Race Report – Howard County Striders Women’s Distance Festival 5K

Yes, I raced this weekend too.  In the ridiculous heat.  I’m not even sure what race start temp was, but when I got in my car at 6:30, the thermometer read 85 degrees.  And the race started at 8.

So this was the third of my four WDF 5ks.  And that’s the only reason I didn’t bail because of the heat.  I wasn’t looking forward to the race at all, but I was looking forward to seeing friends and enjoying breakfast afterward.  And if nothing else, all the sweating would clean out my pores, right?

My plan was to show up and walk the race.  But when the race actually started, I thought “Well, let’s see how this goes.”  I had a frozen water bottle with me (keeping both my water cold and my hand cold) and I was wearing my heart rate monitor, so I decided to try an easy 1:1 Galloway pattern.  And it went well.  My first mile was significantly faster than the later two miles, mostly because of some well placed downhills.  I eventually caught up to Jen and we slowed up as the heat and the hills increased.  I’m not sure what I finally finished in (didn’t look up the results yet), but I think it was probably faster than the Baltimore 5k I ran two weeks before.

I was definitely glad to be carrying my own water though.  The race organizers had promised extra water and ice as well as a sprinkler at one of the water stops.

Well, there was only one water stop.

At mile 2.

For a normal 5k, that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but we’ve had record heat.  Lots of heat warnings.  A friend’s triathlon for the same day got canceled because of the temperature.  And we were running a 5k that promised extra water and provided one water stop.

These races are new runner friendly, so it’s not unheard of to have someone moving at a 15 minute mile pace or slower.  And while some will say that slow runners should carry their own water, this race promised extra water and ice.  And new runners don’t always know better.  So some people went half an hour or more without water in the heat.  I was very disappointed.

I’m a firm believer in planning ahead.  I race all my races with my own water, having run a race where they ran out.  In long races, I certainly don’t carry enough to sustain me for the whole run, and usually top off when I hit water stops, but I like not having to worry about it.  Should I have to do this?  Absolutely not.

I hope that these race organizers re-think their strategy for the next hot race.

Update: Prior to publishing this post, I commented on the organizer’s Facebook page regarding the water issue.

Me:  I think a lot of people were a little shocked that the first water wasn’t offered until 2 miles in, considering that we were told there would be extra water. I carried my own, so was fine, but noticed a number of other people struggling.

Them:  Every runner is different and conditions affect people differently. For most races, including marathons, it is unusual to have water any closer than 1.5 to 2 miles a part. For WDF, one of the safest spots for a water station is once on Su…nny Spring road. Owen Brown road doesn’t lend itself to a particularly safe stop and 2 miles in is about where the course water stop was situated. What we made sure occured is that we had extra water and ice at the water stop so that no runners came through without being able to drink. This is different than what has occured in some very major races including the Chicago Marathon I believe in 2005 that ran out of water at stops. Let’s hope that next year is a little kinder in the summer weather.

Yes, I know how water stops typically work.  I also know that when conditions warrant it, races, including marathons, will have water stops earlier than planned.  The WDF is billed as a series that is friendly to newbies.  This sort of thing is not so newbie friendly.


One thought on “Race Report – Howard County Striders Women’s Distance Festival 5K

  1. You are absolutely right. In cool weather, one water stop on a 5K is probably sufficient, but in hot weather there must be two. I know that almost all summer races around here (New England) have water available somewhere around the 1 mile and 2 mile marks — and some (that know they will get large numbers of novice runners) have three or four water stops for a 5K.

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