldiers in camo at each turn. There was a water station half way, but I really wanted to catch a few people ahead of me, so I skipped it. For a 5k, I don’t really need anything until afterward anyway. I ended up catching a few and making up some ground on the two that ended up beating me. I felt really good, despite the stiff headwind and unseasonably cold temps (37 degrees F at the start).
Final thoughts: this was the first time the National Guard in Mason City has done this and I hope they continue it. It was great to get out and race again, interact with the soldiers, and get some jitters out of my system for my marathon next week. So now I continue my taper and wait until Sunday before I really push myself again.
Poll time: Have you ever run a free race? If so, where and what distance?