Race Review: Parade 5000

The Parade 5000 has a history of being brutal to me in the 6 years that I have ran it.  Typically that’s due to the heat, and the occasional train as the course crosses two sets of railroad tracks. The race does its best to ensure that trains are not a factor but it’s never a guarantee, it just something that most who register for the run know it is a possibility.  

The 35th annual race forecast was looking awful leading up to the race. Partly cloudy, temps in mid 90s with the heat index above 100. We were under a heat advisory. This was actually the third straight day of being in a heat advisory. The key on today’s race was to keep hydrated and out of the sun. With the race check in being at the 4H Fair Grounds, staying out of the sun is easier said than done, especially with 3 kids who want to go see all the animals. I was able to keep hydrated I believe successfully with water and Ultima Drink mix. I think I had 3 bottles of Ultima before the 1:20PM start.  

I have been asked a couple times today on Twitter: “1:20PM start? Why so late?”  The Parade 5000 is held at the Elkhart County Fair in Goshen, IN.  The Elkhart County Fair is reportedly one of the largest county fairs in the country. So the parade is a big deal, and the 5000 meter run starts off the parade.  I wish they would move the parade to Saturday afternoon, but it does not appear that will happen any time soon.  Also, they won’t move it to Sunday morning because of church.  So if you want to run the race, be prepared for the heat.  

The 1:20 start brings on a couple of unusual challenges that you don’t get in normal races besides the heat.  I always struggle with making sure I drink enough fluids, but at the same time, not drinking too much.  Also eating.  What’s good to eat for breakfast and a light lunch.  

The heat did claim one victim today, the kids fun run, which my kids were looking forward to.  After arriving at the fair grounds, we learned the fun run was canceled due to heat.  I understand the reason why, but still sad to me that we have come to a place in our world today that the parents can’t make the decision on if their kids should run or not.  

Anyways, we eventually made our way to the race tent, got my number and shirt and relaxed under the large tent to stay out of the sun.  After my coach, Jake Gillette and his wife Laura arrived, Laura, Mark Furkis (who you may remember from my Courthouse Classic Review) arrived, the three of us did a 2.5 mile warm up out to the start instead of taking the bus. All three of us were carrying two water bottles along with us to stay hydrated leading up to the race. 

Once at the  start area, it was all about finding shade and once again, drinking water (but not too much).  We probably waited there for an hour.  The weather at this point didn’t seem too bad.  Yeah it was warm, but it was overcast which made it feel ok.  Things were looking positive. 

At about 1:10, the runners were called to the starting line.  Typically, the race does not start on time because of traffic trying to get into the fair grounds.  This year the race started just a couple minutes late.  And wouldn’t you know it, right before the start, the clouds went away and the sun just starts beating down on us.  

As the lead police siren blares, we are off and running.  The key is not to get caught up in the fast start, plus the incline in the first quarter mile.  I kept myself back and let others take it out.  I am not sure exactly what place I was in after a half mile, but willing to bet it was around 30th.  The first mile didn’t feel bad, I was feeling pretty good with the crowds along the route cheering us on.  The first mile was not as fast as I would usually want, but with the heat, I wanted to run smart.  First mile was in 5:58. 

 Right after the first mile is the first set of train tracks, no train. Then the first aid station.  I took two cups, drank some, dumped the rest on my head to cool off.  At this point, I am still passing a few, not feeling fast but making some moves forward.  About a half mile further, was the second set of tracks.  Once again no train, we were going to make it without an issue this year.  Mile 2 was slower, at 6:12.  

Mile 3 is difficult. It’s on a dirt drive back to the horse track at the fair grounds.  You run about a half mile on the dirt road and then a little over half a mile on the dirt horse track.  Making this last mile more difficult this year was the rain we got Saturday night.  It made for a muddy mess, especially if you ran the track in the very inside.  Once on the track, I was done.  I had nothing left and the heat took it out of me.  Mile 3 was abysmal,    6:39.  I finished in an awful time (for me and what I expect out of myself) of 19:34. 

Turns out I finished 20th overall and 2nd in my division.  

This was the 35th running of the Parade 5000, and all 35 years it had one race director, Rick Clark.  Rick was also, for a portion of that time, the cross country and track coach at Goshen College.  When I was in college, Coach Clark recruited me.  While I did not run for him, I have always had respect for him and talked with him at every meet that we were at together.  Due to health reasons as a resort of a past stroke, Coach Clark is stepping down. Coach Clark was given a gift of a quilt made of all the t-shirts from the 35 years of this race.  

Coach Clark on the left with the hat.  (Photo credit Jake Gillette) 

Before the race, Coach Clark wished me luck as he did many times while I was competing against his athletes in college. Still till this day, even with his struggles, he takes time to see how others are doing and shows he cares.  After getting my medal, I made sure to go over to him, shake his hand, and thank him for everything he has done. 

Take care Coach Clark!


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