The National Shrimp Festival is held each year in October on the white, sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, AL. The festival offers live music, seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, sand sculpture contests, a golf tournament, and a 5K/10K run. Everyone should attend the festival at least once in their lifetime. There's plenty to see and do, and it's great fun for all.
The Shrimp Festival 5K/10K starts at the Orange Beach Sports Complex. The course runs along the paved Backcountry Trails. The race attracts several hundred participants. All net proceeds of the run are donated to Coastal Baldwin Education Enrichment Foundation, benefitting the local Gulf Shores & Orange Beach public schools.
I was excited to see Kristin (BamaGirlRuns) before the start of the race. I met Kristin last November at the Magic City Half Marathon. I saw that she was running the 10K through her posts on Instagram. I looked forward to seeing her again. We talked about her training for the NYC Marathon and her plans to run Disney again. I told her that I hoped to run the Mercedes Half Marathon in her hometown in 2017. It's amazing how comfortable our conversation flowed even though this was only our second time seeing each other. It's like we've known each other forever. I love that about the running community.
This was my fourth year participating in the Shrimp Festival 10K. I've placed in my age division the past two years (3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2015). This year my sights were set on a 1st place finish in my age division, but I knew it wouldn't come easy. Previous first place finishers ran the 10K in 51 and 52 minutes. My best time was 53:19.
I took off running a sub 8 minute pace, but I knew I couldn't maintain it. I tried my best to back off and settle into a more conservative pace. That pace was between 8:00-8:05 minute miles. I was still concerned that it was too fast, but it felt comfortable. I was going to try to maintain it as long as I could.
Mile 1- 8:03
Mile 2- 8:10
Mile 3 would be my slowest mile of the race. I stopped for water and took a walk break. I knew from previous years that there wouldn't be another water stop until Mile 5. At this point in the race thoughts of a PR entered my mind. I always slow down in the final miles of this race. Not this year, this year I was going to push.
Mile 3- 8:23
Up ahead I saw two women who looked like they might be in my age division. I wanted to push, but not too hard too soon. My mantra for the final miles was "My race, my pace." I reminded myself to first focus on the PR, it would happen if I maintained pace. I tried to keep that focus, but I couldn't help but notice I was closing the gap on the two women ahead of me.
Mile 4- 8:17
Just past mile 4 one of the two women stopped to walk. She hung her head and put her hands on her hips. She looked worn down at this point. I passed her, but as soon as I did she started running again. "Just keep a steady pace. My race, my pace." I kept repeating my mantra over and over again in my head. I was worried if I couldn't get ahead of these two women, my hopes of an age group placement would be over. I tried to maintain focus on getting that PR. I would be thrilled if I could do just that.
Mile 5- 8:20
I peaked behind me at the final water stop. I widened the gap between myself and the woman I passed earlier. I didn't stop for water because I was closing the gap on the other woman ahead of me. I didn't want to pass her too soon and have a target on my back going into the final stretch. We went over one of the wooden bridges around 5.5 miles. She must have heard my footsteps behind her because she looked over her shoulder at me and picked up her pace.
Mile 6- 8:19
We were neck and neck going into the final stretch to the finish. My heart was beating out of my chest. "What is she going to do?" "Is she going to surge past me?" "I want to surge, but not too soon." All these thoughts were flooding my mind. One of us had to make a move. I pumped my arms and pushed as hard as I possibly could to the finish line. I still worried that she would pass me at any moment, but she didn't. I did it!
Final 0.25 Miles- 1:54 (7:50 avg pace)
I finished in 51:26, a PR by almost 2 minutes. It turns out I was right about the two women on the course. They were in my age group. I really had to push for that first place finish. This was the closest race I've ever encountered with other women in my age division. They were fierce competitors and afterwards we congratulated each other on a great race.
We finished 30th, 31st, and 32nd overall.
That's how close the competition was in my age division this year.
They gave out glasses this year instead of medals. They also gave the 1st place finisher in each age group a nice bag with the Shrimp Festival logo and this year's Shrimp Festival hat and poster. They normally save these bags for the overall finishers, so that was a nice surprise. This is my favorite 10K race. I hope to continue to run it year after year.