On Saturday, November 9, I ran the South Belt 5K in Houston, which took place in the area around Frank Dobie High School. The South Belt 5K was set up as a fundraiser for the Barry E. Harris Memorial Scholarship Fund. Mr. Harris taught at Dobie High School until he passed away from cancer.
This was the first South Belt 5K ever, and (spoiler alert!) it was incredibly well-organized and well-run. The course itself is USATF-certified and chip timed, and it ran through some of the roads surrounding Dobie High School and El Franco Lee Park. I chose to run this race for two reasons:
- I wanted to run one last 5K to get final training paces for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January.
- It was super-convenient: It started at 7 a.m., and it wasn’t far away from where I live.
I heard about the South Belt 5K because one of the ladies at the box had put up a flyer. Again, the time and date worked really well, and so did the location. I signed up and planned to pick up my packet on race day (which they let us do).
Running the South Belt 5K
I’m not going to lie here; I was a little nervous when I showed up around 6:15 am to pick up my packet. This race would be my training paces, kind of set in stone for the next 10 weeks of training. I had in the back of my mind that I’d really like to run a sub-25 minute 5K, but I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I didn’t do it. Still, I hoped that all the work I’ve already put in would pay off. Plus, it was cold that morning, and cold weather means faster running.
When I got there, I picked up my packet, pinned my bib to my Texas Beef Team tank, and dropped off the rest of the packet at my car. Small local race advantage #1 is that there is always nearby parking. I then warmed up with a one-mile jog, just to build some heat and get blood flowing.
At the start, I lined up as I usually do, trying to guestimate who I should be behind (usually tall, rangy guys). I still had to do some bobbing and weaving at the start, but after about a quarter of a mile, it was smooth sailing. I went out a little too fast, clocking a 7:43 mile, but I felt really good. The course went partially through El Franco Lee Park but mostly stuck to side streets in the Houston neighborhood where Dobie High School is.
The organizers had done a great job mapping out the course and getting volunteers out there. I’m not familiar with the neighborhood, and since it was a small, local race, it would be easy to lose sight of other runners. However, every turn had a volunteer at it, and there was plenty of sheriff support, too. General course support meant two water stops, with Gatorade.
As for me, I just let myself run. I did go out too fast, so my next two miles were 7:49 and 7:50 (yikes). I tried to keep a reasonably steady pace and not drop the hammer before I hit the three mile mark. But once I did: hammer, dropped. I sprinted that last tenth of a mile with everything I had, crossing the finish line in 24:48. That’s not a PR for me, but it’s pretty darn good!
The Awards Ceremony
First of all, I was really excited to see some people I knew when I finished! One of the race photographers was Rob, who also took pictures at the box during the Open. His wife, Gina, works out at my gym. Both of them were there to support the race, since they taught with Barry Harris at Dobie High School.
Second, I was even more excited to win first in my age group! The second big advantage to small local races is that, if you’re even a little bit fast, you can snag an age group award, of which I garnered two: first in my age group, and first female Masters Athlete. Truth, though: I felt a little icky getting first Female Masters Athlete because I’m definitely a young Masters Athlete. (The guy who won first Male Masters joked that I was too young to win.) But it still came with a cool plaque!
Overall, the South Belt 5K was a really good race! Well-organized, well-run, good course amenities and support, and a decent post-race snack spread. Also, everyone got a medal and a tech t-shirt, making this an ideal 5K for someone who is running their first. And the proceeds go to a great cause. I think I might do this one again next year!