Race for the Arts 5K Run/Walk – 1st Annual

54 degrees and cloudy,  a perfect day for the inaugural of the Race for The Arts 5K Run/Walk benefiting the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center in Decatur, Georgia. The Center sponsors many events from stage plays, musical performances, dance and programs specifically directed towards youth and seniors.  I’ve attended several events there over the last few years and have always been pleased with the programming, facilities and event staff.
The Scene

I arrived at about 7:30 AM for an 8:00 AM start which was perfect for this race.   Upon arrival at the registration area, I was greeted by cheerful volunteers and a DJ who was rocking Justin Timberlake’s Suit and Tie.  Runners and walkers in the registration area mingled, met up with friends, and teammates and of danced to the music.  Shortly before the 8:00 AM start time race participants were rounded up to hear remarks from the Center’s Executive Director David Manuel and Dekalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson, whose district the Center resides in. After remarks we had  great warm-up leader by dancer/choreographer Stepp Stewart, who had great energy and got the crowd pumped up. Following the warm-up we queued up in the start chute, got the signal and hit the road.

The Course
The course was an out and back with some long hills.  From the parking lot, we made a right, proceeded downhill on Rainbow Dr with an immediate uphill and made a right onto Columbia Dr.  The course crossed over I-285, passed Exchange Park, with a turnaround (from my guess) near Springside Run.  The good and the bad about an out and back is that you know what to expect, which in this case was the long up and downhills.  The same ones we just ran, we had to run them again on the way back.  My team was spread out along the course and I ended up running with a lady in an orange shirt.  I didn’t get her name but she was a great pacer and helped me to likely my fastest 5K time ever.

The Finish and After Party
There were 3 individuals responsible for time and placement.  One running the clock and two determining the finishing place by race number.  All finishers received a shirt, assorted fruit and water and all the typical goodie bag stuff you get these races.  The Diabetes Association was one of the vendors on site and was conducting glucose testing, which is really cool.  Of course there was more partying and an award ceremony.
For an inaugural event the Race for the Arts was a success. The event was organized, started in a timely manner, the event volunteers were cheerful and helpful and the warm-up was probably one of the most fun I’ve ever done. It was announced that there would be another Race for the Arts in the fall and I’d definitely recommend it for those who want a bit of a challenge at a shorter distance.  In terms of improvements I only saw two things that could be tightened up: 1)the course – I saw two cars drive through as the race was taking place, which could be remedied with cones, additional officers and or volunteers and; 2) the finish – additional volunteers or one volunteer with a megaphone may be needed to direct people through the finish line chute, to make sure their placement and time is accurate.  With these small adjustments, this could be a top notch event in the area.

Until next time, see you on the trail.
For more information about the Center, please visit their website.

The Allergic Asthmatic Runner

Here we go again
I was just in this place on March 13 after having pushed the envelope a few days before and here I am again, back at Kaiser with the same stuff except it feels a bit worse this time. For allergy and asthma suffers the Atlanta metro is not friendly during the springtime. This year with a mild winter, even for the south, we started seeing pollen in February. For runners with allergies and asthma this time of year is especially brutal, physically with symptoms and mentally.   Our local parks and tree lined streets are meant to be seen and smelled and experienced in person, not viewed from inside an air-conditioned car or through the windows of your home. There’s nothing like running amidst all that color and lushness, but for this runner it is a no-no.

The schedule
For over a decade I followed the same schedule. From May to September and only on weekends I would run outside. I’m one who suffers from year-round indoor and outdoor allergies  During the fall its ragweed, winter mold, spring trees and summer grasses and pollution. During the last two years I maintained the weekends only schedule but extended the outdoor time to May through February which sent me from two allergy/asthma/sinus episodes a year to four.  During the spring and fall I ramp up the meds and fall back during summer and winter. Allergy shots are year round and have been for about 10 years.  This schedule doesn’t help me to avoid the doctor but it does keep me out of the hospital and allows me to enjoy the outdoors a large part of the year. 

How my running is affected
Since the schedule is built around my upper respiratory system, I do most of my mileage on the treadmill and the weekly long runs outside.  Many runners would be loathe follow this regimen and I understand it, trust me, I want to be outside but doing so is only asking for trouble.  Symptom wise, if it’s just allergy symptoms, I treat those and continue my treadmill running.  When I’m feeling the familiar elephant on the chest of asthma about to go wrong I don’t run at all, I go to the doctor and do what they tell me to do until my breathing is no longer labored.

