I headed to the start line for a 5K on the trails of Pemberton Historical Park in Salisbury. Over the course of twenty-four hours, I’d head back to that start line nine more times.
I participated in the first-ever Pemberton 24 – Festival of 5Ks on Sept. 20-21. The event was a partnership between Wicomico County Recreation & Parks and Algonquin Ultras Inc. Since I work as a marketing and public relations manager for Wicomico County Recreation & Parks, I handled the marketing for the event.
People could run as many 5Ks as they wanted, whether that was one race, all 24, or somewhere in between. The winners were determined based on a point system. Everyone got a point for each 5K they completed within an hour, and those who finished in the Top 5 for either solo men, solo women or teams would earn extra points. There were also extra points available for completing the midnight through 4 a.m. 5Ks.
I’d taken Friday, Sept. 20, off from work since I’d be working Sunday. However, because of my busy schedule, I used much of the day to write a freelance story for RunWashington. I packed up some things and got to Pemberton Park shortly before 6 p.m.
My boyfriend, Mike, let me use his tent and set it up for me, and before the first race began at 7 p.m., I posed for an Eastern Shore Running Club photo with many of my fellow runners. Just before the race began, several runners unveiled the surprise tank tops we’d been wearing under our other shirts.
The shirts were green cotton tank tops that had a photo of Trent Swanson, the “Race Dictator” for several races in the area, including this one, and the words “There’s no crying in ultrarunning.”
When the group approached him all wearing this shirt, Trent was truly surprised. It was Amy Evans’ idea and the shirts were originally meant for the Naylor Mill 7K, but we didn’t get them in time.
I lined up for the first 5K of the event, which began at 7 p.m. I followed the path through Pemberton Park, and when I finished, I was thinking that felt too easy. But this was just one of 24 races. I still wasn’t planning to run all 24.
When the idea first came about, I was thinking I could run 10. Then, I signed up with a goal of eight. Then, I changed my goal back to 10. During the event, I thought about maybe doing 12.
My time for the Strava segment of the course was 33:57. After each 5K, starting with this one, I posted to my Twitter feed and Instagram stories, along with a few Facebook posts.
Another hour, another 5K. I ran the second 5K and followed the same trail through Pemberton Park. During the 7 p.m. race, it was getting dark, but this one was completely in the dark. During both races, I used my Knuckle Lights. For these races, I was still wearing the cotton tank and some Senita Baseline shorts.
Time for the Strava segment: 35:16. I’m using the Strava segments here and going forward for the times because that’s comparable for all races. I was seeing less than 3.1 on my watch (and I know it’s a trail race, so it might not have been accurate), so after each run, I walked or ran until I got 3.1 miles on my watch so that at the end I’d have 31 when I ran 10.
I decided to skip the 9 p.m. 5K so that I could get something from the food truck, Holy Smoke, before it closed. I probably headed over a little before 9. I got a buffalo chicken wrap and fries, along with a beer from the neighboring beer stand.
It was starting to get cold, and I changed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt.
I wanted to run all of the middle-of-the-night 5Ks, from midnight to 4 a.m., so that I would get extra points. Since I wasn’t trying to go very fast in the 5Ks and I knew there were a lot of faster people there, I figured I would try to earn some extra points for my team — ESRC Team 1, with Lisa, Joe and Jill — by running some night 5Ks. Plus, I’d never run at midnight or 2 a.m., for example, and I thought it would be fun and different.
I got into my sleeping bag in my tent and tried to sleep. But I just lay there. I think it was a mix of hearing the announcer, Gabe — who was fun and did a great job — being close to a bright light and the excitement of being at the event. Gabe had fun trivia to share about the area.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I decided to run the 11 p.m. 5K, even though I hadn’t planned to. It was nice to be able to pick the 5Ks while I was there — we didn’t have to sign up for certain 5Ks in advance, and the entry fee of $50 (early rate) covered as many 5Ks as we wanted to do.
I probably should have waited till the midnight 5K. The food had tasted great, but I don’t think I gave myself enough time to digest, and I ended up with a cramp. I walked some during the 5K, but we had an hour to finish each one, so I had plenty of time to spare.
I also wore some glow sticks around my neck for this 5K, and I was also wearing my ESRC singlet, which I continued to wear for the remaining 5Ks.
It was time for the first 5K that awarded double participation points. Instead of earning one point, I’d earn two.
I ran on the trails once more, but I still didn’t feel my best. I did five-minute run/one-minute walk intervals, which helped. In my Twitter post, I also noted how muddy it was. There were parts of the course that were definitely super muddy.
