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Polar Bear 5k

January 30, 2010

My coach had suggested that I run the Polar Bear 5k on the first day we met. At his request, I soon signed up.
The Polar Bear 5k run is put on by Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and I am pretty sure the money goes to support their annual summer choir trips. I am not usually one to put my money towards religious organizations unless the money is going to directly benefit the community and its residents (food banks, money for those less fortunate) but I set my opinions aside for this particular race.

Johnson Ferry Baptist Church is located in Marietta, GA in, what I would consider, a rather nice neighborhood. The race started at 8:30 AM and I left my house around 7:15 AM to allow myself plenty of time to find the place and get my race number. I found the church pretty easily (easy to find because it is a GIANT mega-church) and parked across the street in an office park so that I could avoid the crowds. After playing frogger to cross the six lane road, I made it to the church and was immediately greeted by a nice women telling us where to go to get our race numbers. It was a loooong walk to the gym where we picked up our numbers but it was organized very well. I quickly found some of the guys that I have been running with and made a little small talk. I found my coach not too much after that and we soon began about a mile warm up run. I had good advise on this run to make sure I didn’t talk.

The start of the race was a bit of a mad-house. It was not clearly marked, so people were just wandering around. We ended up starting towards the very front and I felt a little bad because people were having to go around us. This was not a flat course as it was advertised (there are NO flat courses in Georgia. STOP advertising this!) but there was only one major huge hill around mile 1.5. I had a goal to finish in under 24 minutes and was quite pleased when I came in 23:03.

Apparently this year they had a new course. In years past, this race was two loops, and this year it was only one. I, of course, do not have a preference as this is the only one that I have done. For what its worth, I liked it.

Crowded Mass of People at the Starting Area

Now some of the problems with the race:

First, this course was some 260 feet short of a true 5k. Really? You couldn’t find that extra 260 feet? Nowhere?

Second, they used a timing system, which seems like a good idea on the surface, but in reality, the timing system didn’t utilize a “start mat” and therefore everyone got a gun time, and no one got their actual time as the starting line wasn’t marked clearly.

Third, this timing system does not utilize something that goes on your shoe, it utilizes a large format set of wires that is placed in a pouch on the back of your race number. For this system to work, the race number is bigger than usual ones and it is rather stiff and heavy. I initially tried to use my race belt (as this is my preferred method of wearing race bibs) but the number was so heavy and stiff, it was interfering with my stride. I had to ditch my race belt and pin the thing to my shirt. I felt like I was wearing a sheet of armor. The good thing is that this system is recyclable. Someone at the finish line plucks it out from the back of your number as you cross. I am also not too sure how accurate this system is as someone had to manually swipe a wand across your number after you crossed the finish line. I don’t know how the system works, but I am a little apprehensive about its accuracy.

Fourth, the money thing. Put the money back into the community… don’t use it to send a bunch of rich teenagers to Florida for a week in the summer. Everyone knows what goes on on church trips, and I don’t want to be responsible for funding that.

Fifth, I don’t know if this is a complaint for anyone else but me. BUT… they provided nice moisture wicking long sleeve shirts for this race. And this is very nice, but they did not offer extra small sizes, therefore I have a shirt that is just too big to wear. This has been a complaint of mine for years. I will gladly pay a few extra bucks to have the option to get an extra small shirt.

The only reason I will not run this race again is because of the money thing. I like my money to go to good causes. Otherwise, this was a very well run race with awesome volunteers and a very competitive bunch of runners.

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