Allergies and asthma have not precluded me from enjoying what I love, running.  Certainly some precautions are necessary, but taking those has allowed me to enjoy and appreciate running even more.

I’d like to hear from you.  Do you suffer from allergies and asthma? How do you manage them in order to keep running? Let me know by leaving a comment.

See you on the trail… in May.
photo via my camera, Suwanee Greenway via Georgia Pierce Park, Suwanee GA

Two more parks this week

This parks post is a bit different out of necessity. 

Graves Park is located on Graves Road in Norcross, GA. The parks site indicates that the main paved trail is 1.25 miles. The actual markings from my trek around it end at 1.14 miles. The park mostly consists of open fields for volley ball, has two tennis courts, pavillion, children’s play area and a really nice dog park split for large and small dogs.. Trail is about 50% shaded with some hills and inclines. The trail is just challenging enough but not so hard as to leave you gasping for air.  This park will definitely be in rotation for running and one in which I can take my shared custody dogs to 🙂

Mountain Park Park is located on Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn, GA and it has a LOT going on. Baseball/softball fields, football field, lighted tennis courts, batting cage, grassy shaded areas, a skate park and a 1.0 mile pave trail.  The trail runs close in to all the fields, so it might be a bit distracting for someone used to running on trails surrounded by trees.  There are some trees on the back side and the trail is really most conducive for easy run days.  I likely will not run in this park but will pull up in one of those grassy areas and read or chill or watch all the kids play.

Having taken an extra day off during the holiday I went to these parks because I made a promise to myself to change up my routine a bit after Peachtree and run in some different parks throughout my county.  Both Bethesda (visited on 7/5) and Graves (visited on 7/6) meet my criteria for good spots to run, enough hills, adequate shade, not too close to the other activities and so on.  What I found most disappointing was the discrepancy in the maintenance of these parks. Both Bethesda and Mountain Park were clean, trash bins empty and doodie bags (for dogs) stocked appropriately throughout the park.  Graves Park on the other hand had some trash on the side of the trail, the trash bins were full and there were no doodie bags in the stations along the route.  Norcross, in which Graves Park resides is in a majority Latino area.  So my mind really started racing at the point.  Instead of flying off the deep end altogether I contacted the Parks department to find out why the other parks were clean and this particular park was not and was told that the supervisor for that area was out as a result of an accident.  Now, the supervisor generally is not the one who cleans the park there are work crews that do this.  Even after the holiday it’s highly unlikely that not every single one of the work crews was off, which means the parks still should have trash picked up. Besides, is there not some sort of contingency plan for when people are out so that the work continues? It’s all too fishy for me, because even ignoring the trash problem, there is still an element of  maintenance in terms of weeds and grass and overgrowth in Graves that was not present in the other parks visited.  So the question in my mind is, is there willful neglect of parks that serve minority areas and those that do not?  I’ll be returning to the park to see next week and will be checking out more of the parks in the more heavily populated minority areas in the county.  My desire is to be presently surprised to find them all in pristine condition. My expectation however is that they won’t be.  Gwinnett County on the whole is a “majority minority” county but there are pockets where this is not the case.  If I find maintenance to be equitable, I’ll let it rest, if not I’ll be calling for back up.

Stay tuned.

Bethesda Park, Lawrenceville GA

One of my favorite things are parks. Dating back to when I was a child the biggest treat in the world was to go to the park with my father after which we’d head over to pick up ice cream.

I don’t get the ice cream anymore after the park, but I still enjoy going to them immensely. All my long runs during the spring, summer and fall are done at the park. I look for animals and birds, listen to the sounds of all the wildlife, pray for breezes and always find peace there.  Now that Peachtree is over, I am looking for some other parks to run in just to shake it up and decided to head over to Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville, GA. 

I drove around the place first and it is huge. There are softball/baseball, soccer, and football fields, basketball courts, an aquatic center and senior center as well as play areas and pavillions.  I was most interested of course in the walking trail.  There are two a short trail around a man-made lake and a longer 1.5 mile trail. I took a leisurely stroll on the longer trail and it’s fantastic.  I’d say it’s over 80% shaded and fairly flat.  The only hills and they are short are near the end of the 1.5 if you start the trail going to your left.

The short trail is mostly unshaded.  People fish, feed the ducks and geese and basically chill out in this area. All the pics in the post are from the short trail.

Overall for purposes of running/walking/biking, Bethesda has a great trail, with welcome shade from this GA heat in the summer and is a welcome respite from some of the hillier fair in the area.