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#51 – Behind the Lens at the Irish Jig 5K

17 March 2008
Sunrise

Sunrise over Reeds Lake – I can’t believe folks are ice fishing after several days of 40+ degree weather!

One year ago I ran the 2007 Irish Jig 5K and surprised myself by notching a post-high-school PR. This year’s event would just be a training run for me, however, since my right hamstring is still not ready for any kind of speed.

Taking advantage of the relaxed pace I decided to carry a camera, inspired by the exploits of trail runner Scott Dunlap who takes photos during his races. One major difference between us is that when Scott ran a 5K just for fun, stopping to take photos along the way, he finished in 20:22! I can only match that time when being towed by a dog, and the 2008 Irish Jig saw me clock a pedestrian 28:53. But it was fun!

Gaslight Village

Downtown East Grand Rapids at sunrise.

I arrived before sunrise and had some time to wander around downtown East Grand Rapids to catch a couple photos of the beautiful morning. Sunny, yes, warm, no. Before the sun came up it was below freezing but once our part of the world got some solar radiation the air warmed to the lower 30’s.

Registration

Runners staying warm at the Irish Jig 5K registration.

After a while the chilliness motivated me to go indoors and join hundreds of other runners in the high school gym seeking out some warmth, or more importantly picking up our registration packets. Celtic Kilroy was already jamming away, keeping us entertained and setting a festive mood for the event.

Celtic Kilroy

Celtic Kilroy entertains the runners.

This year the Irish Jig was split into two races: a men’s race at 9:00 and a women’s race at 9:30. The guy next to me at the registration table was in a good mood despite being given a bib for the women’s race! Even though he checked the “M” box, he joked that from now on he’ll use his full name of “Patrick” instead of just writing “Pat” on the forms. Don’t worry, the volunteers got his gender changed in no time. 🙂

Starting Line

Green light indeed – runners waiting for the start of the race.

Around 8:45 I walked the quarter mile to the start line and did my best to keep my legs loose in the cold air. While doing a warm-up jog on a side street the race pack began moving forward! At first I thought I’d missed the starting horn but in fact they were just moving across the intersection to the official start line. I settled into position at the back of the pack just in time to hear the horn. We’re off!

After a quarter mile or so we turned to face directly into the rising sun. It did wonders for the ambiance of the race but it also made photography very difficult, especially with an inexpensive five year old camera. While making an attempt I heard someone shout behind me “Hey, Andrew’s taking pictures!” Who recognized me?

Dave Horne

Dave Horne smiling for the camera… while running backwards!

It was Dave Horne, one of my co-workers. He accelerated in front of me then turned around, running backwards and begging for a photo. Even though I couldn’t see the camera’s LCD screen due to the glare, I think Dave’s portrait turned out pretty well. Like me, he was nursing an injury (an achilles tendon that he partially detached from the heel bone while skiing – ouch!) and taking it easy. Unlike me, he’s very fast when healthy and still fast when injured; soon he was out of sight.

Around the one mile mark I noticed Don Kern running next to me. I first met Don at a book signing for Dean Karnazes two years ago – Don organized the small group of us that ran with Dean that night. Don is the race director of the Grand Rapids Marathon and an avid marathoner himself. I asked him what he was doing at a 5K and he assured me that he had a 17-mile run planned for the next day. He also told me that his “marathon a month” streak is up to 60 – five straight years of running at least one organized marathon every month! There’s a good reason they call him “Marathon Don”.

Shortly after chatting with Don I noticed a runner fly past in the opposite direction – the race leader! He was about 1/4 mile from the finish line. My watch read 11:00 and I was confounded; no way was someone going to set a world record in this event?! Then I remembered that almost 3,000 folks had signed up for the Irish Jig and I had started at the back, requiring a couple minutes before I reached the start line. Later I learned that the winner was Boaz Cheboiywo, who blazed an absolutely amazing 14:14, nine seconds faster than his winning time from 2007.

While trying to photograph the race leaders (unfortunately I was shooting into the sun and the photos didn’t come out well) another familiar voice called out – it was Lori Lenar, another co-worker who often spends her lunch break out running where we’ve often crossed paths on the sidewalks. We talked about the high number of women in the “men’s race” – it seemed like 20% of the runners were women. Laurie was a perfect example of why it can be a problem to split up a race by gender since she wanted to run with her husband and other friends.

Mile 2

The 2 mile marker… Just 1.1 to go!

Finally I reached the marker for mile 3 and once again I took a photo that didn’t turn out well… How does Scott Dunlap do it? I guess I have some learning to do about how to photograph while on the run. Somehow I resisted the urge to sprint to the finish but that was not easy – one of my favorite parts of a 5K is kicking the last 0.1 as fast as I can but my wisdom overcame my competitiveness, even when Lori dashed by vowing “I can’t let an injured runner beat me!”

By the time I returned the timing chip it was 9:31 and I was over a quarter mile from the start line, so I didn’t get a chance to watch the women take off. Luckily the half mile point was nearby so I booked over to that section of the course in time to get a photo of the race leaders. It’s amazing how much easier it is to take a photo when the sun is at my back and I’m not running!

Fast Women

The lead pack of the women’s race quickly approaching.

I wandered back over to the “feed zone” to grab some breakfast SWAG, then watched the finish of the women’s race. You can see how fast they were running – by the time they whipped around the corner into view I was barely able to get a shot of race winner Denisa Costescu as she flew by. She won in 17:33 to defend her title (she won the 2007 Irish Jig in 17:03!) with Laurel Park just nine seconds back. The two of them were well ahead of the rest of the field as third place didn’t finish until almost a full minute later.

Denisa Costescu

Denisa Costescu has the finish line – and victory – in sight.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to hang around since I was slated to staff the booth for 2 Feet 4 Paws and Vicky’s Pet Connection at the local community expo. Before leaving I made sure to grab a piece of cake – yes, the Irish Jig serves cake to its runners! I wore my new race shirt at the expo and about a dozen people recognized it and asked if I ran that morning. It was great to see that so many folks were out running!

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5 comments

  1. Beautiful photos! Great story, very entertaining. Well done.


  2. […] the race I spent some time chatting with some of my co-workers who took part in the event: photogenic Dave Horne, Perry Cheathem, and Mike Mast. Our company is big enough that I don’t actually work with […]


  3. Hey now…I wasn’t a minute behind 2nd place (try 24 seconds 🙂


    • You’re correct about your time… for the 2009 event, but I wasn’t there this year. In 2008 the 3rd place was 58 seconds behind. Congratulations on your awesome race!


  4. whyrun.wordpress.com’s done it once again! Amazing read!



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