After a week of temps in the 90’s, the morning of the 2018 Garlic Festival dawned cool and cloudy with a chance of rain. The forecast was just right for a lot of runners and walkers — the turnout for the race this year made it the 2nd largest ORRC event in the past 12 months. There were 517 participants across the three distances.
Members of the ORRC board and a crew of smiling volunteers were on hand to check runners in. President Stephen Wright, using a megaphone, described the courses while holding up oversized maps. For those who weren’t familiar with the routes, this was really helpful, especially since the half marathon course used the 10k route, plus a short dogleg on Mountaindale Road. The maps helped 10k runners know not to turn right on Mountaindale with the half marathoners.
The half marathon started first, at 7 a.m., which gave the field ample room to spread out so that the 10k field wouldn’t run them over when they started at 8 a.m. The 5k started last, at 8:15 a.m., but the 5k course turned the other direction at Glencoe Road and looped around the North Plains downtown area.
In the past week, an increase in registrations put the number of participants at 60% more than in 2017. This offered volunteer race directors Matt Rowe and Mark Barrett a few logistical challenges, but additional parking was added off the 5k course, and porta-potties were set up at both the check-in area and the finish line.
I participated in the 10k without a clear race plan except to not let the hills kill me. Pretty much the whole 2nd mile is a hill, which is what makes the race so challenging. I’m also coming off a knee injury, and while I’ve been walking to stay fit, I haven’t been testing my speed. So I really had no idea what pace to aim for.
Starting the race, we did a loop around the block and then headed out of town on Glencoe. The half marathon and 10k participants went north to Pumpkin Ridge Road (those in the 5k went south). The view in this first mile is very relaxing: fields, farms, and very little traffic other than hundreds of runners and walkers.
The race atmosphere heading out and then up the hill was really fun. As people passed or were passed, there were a lot of, “Good job!” and “You got this!” comments. This is one of my favorite things about races, the chance to draw support from other people who are also competing against themselves and the course. Sometimes seeing someone else power up a hill gives me motivation to keep moving and try to find another gear.
Right before mile 3, the road turns and starts to go downhill. This is probably the fastest mile on the whole course for most people … I know it was for me! Mile 4 seemed to fly by, and at that point I wondered how well I could stay on pace for another 2 miles.
Coming back into town, I was once again tricked into thinking the turn to the finish area would come up more quickly than it did. That last long stretch in front of the school gets me every time! Three turns and there was the finish arch, behind which were volunteers handing out really cool finisher medals, “Fun Stinks” socks, snacks, and of course, elephant garlic.
The Garlic Festival 10k is not an easy course — probably not a PR course — but it’s beautiful and really fun. Afterwards, you can stick around and enjoy the Garlic Festival parade, music, food, and vendors.