Ben Layton 5K: I missed a sub-30 finish, but I had a strong race

Group of 10 runners posing for a photo in a parking lot.
Members of the 11:30 Club and Eastern Shore Running Club gather for a photo before the Ben Layton 5K on May 7.

I’d been working on my speed with the 11:30 Club for a little while when I decided to sign up for the Ben Layton 5K, held right by my home in Salisbury, Maryland, on the trail that goes around the Salisbury City Park.

I hoped to be able to run the 5K, held May 7, in under 30 minutes, which I did most recently in April 2021 for the virtual Zoo Stampede 5K. I have gotten slower over the years, but I have been trying to work on getting faster recently. My most-recent 5K prior to the Ben Layton 5K was the virtual Run Happy Fest 5K in October.

I’m the president of the Eastern Shore Running Club, and we were able to be recognized as a sponsor at the Ben Layton 5K because of the number of members we had registered. The 11:30 Club was also recognized for the same reason.

Vanessa Junkin posing for a post-race photo in the Ben's Red Swings playground. Text says: "Distance 3.09 mi, Time 30:47, Pace 9:57/mi"
I didn’t hit sub-30 for the Ben Layton 5K, but I was still pleased with my time.

After getting a few group photos, I took off for the race when it began. It wasn’t the prettiest day out, but I thought it was great for running. Garmin Connect logged the weather that morning as 55 degrees with mist, and there was also humidity (not great for running, but not horrible with 55-degree temps).

On May 4, the Wednesday before the race, I ran two miles in 19:17, an average pace of 9:37, with the 11:30 Club. If I could keep that average pace up for the 3.1-mile race, I would be able to finish in under 30 minutes. However, that had taken my full effort, so I was hopeful but not 100 percent sure I could make it happen.

I finished my first mile of the race in 9:49 — a little slower than I wanted, but not making a sub-30 race out of the question. The next two miles followed in 10:03 and 10:03. Actually, each mile was logged on my watch at exactly 10:03.3, so I did have some consistency!

Two women runners holding red banner with white writing that says "We Love Ben's Red Swings."
Kristin and I both received awards in our age group (photo from Ben Layton 5K Facebook page).

I do a lot of run-walk intervals in training, and I thought about walking, but I knew I could run the whole thing, so I pushed myself to run. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with walking, but I knew it would slow me down for this distance as I’m not a very fast walker.

I kept pushing and ran the last bit (my watch had 0.09) in 50.6 seconds, a 9:05 pace. My time on my watch was 30:46, a 9:57 pace, so while it was not a sub-30 race, it was still a strong effort for me. My time on the results was 30:34.

I ended up winning second place in the female 30-39 age group (although two of the overall Top 3 women would have also been in my age group) and won a $15 gift card to Vernon Powell Shoes, a great prize. I also enjoyed some cold brew from Rise Up Coffee. Overall and age group winners received pies from The Ugly Pie.

This was a fun race, and I’m glad I got to test myself at the 5K distance and support a longtime community event and great causes — the Ben’s Red Swings playground and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I also liked that the swag was custom socks, as I have a million shirts.

The summer doesn’t offer my ideal running conditions, but I hope to run a sub-30 5K in the fall.


Mile 1: 9:49
Mile 2: 10:03
Mile 3: 10:03
Last bit (watch had .09): 50.6 (9:05 pace)
Time on watch: 30:46 (9:57 pace); Time on results: 30:34

Selfie of Vanessa Junkin holding race medal and gift certiicate to VP Shoes.
Here I am with my second-place age group medal and VP gift certificate prize.

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