The North Canton YMCA 4th of July Race

July is always a busy month at my house. Both my birthday and my hubby’s are this month, my kids have summer activities, work is generally busier, and of course there are family get togethers and the hope of travel. Fortunately I have a job where I can actually get vacation time (the previous restaurant I worked for would push you off the clock and out the door at 31 hours to avoid having to give benefits) so this week has been a splendid week of doing next to nothing! Speaking of my job, they played a part in the last race I ran. 

Every year there are tons of July 4th races across the country. My city is no different. When I can I love to run them because, well, the 4th of July is my birthday. Is there any better way to spend a birthday? I had considered signing up for this race, but had decided not to both because I usually work on Tuesdays and I am currently considerably over the race budget I had set for myself. I figured “maybe next year”. Then something awesome happened. 

My boss approached me and asked if I was running this year. “No.”, I told him. He asked if I wanted to. “Heck yeah”, I replied. He then informed me that our restaurant was a sponsor this year and he had an entry for me! I couldn’t believe my ears! He gave me a code (and the day off) and I happily went home and clicked the “register” button.

This race is always so fun and festive…and huge! It’s one of the biggest races in the area. I arrived on race morning and caught up with a couple of my coworkers who were also running. We had all decided to run the 5 mile race. We had time to hang out with the crew getting the food ready and visit some of the tents set up before it was time to line up.

My biggest goal was just to finish faster than the last time I did this race. I had run it on my 40th birthday and it was truly my return to racing after a very rough time in my life. Secretly, however, I really wanted to finish in under 45 minutes. Either way I was going to have fun!

The gun went off and away we ran. I have no explanation why, but the first mile felt ridiculously long! I kept looking at my watch thinking “One mile had got to be close!” I finally saw the first mile marker and crossed a bit under 9 minutes. I already felt like I was pushing as hard as I could so I just settled in and told myself to keep this effort and see how it goes.

The course is through neighborhood streets with gently rolling hills. It also has a considerable amount of neighborhood support. I enjoyed seeing the people out cheering us on and before I knew it I was at mile 2, split 9:03. I decided to pick it up a little bit as I was feeling better. I passed by the water stations, which some may think is crazy, but I train up to 9 miles without water, so when the racing conditions are right I just run. I also passed up the several resident provided sprinkler showers just because I didn’t feel like running soaking wet. When my Garmin beeped for mile 3 I was almost in shock at my split, 8:42! Mile 4 was rather uneventful and came in at 9:03. Now it was time for “The Hill.”

Me at “The Hill” not the most flattering picture, but hey, I was racing 😉

I had forgotten how hilly the last mile was! There is a steep, medium length hill at the start of the last mile, then a couple turns that continue the uphill trend to the Main Street finish line. I was tired, but knew my goal was totally attainable if I just kept pushing. I know racing at your top speed toward a PR comes down to how long you can keep going while being uncomfortable. Sometimes it took all I had to keep reminding myself “only x thenths of a mile to go”, but that’s just what I did. When I finally created that last little hill on Main Street and saw the finish line, I knew I had it!

Not the prettiest finish line picture, but it’s real…and it shows my effort, which I’m proud to say netted me an official time of 44:47 (chip time). Goal met!! A bonus? They had finisher medals this year! Yes, the blingaholic in me was very, very happy😉

After finishing I cheered on my fellow runners and made my way to the food tent. Some yummy, yummy stuff, and the warm chicken, ravioli, and tomato mozzarella skewers were a nice change from the usual after race fare.

Will I be back next year? I sure hope so! This is by far my favorite kind of birthday celebration. Running, food, music, friends, and red, white, and blue everywhere!!

Next on the race schedule? The Up, Up and Away 5k that’s ran in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival. It times out perfectly with my half marathon training. I’m also excited to be part of another inaugural race with what promises to be some terrific scenery. Until next time, happy running!! ❤

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