async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Race Recap: Homestretch for Heroes 5k

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Race Recap: Homestretch for Heroes 5k

Homestretch for Heroes 5k is an evening event that has been held the last couple of years at the Arlington International Race Course, a well-known horse racing venue. The event donates all of the proceeds to benefit SALUTE, Inc, a local charity that provides financial, physical, and emotional aid to injured military service members, veterans, and their families. It's a unique event that has runners finish on the race track, their live images projected onto the leaderboard.



I've always wanted to sign up for this race but in the past, it never worked out. This year I was able to make it happen! The event was held on August 6 on a warm sunny evening. The race course is about 2 miles from my home and I arrived with plenty of time for packet pickup. Parking was a breeze--the lot is quite large--and I walked into the vestibule to claim my bib and shirt.

I'm a morning runner, so with this race I had the dilemma of how to fuel for an evening race! I decided to go with what has worked for my other 5ks this summer--I mixed a bottle of Tailwind to drink prior to the race. Just because I like to live dangerously, I also added a scoop of NOW Foods BCAA Big 6 powder and D-Ribose powder. I have the watermelon flavor BCAA but it mixed well with the mandarin orange Tailwind. I've never taken the BCAA and Ribose before a race, but I have used it at CrossFit the past couple of weeks without any issue. I know, nothing new on race day, but it's only a 5k, right?

I met up with some of the members from my running club as they gathered near the start line. We took a group photo and headed over to the starting line. It was an informal lineup with runners in the front and walkers in the back. As with all the local races, there were a bunch of kids near the front.

Busse Woods Runners
Some speeches were given and a very moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was sung by a 9 year old boy from the northwest side of Chicago. What a voice! Keeping with the horse racing theme, the national anthem was followed by the track bugler, Monica Benson, for the 'call to post'. And we were off!

bugler Monica Benson
photo credit: Larry Martin
The course wound around the very large grounds of the Arlington International Race Course. I've been there for races and my bike rides take me past the barns, so I knew how big it was. The evening was warm--81 degrees--and it was sunny. I was pleased that most of the people around me were running the same pace as I was. It helped me hold back. Mile 1 was mostly run on pavement. 9:01

I started to feel fatigued as we continued to run around the course grounds and the parking lot. I passed a lot of people walking. We rounded a corner and retraced the our route where we started. Unfortunately, I had to walk and catch my breath. That 9 min/mile would only be a dream. Mile 2 9:24

Mile 2 done and I started running again. As we approached the entrance to the track, I again had to stop and walk briefly. Then it was onto the dirt. We hadn't had any rain and the dirt was dry and mostly packed. Mostly. It was like running on sand at the beach. I stopped one more time to catch my breath and then I picked up the pace. I came around the corner and got behind some people walking, 3 across, on the inside of the track. That frustrated me and I said something like 'oh come on', out loud. Another runner said to me, "what did you say?" I did a quick mental reset and reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun. I waved to the other runner and kept going. Mile 3 9:25

Approaching the finish line
photo credit: Larry Martin
When I reached the finish line, I put my hands on my knees briefly to catch my breath. There was a line of runners waiting to get their times recorded. A woman cut in front of me! Seriously? I didn't say anything. Even though I was in the line of finishers, the volunteers recording the times somehow missed me. The good thing about that was when I later looked up my results and saw they weren't there, I was able to send a picture of my Garmin to the RD. They recorded my actual time, which negated the woman cutting in front of me. Ha! Official finish time: 28:45.

There's the line cutter right in front of me...
Phtot credit: Larry Martin
After the finish we were handed a bottle of water and could walk over to a tent where they were handing out popsicles and granola bars. I skipped that stop and headed over to the post-race party area where I could get my free post-race beer. I had the choice of 3 beers: Miller High Life, Miller Lite, or Coors Light. Ugh. I went with the High Life and it actually didn't taste bad at all. There was a band playing. I didn't see anyone I knew, so I walked back to the stands and cooled off while I drank my beer.

