As I planned my race calendar for the year, I wanted to be sure to include a number of holiday races. Racing has become one of the ways we celebrate, but I wondered if there was any difference or how these fit in with the celebration on the holidays. First up on the calendar was the Fourth of July and the Four on the Fourth race in Carrboro.
Fourth of July Races
Running USA reported that nearly 300,000 runners participated in 485 races on the Fourth of July in 2015. It’s an impressive number, though way behind participation in Thanksgiving and Halloween races. Not surprising given the fact that it occurs in the heat of summer.
I have fond memories of running races on the Fourth of July. When I was about eight, I ran my first race in the one mile fun run at Freedom Fest in downtown Shelby, North Carolina. I didn’t train for it or have any experience running (other than the 360-yard run/walk as a part of the presidential fitness test in elementary school). I think the only reason we did it was because my dad wanted to run the race and the only way it would work was if my brother and I ran as well. I remember little about the race, except the feeling of pride I had after crossing the finish.
In college, the only race I ran was the Peach Tree Road Race in Atlanta when I happened to be in town for the Fourth and the people I visited had a system to get extra bibs by volunteering pre-race. That was my first 10k, and I remember feeling great about completing a longer run than I ever had before.
While the Fourth of July is a major holiday, the individual celebrations tend to blur together for me. I can remember experiencing fireworks or a cookout, but can’t tell you when they occurred. I will remember the two Fourths (so far) when I ran races, though.
Four on the Fourth
This year my in-laws were in town for the Fourth of July, so Andrea and I looked for a race we could run together without the kids. We settled on the Cardinal Track Club’s Four on the Fourth race in Carrboro.
This is a simple race: no t-shirts (though we did get a nice bottle opener keychain), no finisher’s medals. The course starts and ends at McDougle Middle School and winds for four miles through the surrounding neighborhoods towards downtown Carrboro. There isn’t anything particularly special about the scenery, though Andrea and I lived in this area after college so it held some nostalgic value for us. The course is mostly flat, with a few gentle hills to break things up.
It rained lightly as we waited for the start, cooling things off. At the front of the crowd, the elite runners did their strides out and back. A woman behind me talked about how the neighborhood swim team stressed her out (preach it sister). Some people wore America themed outfits, but not as many as I expected. It was a comfortable crowd, and made it easy to relax.
We counted down to the start and headed out. The pack quickly thinned, and I settled into a pace making the turn into the neighborhoods. This was a quiet race. Few cars passed by; only pockets of spectators were out to cheer. As most of the course was in bike lanes we ran more in a line than in groups for miles two and three.
In the third mile we turned back into the neighborhoods near McDougle, and I ran more in a group. I passed some people and had others go by me. I felt good about my pace and tried to keep it up. Being steady let me play rabbit for some high school cross country runners, I think; we passed a coach yelling encouragement to them to pass me and catch their teammates ahead (I held off most of them, though).
The fourth mile finishes on the track at McDougle, which I like. It lets you see who is ahead, by how much, and whether they have a kick or not. If you have anything left it’s easier to break it into 100m chunks and make a final push. I had a good race to the line with another guy, and felt good about the effort. Afterwards, I grabbed a couple of watermelon slices (popsicles and watermelon slices are two of the best things about summer races) and headed over to wait for Andrea at the entrance to the track. I cheered for other runners as they came through, and then walked over to meet Andrea at the finish line.
Taking it All In
We hung around for a few minutes and then headed up the stairs to the parking lot, turning back to survey the scene. People talking, kids playing in the sprinklers in action on the football field, and the final runners working around the track to their finish. It felt warm.
On the way to breakfast we checked in our goals. I wanted to keep a pace at or below seven minutes a mile, and I wanted to hold a consistent pace through the race. I accomplished both and felt good about how my race had gone. Andrea wanted to finish in under forty minutes. She came in well under her goal time. We had a good discussion afterwards about whether or not she could have run faster. We enjoyed the time together without the kids and this bridge in our holiday between the fireworks the night before and the cook-out later that afternoon.
We could have done a lot of things that morning, but it was nice to be out in the community with others doing something fun and positive in a laid back atmosphere. I don’t know that running has any special significance on a holiday like the Fourth, except that it is a time we set aside to come together as family, friends, and community and running gives us a chance to share and celebrate something we enjoy together. The simplicity of this race heightened this feeling, and was nice. We weren’t there for the swag or the medals. We were there for the run.
For more of a logistics take, check out the review.