First things first – I’m not a runner. In fact, I hate running. Cycling’s my thing. But I also dig adventure racing, and until someone can design a course that doesn’t involve running, I’ll just have to suck it up and learn to deal with running. So, in light of the cancellation of the last Quicksilver criterium, I decided to take a crack at my first 8km race, the St. Patrick’s Day Race. So, with that out of the way, here’s my take on it:

The St. Patrick’s Day Race draws a lot of runners (and a few walkers), and it’s easy to see why. The race is well organized, there’s a wide distribution of speed among the competitors, and the scenery is great.

Registration is handled through, and you can pick up your timing chip and shirt at the Old Post Office building up to two days ahead of time. This proved a smart move, and I didn’t envy those standing in the pick-up lines the morning of the race (not so much for the length of the lines as having to stand still in 30 degrees with a 20mph wind . . .). The swag is a white technical race shirt with an undated St. Patrick’s Day Race logo on it. A nice change from the usual cotton shirt that will end up in the “to donate” pile by the end of the year.

At least a few thousand runners showed up, and the course easily accommodated everyone. The starting area was organized by pace (and it seems our mayor Adrian Fenty did a job worthy of his spot on the front line, coming in at just under 34 minutes for 9th in his division). There was some slight bunching at the start, and then briefly when heading up the first (and only) hill, but that was about it. I’m a decidedly back-of-the-pack runner, so it was great that the course design allowed folk like me to get a few glimpses of the front runners as the race progressed. My only complaint here is more theoretical than practical – I passed a number of runners plugged into iPods. While I didn’t witness any resulting problems, it still makes me itch.

The course is generally designed around the eastern end of the Mall. It starts in front of the National Theater, heads down Pennsylvania Avenue, up towards Union Station, back down and across the Mall, a jog around a federal agency I can’t recall, and then back across the Mall and up Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s almost entirely flat, with the only hill being a gradual 70ft. elevation change. Something a guy like me can appreciate. The water station at 5k was welcome, but the hidden jig to the left when you thought you were almost upon the finish line was just cruel . . .

The race was a good experience for me, which is something I wouldn’t expect to say with regard to running. I didn’t feel like an elephant among antelope, but I got to see the antelope run. The good organization made sure that I could direct all of my efforts and worry to the race, and not logistics. All in all, the race served the runners well, and I expect to be back next year.

Next effort: Kidney Kare 5K in Carrboro, NC