I ran the third annual Firecracker 10K in downtown Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday, July 2. This was my second race in 2017. This is my Firecracker 10K full race recap.
Official Time: 1:13:42
Age Group Placing (F 30-34): 14 / 19
Overall Placing: 151 / 191
Overall Pace: 11:36 / mile
This was my first time running the Firecracker 10K, which first took place in 2015. The race starts and ends just outside The Galleria at Erieview on East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The race is organized by Hermes Road Racing in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.
I signed up for this race a few weeks after I ran the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K as my “comeback” race. I was still riding that runner’s high and did not want to let all of my training go to waste. Anyone who has dealt with a training injury or lapse in motivation can attest – it’s much easier to maintain running endurance than it is to rebuild it from scratch.
The 8K race was 4.97 miles. I wanted to run something similar in distance or slightly more. The 10K is 6.2 miles and is quite possibly my favorite distance. However, I had not run a 10K since 2013 when I ran the North Ridgeville Lions Club 10K – also known as the race in which I can in dead last.
Anyways, I learned of the Firecracker 10K and it sounded like a decent mid-summer option. I was hoping for nice views of downtown Cleveland, some shade and hopefully a cool morning. My training leading up to the race wasn’t stellar. I completed all of my training runs but I didn’t adjust well to the changes in season from spring to summer – and we had several bouts of unseasonably warm days.
In summary, many of my long runs were incredibly slow. Still, I figured I had a shot at a decent 10K time and I figured anything would be better than that last 10K I ran. Soon I would learn the Firecracker 10K was indeed better, but not by much. My 10K PR is 1:03:34 and it was set in July 2011. However, the course was flat and mostly shade. I was also in prime running shape that year.
In addition to the 10K run there was also a 2-mile walk as part of the event. Many runners and walkers dressed up in patriotic outfits and the Statue of Liberty made an appearance. This was a nice touch for Independence Day. A military member and/or veteran discount was also offered for this race. Regular registration was $25 pre-registration, or $30 on the day of. Runners received a cotton T-shirt.
Race morning temps were around 70, but rising quickly. It was full sun, and not a cloud in the sky. I had hoped for a mild breeze coming off of Lake Erie but I felt little. I wore a singlet, running shorts, a headband and my HALO visor (which doubled in keeping sweat off my face and shielding me from the sun). I applied a lot of Body Glide, but unfortunately, I ended up experiencing another armpit chafing disaster following this race.
I got up two hours before race start and guzzled 20 ounces of water. I had my traditional pre-race breakfast of one piece of toast with peanut butter. We left for downtown at 7 a.m. and arrived around 7:20 a.m. Parking was on your own and we used a nearby garage and only walked a block to the race start. I had some pre-race nerves and went to the bathroom twice before the race started. Runners were able to use the restrooms in the YMCA which was convenient.
Part of my nerves were due to seeing how small the field was (which was much smaller than I had anticipated). In 2015 there were 330+ runners in the 10K. Now in it’s third year, there were less than 200 runners. As a slower runner I know when the field is small I’m going to be near the rear. On top of that it was already hot and sunny, which was not going to bode well for anyone – fast or slow.
Similar to my routine at the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K, I drank a 5 Hour Energy shot prior to race start. I can’t say it gave me an incredible amount of energy this time, again with my nerves, and also because I was not running with that – first race comeback feeling that was so strong only a few weeks prior. Lastly, on race morning I woke up to find that the battery on my Timex Ironman Sleek 50 Watch had died.
There was a pre-race warmup advertised for the event. And the event was also described as a “Healthy Living Event.” I did not observe anything to indicate the former or the latter – besides the race itself. My husband did say there was a special discount on YMCA membership fees for those who were running the race.
Runners lined up in the street. In a few minutes we were off at 8 a.m. with the sound of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ playing in the background. I was at the back of the pack, which was fine. There was a chip start and chip finish. Plus with the smaller field, and my modest goals, I didn’t feel a strong need to dodge in and among runners to gain a lead.
Mile 1: The first (and last miles) were the most scenic of the race. The route was similar to other downtown races in that we ran past FirstEnergy Stadium – Home of the Cleveland Browns. Race-day the route did change a bit and I missed the announcement explaining why. Overall the course was similar to what was advertised. There was a volunteer at Mile 1 and my time was 10:50 which was a great 10K pace for me – had I been able to maintain it.
Mile 2: The heat and sun became increasingly apparent. I realized this race was likely not a PR race for anyone – unless it was their first 10K ever. I didn’t enjoy squinting but I knew the out and back course would move the sun to my back. It was better to have the sun on my face now, I thought. There was one water stop at this time and another volunteer. My time was 22:12 – still respectable.
Mile 3: My attitude began to decline and the heat and sun really started to wear on me. Usually I get excited around the halfway point of a race but another 3 miles seemed awful. We were running down North Marginal Road and there was a lot of nothing to look at. Eventually I began to see the lead runners as they had hit the turn and were heading back. Usually this excites me but I didn’t have the energy to cheer them on or wave.
Mile 4: At this point I was desperate for another water stop. It came just before the Mile 4 marker. There were only two water stops on the course and I used both. I walked this stop for a good 20 yards or so. I was now on South Marginal Road and had begun to encounter hills. There was still a lot of nothing to look at – although I could now see downtown to my left. Of note, there were port-o-pots along the course (located in the parking lots along the road) which was maybe an unplanned perk. There was another volunteer here. My time was 45:50.
Mile 5: At this point I became a little angry and wanted to know why there were only two water stops in a 10K race in July in full sun. I really wanted the race to be done. My goals were now to not walk or stop – and to hopefully beat my dead last 10K time. There were more hills.
Mile 6: More hills! Might as well go for broke! I continued to “run” them although I’m positive I did not look like a runner at this point. Finally the hills ended and I was back in the city streets of downtown.
Here’s a video of me crossing the finish line:
The end of the race brought me back past The Galleria at Erieview and the race ended in an alley on the north side of the building. I barely had the strength to pick up my pace for the last .2 miles. I did pass one runner at the end. My husband and daughter were at the finish line cheering me on. I looked at the clock and saw I could get in under 1:14 so I did. Fortunately, this was 3 minutes faster than my last 10K.
I was handed a finisher’s medal after crossing the finish line. I had to walk and pace a bit after the finish before I could stomach any water. There were bananas and breakfast bars for post-race fare. I saw those who had finished before me and they looked equally spent.
I would pick the Firecracker 10K over my dead last disaster four years ago. However, seeing as the field for the Firecracker 10K has declined in the past three years I have a feeling that many that have run this race before had the same feeling I did – that I would prefer to not run it again.
The 10K distance is still really my favorite. I just haven’t found my favorite 10K in Cleveland yet. With the course being full sun (well 95 percent sun), having a lack of scenery and hills on the back half – I think I’ll be passing on the Firecracker 10K next year.