The Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival 5k was held on April 27th, 2019 in downtown Wakarusa. Race day temps were cool but sunny with temps in the mid 40s with no wind. For this years race, the location had a slight change. The start/finish was located at NorthWood Middle School which allows for runners to stay warm inside the school gym before or after the race.
There were two options for packet pickup. You could come to the middle school gym between 6pm and 8pm the day before the race, or race morning. By the looks of things, most elected to come on race morning. Overall, there were just over 200 participants for this small town race.
Paul Kern, the race director, did a great job of creating a race course that was friendly to runners, but also did not interfere with the festival being held in town. The new course eliminated 2 out and back sections with 180 degree turns. There is still an out and back section to start the race but to turn around, the course went around the block, making for a smoother/faster turn around. Following the initial out and back section, the course then goes behind Wakarusa Elementary School to Memorial Park (where the race had started the last few years). It did a loop around the park before returning to the middle school for the finish.
The 1k course was a simple out and back loop for the kids that was well marked as long as they looked down on the ground for the race arrows. It was obvious that a lot of kids did not do so. But that’s how kids races go sometimes. Derek and I did the 1k together. He has been fighting off a cough so he didn’t do as well as he usually does, but he finished it anyways and enjoyed his maple syrup sucker that all finishers of the 1k received.
The 5k race started at 8:00. My goal for the race was to take it easy at the beginning and let the race come to me at the end. The first mile of the race is a gradual uphill, while the second mile is a gradual downhill. Not that it really matters for these small town races, but I know this course well as I did train on it some before the race and knew where all the hills were at. My goal was to run a sub 20 5k.
The race started and so many runners just took off in what seemed to me to be a dead sprint. There was a lot of speed at this 5k and I knew it would be tough for me to crack the top 10, but I held myself back and in control. I was prepared not to push the first mile as I knew that it was the uphill section that a lot of runners did not expect. I ran my first mile in 6:33. After crossing the mile mark and started returning towards the start, I felt like I was still not putting much extra effort in especially since I was now going down hill. I was catching some runner ahead of me, but wasn’t really picking up much speed. I crossed mile 2 in 6:33, identical to mile 1.
Mile 3 was primarily flat with a loop around Memorial Park and then back to the middle school. I started to slowly gain on another runner, and that runner was Laura Gillette whom I have ran many races against and is a very good runner. We seem to always be about the same pace and one finishes right in front of the other at about every race we do. I really didn’t think I would catch her as there was still a large gap to be made up but I just worked on picking it up little by little. Surprisingly, with about a quarter mile to go, I was right on her shoulder. Laura gave a couple surges to fight me off. As we made the last turn, I was able to grab the lead and finish strong. The last mile was my fastest at 6:14. I crossed the finish line in 19:51 and in 15th place.
One of the best parts about this race is the awards. Paul does not give out medals or trophies. This is the Maple Syrup Festival after all. Paul gives out maple Syrup. I was fortunate enough to finish in 3rd place in my division. The top 3 overall also won a larger bottle of maple syrup and a gift card to Fleet Feet Sports in Mishawaka.
Chloe, our middle child, ran her fastest 5k ever by running a 38:39. She was excited to be able to run this race with a friend of hers from school. Chloe finished in 2nd place in the 12 and under division.
I have not missed a year of this race since Paul Kern brought it back and I don’t plan to do so any time soon. This is a great small town race that I look forward to every year. Plus it helps us replenish our maple syrup supply for the year.