Racers were broadcast on the jumbotron
Overall, I really enjoyed this event! While running on a horse track wouldn't be fun if the whole 5k was held on it (can you even imagine?!), running the last 1/3 mile on the track was a novelty and something I have never done before! There were a ton of volunteers directing the runners as well as 2 aid stations with water and gatorade. I was impressed with the number of participants: there were 533 finishers total. My friend Larry was the photographer and he sent me the photos he took. I'm not sure where the photos were posted for the rest of the participants, though.

This race was gun timed and there were no chips on our bibs, which explains why my results didn't show up as they weren't recorded. With so many of us waiting to be recorded, it wasn't a surprise that some of us were missed. Thankfully, the RD was super responsive when I reached out to her. Results were listed only as overall results, which included the 1 mile walkers and the 5k runners. I guess my quibble would be that if you're going to record everyone's time and advertise it as a professionally timed race, then at least break out the walkers from the runners in the results.


I was pleased with my finish time--it was consistent with how I've done in most of my 5ks this summer. Considering that this was a hot race in the evening, I cannot complain about how I did. This was a fun event for a great cause with a unique finish on a horse racing track! Who wouldn't like to do that?

Homestretch for Heroes 5k was run on a horse track! /via @oldrunningmom @salute_inc @arlington_park @NOWFoods #runchat #runner #racerecap

Have you ever run an event on a horse track? How do you feel about running a race without bib chips? Do you want to learn more about SALUTE, Inc? Are you interested in trying that NOW Foods BCAA Big 6 powder or the D-Ribose Powder? Or both? It's all about endurance and recovery. Use the code EMPOWERNOW through 8/31/19 to save $10 off $40. Orders over $50 get free shipping. 

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics.


35 comments :

  1. I really love races that are able to give all their proceeds to charity! This sounds like such an interesting race. I've only done two evening races and like you, I wasn't sure exactly how to fuel for them, but one perk is not having to get up at the butt crack of dawn, lol.

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  2. Fun race or not, it is annoying to have 3 people walking across the path. That is one of my pet peeves! Fueling for an evening course is difficult and yes luckily it was "just" a 5k. :-) It is much more difficult when it is a half or marathon. Those are great photos from your friend! The last 5k wasn't chip timed but I did it anyway because my district union was paying for it and the money from the race went towards a scholarship program.

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  3. SALUTE sounds like a cause worthy of supporting! I have not run on a horse track, but we have a speedway about 15 miles from us that hosts a couple of NASCAR events each year. There used to be an 8K race on the grounds, where we started and then eventually finished on the track itself. Pretty cool! It would be tough to run an entire 8K on the track, though, because of the deep embankment (my ankles would NOT enjoy that). Yes, finish line cutters...they lurk among us....

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    1. I've read recaps of the Daytona races as well as Indy and the one thing everyone comments on is the difficulty running on the track. It's a good idea, in theory, but ouch!

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  4. Running on a horse track is different indeed! Night time runs and workouts are always challenging with fueling and energy levels. Congrats on running a strong race in the heat!

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    1. I wasn't expecting to finish under 30 minutes, so this was a nice surprise!

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  5. I am (well, was) a morning runner like you and the few times that I've run/raced later in the day were tough! Looks like you gave this one your all, kudos. And I do like charity races that cut down on costs (like chip timing) in order to give more to the charity, but I have to approach it with a fun run attitude because yeah...walkers and cutters and others make for a not normal 5K.

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    1. I totally get that they needed to spare expenses to give all the proceeds to the charity. But why not make it a fun run? Or at least separate out the results of the walk and the run?

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  6. I appreciate the races for a social cause. I am also a morning runner so the evenig races are a little difficult for me but the summer mornings are too hot.
    I ran on a horse track many years ago: the trial to become member of the Navy Running Team; only the first 8 got the "shirt" and I came .... 8th!
    Around here in many little towns the bibs are without chip.

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  7. How interesting! But also RUDE PEOPLE, ugh. Walking abreast and cutting in: not necessary. I love that you said something out loud then had to wave it off. During the Birmingham Marathon when the half marathon had started and caught up with us and people were walking right across in the way, I tried to marshal them and do the right thing then suddenly yelled "not my circus: not my monkeys" and went my own sweet way.

