5k race recap: Happy Half and 5k


Let’s start this one off with a question: when can you consider yourself a runner?

For me, the answer is simple: if you run you are a runner. What else are you? My wife, Julie, who runs a couple of times a week, stops short of calling herself a runner. She’s in denial – all the symptoms are there.

Case in point: When I asked Julie what she wanted to do on her birthday weekend she said get up early to drive an hour-and-a-half to run a 5k race. Who does that?

Runners do.

Though a little suspicious this might be a trick I quickly answered with a ‘let’s do this’ and we were in. I’ve been itching to run a fast 5k for a while and this was going to fit the bill.

Julie doesn’t race much – that’s not really what it’s about for her – but she gets the bug every once in a while. The Happy Half and 5k at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY, with its unicorn medal and nice-lookin’ T-Shirt was one such bug.

We ran the EVL Half Marathon in Ellicottville last October so we knew this a going to be a lot of fun. It was – and despite the rain and cold that rolled in the morning of May 12 we both were running for PBs. Yes, both of us. Another classic symptom.

I was so dialled in to run sub-16 – this was going to be the race. I started off well enough, running by the feel of the effort. It was too fast a start (I think the split was about 3 minutes for that first click) but I was trying to get into my rhythm early.

Plus, the first kilometre was downhill so I wasn’t too concerned. It made sense to me to just fly down that hill and take advantage of the momentum. Then, as the course leveled out I could ease into my actual race pace without a huge shift in effort. It did not work out the way I thought it would.

The first 1k was fast. The second was so-so; slower than I expected but I was still on pace for sub-16. It was out-of-reach by the time I hit 3k – I was working hard but hurting and losing seconds. So frustrating because I really felt fit.

4K was just around 13:25 and I thought if I could finish strong I could stay under 17.


I died on the last hill. The course was an out-and-back and the hill we started on was the one we finished on. I had a strong hold on second overall and made up a few seconds on first place but I hit that point on that hill that all that mattered was just not stopping. I got to the finish but it wasn’t pretty.

I was back to life again pretty quickly after the race and planted myself at the finish line to watch for Julie and cheer in the runners. Also cheered in friends from the St. Catharines Road Runners and Walkers.

So proud of Julie who totally rocked the 5k. She ran a 28:30 which was a few seconds off her 5k PB – but this one was definitely a more challenging course than her first 5k race.

Julie stops short of calling herself a runner but the symptoms are there: willingly wakes up early to drive an hour-and-a-half to run a 5k race in the rain for a T-Shirt and a shiny metal object. And, she’ll be doing it again for a 10k race in a few weeks.

Sorry Julie, you are one of us now.

How ‘grape’ was it?

4.2 grapes out of 5

Organization – 4

Informative website, race director responded to emails promptly, clear directions, race didn’t start on time.

Course – 3

Starts and finishes in a parking lot, followspaved roads, clearly marked.

Medal/freebies – 5

Cool medal and shirt, two beer tickets, free lunch with lots of options (burgers, meatball subs, mac and cheese, etc.)

Amenities – 5

Pre and post-race mingling in the Holiday Valley lodge, indoor washrooms, lots of parking, bananas, cookies, chips, water, pop and other snacks.

Value – 4

Great fun, age group winners received a free beer glass, overall winners received a gift card and free race entry for next year.

Got to run,


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