Diana Run 5K

May 31, 2008

Diana Run 5K/3.1M
Community Middle School, Plainsboro, NJ
Saturday, May 31, 2008

Official time
19:04 (6:08 pace)

Mile marker: lap/split
Mile 1: 5:56/5:56
Mile 2: 6:22/12:18
Mile 3: 6:23/18:41
Mile 3.1: 0:20/19:01

Award
2nd Place, Male 25-29
(8th place overall)

This race is held in honor of Diana Rochford, who died in a car accident driving south on Route 206 in Princeton. I never met Diana but she was my sister’s friend and classmate in high school; my sister still has a picture of her with Diana hanging in her room. Diana was always described as the school darling — a star athlete and student leader. When she died in 2002, newspapers from the local West Windsor papers to The New York Times covered her death for several days; her memorial service overflowed the church. Diana would have been 23 years old this year.

I didn’t plan on racing while at home in NJ for the weekend but I did bring some running clothes with me for my weekly Sunday long run. Driving around the area on Friday I noticed signs for Diana Run and registered online. In more ways than one, this race was very close to home.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived Saturday morning. I’ve gotten used to chip-timed races with several thousand runners lined up in corrals in Central Park and Kenyans taking home the prize money. Here the atmosphere was much more relaxed, albeit familiar. The clipboard check-in under the instant tent canopy reminded me of sign-in for beach volleyball tournaments at Point Pleasant Beach.

The bib numbers ran in order and the highest number I saw was 212, although the race results indicate that 199 ran. After check-in clusters of father-son, husband-wife, and school friends/teammates arranged themselves in the parking lot with many not too concerned with warming-up or stretching. Probably half of the runners were college or younger, a much greater percentage than at Central Park races.

A few minutes after 8:30, the runners assembled behind a set of white rumble strips that cleverly served as the starting and finish line. On the race director’s call, the race began at furious pace that lasted only until the school entrance. Just as we were out of earshot of the DJ playing “Eye of the Tiger” (oh my, so Jersey!), en masse, runners who sprinted ahead dropped back and everyone found their pace. The USATF-certified course went out 1.5 miles past another school and some farmland — then around a cone and back. In New Jersey, 1.5 miles doesn’t quite get you anywhere. Almost as soon as you left the school parking lot you could see the entire course, including the two lonely hydration stations at mile markers 1 and 2.

My mile times again show significant fade, which I’m okay with for now. If I slowed down my first mile pace, it’s quite possible that I’d have finished with a better overall time. However, too slow a pace might have put me too far back to catch-up even with negative splits. I’ll worry more about consistency in the weeks leading up to the marathon; for now, I’m just going to run.

I really didn’t mind the long wait for the awards ceremony to begin. I helped myself to some warm Einstein bagels and cream cheese, orange wedges (like at soccer league), and water out of a cooler with a spout permanently stained Gatorade red. I found it fascinating watching runners pound out the last leg of the course.

It turns out there were two groups of runners: those with shoes from Dick’s and Sports Authority, and those with with shoes from specialty running stores. At least for the men, the latter placed at the top. For the women, it wasn’t so clear; the top overall finisher was 13 years old. Awards were given out for top three male and female finishers in each age division, incrementing by four-year spans. Interestingly enough, the most competitive age category was male 45-49 years old where all three award winners finished ahead of me (I finished eighth).  The very last finishers of the race was older couple 60+ who walked the entire way — they both placed in their age division!

For this race I set the my Garmin watch to Auto Lap at each mile increment since I figured that I’d be running pretty hard so why think about pressing Lap. In the end, the distance was exactly 3.1 miles, but the Garmin disagreed with the course mile markers by about 20 yards per mile.

I set a new PR time today which I fully expected since my only previous 5K was the far more hilly Coogan’s Run in March. Diana Run was really the essence of a community race. There were inside jokes, “where’s your brother?” comments, a toddler sneaking up behind the table during the awards ceremony and walking off with a trophy, and cracks on the school principal for placing fourth in his age division. Could this be my life after New York?

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One Response to “Diana Run 5K”

  1. Laura said

    I love small races – they can be so fun!

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