I ran my first in-person race since March: The Naylor Mill 7K

Four female runners pose in front of a baseball field with a sunset behind them. All are wearing masks with a bacon image on it.
Here I am with my friends Diana, Nicole and Lynn after we all finished the Naylor Mill 7K on Aug. 7.

The week of the Naylor Mill 7K, I received my race bib and a cloth mask in the mail. That’s something that would have been pretty odd if it would have happened last year. But this year, this mailing was a way for the race to avoid a gathering at packet pickup, help keep runners healthy and offer a way for participants to represent their teams — bacon or scrapple.

I’d been part of Team Bacon the previous three years, and this year was no exception. So, in addition to my bib — which highlighted that I was part of Team Bacon — I also received a cloth, T-shirt material mask with bacon in the shape of a smile on it.

I hadn’t run an in-person race since the Publix Atlanta Marathon on March 1. And, the day before that, I was crowded on the side of Atlanta’s streets with thousands of other spectators at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Seems kind of crazy now!

Vanessa Junkin holds a piece of bacon as she eats the other end.
Of course, I had to enjoy some bacon after finishing the Naylor Mill 7K.

Since COVID-19 started becoming an issue here in the U.S. in mid-March, I have only been in small groups and have been pretty careful, paying attention to social distancing. So, I’m glad I started out with a small race. There were 96 finishers at the event, which was Friday, Aug. 7.

It was great to see some friends I hadn’t seen since March, but it was also weird to be around more people than I’ve been around in a long time — even though we were wearing masks and keeping our distance. I already worried a lot before COVID-19, but the pandemic has brought about new worries that I never would have had to think about previously.

Participants were all asked a couple screening questions and had a temperature check. Once we passed that area, we had to wear a mask (which is fine by me — I’m pro-mask). We could run without wearing the mask.

Vanessa Junkin wears a cloth mask with a piece of bacon in the shape of a smile on it.
Here I am wearing my bacon mask.

The race started at 6:30 p.m., and shortly before that, we made our way to one of five lines in a starting curve — there was a blue one for the fastest runners, three yellow ones for in-between paces, and red for the slower paces.

I chose to start on the yellow curve that was the closest to the red one. I finished 65th of 96 people, which puts me at 67.7% down the finisher list. So, I chose the right curve, as if all curves were equal, the fourth curve would be for the finishers coming in between 60-80%.

I always know that this course is going to be a slow one for me. The start and finish, which are at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, were a little different from last year, but the majority of the course — on the single track trails of the Naylor Mill Forest Trail — was the same as previous years.

These trails are definitely the toughest in the area and are filled with numerous twists and turns, along with steep uphills and downhills.

Runners stand spread out in the grass before the start of the Naylor Mill 7K.
Naylor Mill 7K participants were spaced out to start the race.

I looked down at my watch when I entered the trail and I was at about a half-mile. I stuck near three runners for another mile or so, until I needed to walk. I knew I’d need to walk, so I wasn’t disappointed, but I did want to try to avoid passing people or being passed as much as I could, just to avoid contact with others.

There were a few times when someone passed me or I got passed, but the person who was being passed (whether it was me or someone else) just moved off to the side, so it did not pose a big problem. I was pretty much alone for a decent amount of the run.

I’d been carrying a bottle of water, but when I got to the water stop, the cold bottle of water was calling my name, and I took that with me. Not long before the water stop, there was a sign at 2.23 miles in honor of Ahmaud Arbery and I Run With Maud.

Running shoes with bacon gaiters standing on a white spray-painted X marked on a yellow spray-painted line.
On each curve, there were Xs for each participant to stand on.

Throughout the Naylor Mill 7K, the trail seems to go on and on, and you can see people in front of you and behind you. It can be hard to tell just how far ahead or behind you they are.

Although the race does pit Team Bacon against Team Scrapple — with some representing Team Veggie — only the Top 10 from each team contribute to the score, so I knew I would not really be helping my team in that way. I’m more in it for the fun. This year, Team Scrapple won for the first time.

Upon (finally) exiting the Naylor Mill Forest Trail, runners headed through the parking lot and onto a sidewalk, finishing under the arch of the new Field 7 1/2, a baseball field for kids and adults with special needs. This is a project that my department, Wicomico County Recreation & Parks, has been working on (learn more here).

A flat lay photo showing a mask with an image of bacon on it, an ESRC Racing Team tank top with a race bib on it, socks with eggs on one and bacon on the other, running shorts, running shoes and bacon gaiters.
I had various bacon-themed parts of my outfit to lay out the day before.

My time for the 7K was 1:07:56.

After crossing the finish line, I was able to get a bottle of water and a delicious yellow ice pop — I did not realize the flavor was pineapple until I tasted it, and it was great — along with some bacon that was cooked and packaged in small Ziploc bags. I especially enjoyed what I believe was called Millionaire Candy Bacon — yum! Finishers also each got a T-shirt.

There were no children holding out bacon for runners to grab or a huge Eastern Shore Running Club group photo, but it was fun to be able to do one of my annual community races again.


Mile 1: 11:53
Mile 2: 16:22
Mile 3: 17:05
Mile 4: 16:54
Last part (watch had 0.44): 5:49
Total (watch had 4.44 miles): 1:08:00 / 15:19 pace
Official Time: 1:07:56

Read my BibRave review — and write your own — here!

Green T-shirt that says "Naylor Mill 7K" and has running bacon, scrapple and veggies on it, with the brown race bib on top.
Here’s my Naylor Mill 7K shirt with my race bib.

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