Another middle-of-the-night run! I didn’t always make a note on Twitter, so I don’t remember which were which, but I did various run/walk intervals during the different 5Ks to switch it up. For example, one I did six-minute run/one-minute walk, and one I did three-minute run/one-minute walk.
I set out for another 5K at 2 a.m. Earlier, I’d put out an Instagram story with a poll asking if people thought I could stay up for the 2 a.m. 5K. Most voted yes, and I felt like I definitely had to do this one.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling sleepy. But as I ran, I could tell that my body was getting tired. I kept tripping on the roots, and although I’d wanted to run all the middle-of-the-night 5Ks, I could tell that I needed sleep and a break. I also was getting tired of running the races in darkness, and it seemed like my lights were less bright. I wanted to run in the daylight.
The view coming back was cool with the fog and the historic fence, and I got a photo. The photo doesn’t capture it exactly, but I’m still glad I stopped briefly to get that.
I decided I would take a break and run my next 5K when it was light out. I’d now run six 5Ks, so to get to 10, I only had four left.
The aid station at the end had plenty of food, and I got a cup of ramen, a piece of a quesadilla, a no-bake cookie and an Oreo. I didn’t make a note of what I got after every run, but there was a wide array of food.
I didn’t go to sleep right away. Throughout the race, I’d been checking the leaderboard, which was set up on a TV by the finish and was continually updated. Todd Bellamy was able to create this system, and it was really cool. People were often gathered around the leaderboard.
I also changed into my sweatshirt and sweatpants, charged my phone, had some Nuun and watched some finishers.
I think I fell asleep around 4 a.m. and slept till a little before 8 a.m., maybe 7:30 or so. I woke up to Gabe’s voice and remember hearing a kid being interviewed that said he likes beating adults in races.
I wasn’t quite ready to run a 5K; I needed to wake up a bit. When I woke up, I wasn’t that sore, but I did have uncomfortable chafing.
I also got the drone I’d be using to take some photos out of my car and plugged it in.
At 9 a.m., I started my seventh 5K, and it was nice to be able to run in the daylight.
10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
During the 10 a.m. 5K and the start of the 11 a.m. one, I got the drone out and was able to get some photos. It wasn’t working right away, so I had to do some troubleshooting, but I got it to work and got some photos and video of the “Tent City,” where all the tents were set up, the overall setup and then the start of the 11 a.m. 5K.
At noon, I was ready to run again. I traveled the familiar course for the eighth time.
It was feeling hot out there, and I definitely wanted more than 17-something minutes to rest. I’d take the next hour off.
I’m not usually a huge potato chip person, but I couldn’t get enough of the chips at the aid station. Although I’d been drinking a lot of water, I think I was still dehydrated.
During my ninth 5K, I decided to take photos throughout the course. I wanted to have some photos, and I wasn’t going for time anyway. I also made sure to get a photo where I hit the marathon mark, which was 1.4 miles into the course.
Mike stopped by in the 3 p.m. hour and brought me a Rise Up coffee smoothie — yum! He also took the tent down for me.
I’d heard people talking about running the last 5K at 6 p.m. and decided I’d go for that, but when I saw the countdown clock and realized there was an hour and 18 minutes until the start of that 5K, I just wanted to run my last one at 5 p.m. I hadn’t had a full meal on Saturday, and I was ready to eat.
The crowd was small, and I decided I’d go all out for my last 5K, since it was my last one and there wasn’t much competition. I ended up getting second place for team runners, and I later saw in the Facebook group that this was the 5K with the smallest amount of runners.
Trent had been there at the end of each 5K to give a fist bump, and I let him know I had completed my run. At that point, I got a patch — everyone could “patch out” when they were felt like they’d met their goal.
I later saw online that I ended up earning 17 points for my team.
The last 5K began at 6 p.m. During this hour, I enjoyed some loaded fries and a beer.
There were eight people who completed all 24 5Ks, which is just insane and awesome.
I was also impressed by the Jag Soccer team, a team of high school kids who ended up winning in the team category and seemed to have endless energy and speed. Their coach, who was also running, said they didn’t even train. They were awesome.
It was fun to see my friends conquer new distances and challenges and meet their goals.
This was an amazing and unique event that’s unlike any other race I’ve done. The Facebook group has been very active, with plenty of posts and photos, if you’d like to join here. Learn more about Pemberton Park at www.PembertonPark.org.