The 30A 10K is ranked one of the top five Thanksgiving Day races in America. In addition to a 10K, the event features a 5K and 1 mile fun run. Each race consists of a simple out and back route that puts runners on the scenic 30A highway that stretches along the Florida coast from Panama City Beach to Sandestin. After holding a virtual event in 2020, due to COVID-19, the race was back on in-person for its 2021 edition and better than ever as it was celebrating it 10th anniversary. My pain cave of choice this year was the 10K. In 2019, I had competed in the race after learning about it sort of last minute and just a months after our twin boys were born. After a somewhat disappointing race time for me of 38:32, I really wanted to return to the race and do it better. For the 2021 edition, I was in a good place with my training as I was to compete in an ultramarathon the next week and felt much more prepared to run this year. My goal was to set a FKT (Fastest Known Time) for myself by running my fastest ever 10K by breaking the 36-minute barrier.
With a 7:30am start time I was up around 6am and immediately threw on my running clothes and began taking in a few cups of water to get my body started. Thankfully, it was a quiet morning with little need to rush as our kids were sound asleep and since my family had rented a house in the 30A area, it was only a short 5-minute walk to the start line. For fuel, as I don’t like running on a full stomach, I munched on a granola bar for sustenance and began prepping my mind for the run ahead. I felt confident that I could run my goal pace of 5:47 per mile which would put me at a 35:59 finish time. Arriving to the race with plenty of time for me to begin my warm-up routine I took a light jog and did some dynamic stretching. The temperature was in the low 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so the warm-up was well received by my slightly shivering muscles. With five minutes to go, I began navigating the long line of runners that were beginning to mass towards the starting arch. From my experience in 2019, I knew that I wanted to be as close to the front as possible. At about a minute to go the DJ cut short the music. With the soundtrack to Rocky still lingering in my ears the race director began the countdown, “Runners take your mark, GO!”. We were off! I took a strategy out of my old high school running days and went out for the first 150 meters at a brisk pace to get out in front and establish a good position. In less than a minute the field was stretched out in a single file line.
Counting the runners in the distance, I was in 7th place. At about a half mile I checked my Garmin watch (Forerunner 235) and saw that I was running a bit under goal pace at 5:39, I backed off of the gas a little and settled into my target pace and decided to run my own race and not worry about the runners ahead. The race is a simple out and back course starting from Barrett Square at Rosemary Beach and heading West for 3.1 miles along 30A. Besides a few rolling hills the course is mostly flat and with the highway being closed to traffic for the duration of the race, it lends itself to fast running. At 2 miles in, I was beginning to feel the strain of the run but knew from my training that my body shouldn’t be feeling any discomfort yet. It was more mental than anything, I counted my breaths stretched my arms, and focused on pulling my legs up, keeping a steady cadence and staying upright. Gradually, my heart rate came back down and I was good to go until the next mile split. Coming up on the 5K turnaround point, I slipped past two other runners and locked myself into 5th place. The turnaround point was what I like to call a dead turn, runners had to circle around a lone traffic cone in the middle of the highway and pack it in for the second half of the race. The turnaround point was a point of concern for me as historically, sharp turns present a momentum crushing opportunity. I circled the cone as fast as I could then buried my head to get back up to speed. After about a minute I checked my watch, 5:45, still on pace and feeling good. Mile 3 to 4 felt pretty good but as soon as I hit mile 4 to 5 my mind began playing tricks on me and start giving me signals that it wanted to be done. As Jens Voight would say “Shut up legs!”. I knew that I was falling off the pace a bit and after the majority of the mile split being at almost 6 minutes I picked up the pace and knocked 8 seconds off to finish the mile in 5:52. I think the only reason I was able to sustain the pace here was all of the other runners that were heading out to the turnaround point. That is one of the reasons I enjoy out and back races because everyone has an opportunity to see the entire field. The steady stream of cheering and good vibes that I received from the rest of the field was heartwarming.
However, even with all of their cheers, the last mile would be make or break. I began trying to push as hard as I could manage and maintain somewhat of a good stride. As I began to enter into the final mile, I could make out the finishing arch ahead of me and the crowds of people along the route began to grow larger. My mind went blank and the only thing that I could think about was getting to that inflatable banner. At the time, my body didn’t really feel too worse for wear. However, my legs, since they hadn’t seen that many speed workouts in training were really beginning to want to slow it down. I clicked off my last mile at 5:45, just hanging on. With that, I figured overall I was about even with my goal pace of 5:47 or at least close to it, to be sure though I pushed on the gas even more. I felt like I wasn’t going very fast at the time but after looking back at my data I was averaging a 5:12 mile pace for that last .2 miles. That last .2 miles of a 10K which is the most difficult part of a 10K in my opinion and often much longer than you think. As I came bumbling up to the line, the crowd disappeared and my eyes lasered in on the ticking race clock at the finish, I could see the seconds increasing ever closer to the 36 minute mark and as I crossed the line I wasn’t completely sure if I had accomplished my goal. I stopped my Garmin just after crossing the finish line and it was right at 36 minutes flat, so I felt confident I had done it but had to wait until the official results were in.
Check out my Mile Splits below:
After the race, I waited around the finish line with my kids as the rest of the family came pouring in. Once reunited, we all checked in on our official race times that had been posted by the announcers tent. I saw my name five spots down from the top of the list at 35 minutes and 58 seconds! It was a great feeling to know that I had set a goal, trained for it, and executed my plan on race day. This race was the first time in several years that I was able to run this fast for this long and was a 10K record for me. It’s amazing to be back! From the race we all went back to our beach house to enjoy a relaxing Thanksgiving Day and rest our sore but happy bodies. Overall, the 10K was a success and although it was difficult while I was doing it and there were times I wanted to slow down it was so worth it to finish and feel that I had pushed my body to its limit that day. With the 30A 10K in the books, I look forward to the next challenge and am excited to continue training, racing, and getting better.
To see what I am up to next check out my Races and Events calendar.