    And a great time. I've never raced in the evening and not sure what I'd do about nutrition etc.

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    1. The way that other runner spoke to me--I felt like he was going to tell me what's what! The last thing I wanted was a confrontation at what was supposed to be a fun event. My new motto: do not engage...

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  8. Darlene does a race that ends at the track, I believe. And I think there's another one coming up. I might consider it if a) it wasn't summer and b) the track was closer (roughly 30 min away, not far, but still that's an hour in the car altogether).

    I think you did great! And I'm sure I would've said something to the walkers either under my breath or out loud. It's just rude, fun run or not.

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    1. I just bit my tongue. In the end, it was the right thing to do.

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  9. I would definitely struggle with an evening race. Great job - I'm jealous of your pace!

    I might have hollered "come on, people" to a group that was taking the entire sidewalk on Sunday. What made it frustrating was they were walking towards me, even made eye contact, and never budged. I was proud of myself for now lowering my shoulder and plowing into them ;)

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    1. Ha! I do call out walkers who hog the path when I'm out for a run. It just didn't seem right at this race, tho.

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  10. That sounds like a great race! I'll have to try the D-Ribose and BCAA blend, because I never thought of mixing the two!

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    1. It's been working really well for me! Let me know what you think.

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  11. Kudos for your good finish! Running a race in the afternoon or evening is so hard! My body just doesn't want to move.

    We hand time our Turkey Trot and it is so hard to keep things straight. Professional (chip) timing is so expensive, so for a lot of races with few spnnsors it might be out of reach. Especially since their giving all the proceeds to their charity.

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    1. I figured that. All I ask is that they separate out the walkers from the runners in the results. There has to be a way!

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  12. Boy two things I don't like all that much: 5ks and evening runs! Ugh! My hat's off to you on both counts! (And I totally would have said something to the three across AND the line cutter. You're much nicer than I am.)

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    1. In a different race, I totally would have. This was really more like a 'fun run' even tho it was advertised as professionally timed. So many families and people out there supporting the veterans.

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  13. Most of the trail runs I do are in the evening and I always worry about being tired at the start, but once I get going I'm fine. Doing the whole 5k on the track would be brutal. Great time!

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    1. I wasn't expecting anything under 30 minutes, especially on a hot evening--this was a satisfying race!

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  14. Sounds like a fun race. I recently did my first race that didn't have bib chips but they had a much better recording system than the race you ran so it was a non issue. Although it was strange for me because I am used to chips!

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    1. When I started running, back in the dark ages, there were no chips! You tore off the bib strip and slid it onto a spindle while a volunteer called out your time and bib number. Another volunteer recorded it. Lots of human error, but for the most part, it worked out ok.

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  15. That sounds like a fun way to mix up a normal 5K! Great job on the race, especially since night races are so much harder to fuel for and it's so hot in the evenings. I don't think I've ever run a race - even small local ones - without a chip. I was impressed when the trail 6K I did in January had chips!

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    1. I ran another race recently that wasn't chip timed...it was the first one in a very long time!

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  16. It sounds like an interesting race! I love the idea of the novelty with the evening timing and finishing on the track. Though I'm surprised by the lack of a chip, even a shoe chip or something if the ones in the bib are too expensive.

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    1. My feeling is that if you're going to advertise a race as professionally timed, then you should have chips. That is all.

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  17. Sounds like such an interesting race! But I'm not a huge fan of gun timed races. It seems so archaic these days. Lol! I do love your race pics!!

    Also, you mixed Tailwind, ribose, and BCAA all together? How did that work out?

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  18. Boo for line cutters. Glad you were able to prove your time to the RD. You look great in the race pic at the finish line, even though you have your hands on your knees. I look like a hot mess at the end of a race! :)

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  19. Evening races are tough - I'm impressed you ran a similar time to your other 5Ks in the heat! The Ridge Run is actually not chip timed - they've kept it an "old school" trail race - but they're also very efficient about recording times at the finish, no waiting in line!

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