Wednesday, July 16, 2008


On the 4th of July, my friends Mark and Amber went with me to the small town of Paxton to race the 5k held in conjuction with their Old Fashioned 4th of July Festival. Last year, we all raced in Champaign's Freedom 5k, but it's not actually 5k. The course has been notoriously short for years after someone moved the turnaround cone because the parade had lined up a block early; the problem has apparently never been fixed. I emailed back and forth with the race directors a bit and got no satisfactory information that the race would be a properly measured distance. It turns out it was again short, so I'm glad we bailed on it. Instead, we went to Paxton and had a fabulous time.

It was bound to be a good day when we found out that instead of t-shirts we would get visors, which Mark and I call our Freedom Visors. For some crazy reason, Amber declined this piece of American heritage. Mark and I took a ton of pictures in our Freedom Visors, the whole set of which can be found here.

The race course was an out-and-back with a bit of a rise on the way back. Some high school kids went out with us from the start and I went through the mile at 5:14. The guy next to me looked like he was hurting, so I decided I'd wait until the turn-around and then drop the hammer. I came out of the turn strong (my second mile was still significantly slower) and dropped him off my shoulder, but he never really dropped off hard like I expected him to. I picked the 3rd mile up and still never shook him more than about 20 seconds. I came through in 16:49, a result which I was happy enough with considering I hadn't taken the race too seriously leading up to it and considering that I definitely could have run harder. The kid who'd run stronger than I expected hung second while Mark took 3rd. Amber was the first female finishers.

The race gave $75 gift certificates to our local running store, Body N' Sole, to the top three male and female finishers, so we all finished in the money. The second picture here shows Mark relishing his entry into the ranks of professional runners (as you'll remember, loyal reader, I became a professional last year). We goofed around kissing our wares and the final picture shows the two race champions.

If you're interested in my email exchange with the race directors of the Freedom 5k, it's detailed below; the last email was so unintelligible, that I just gave up trying to understand it and scheduled the trip to Paxton instead. (I think maybe he was trying to say he walked it with a wheel...except everybody who ran it this year said it was short; and nobody likes to admit their time was too fast.)


Will the 5K course be accurately measured to five kilometers this year? The course last year was most definitely not 5 kilometers and I have been told that the race distance has not been accurate for many years. Will the course be properly measured this year? I plan to run the 5k, but only if the distance will be accurate.

Thank you,
Greg Scott


Hi Greg,
The Freedom Celebration Committee is unaware of any error in the distance of the 5K run. The distance was originally measured by a licensed land surveyor and has not changed. What is the source of your information?
[Race Director 1]


Greg, The Freedom 5 K course is a true 5k, done by a couple of offical surveyor's. One year on course setup, the turnaround was incorrectly
moved 1 block forward, which made the course a little short. I'm not exactly sure which year. or if this happened more than once. Thanks, [Race Director 2]
Second Wind Race Director.


Hi [Race Director 1 and Race Director 2],

Thanks for your responses. The story that I have heard from lots of local runners is that of the turnaround being moved a block forward, but that it has never been returned to normal, being setup every year as "that's where the cone goes." All of the guys in my running group are in agreement that the race has been short for several years and everyone who magically got a 5k PR during a hot 11am race over the past few years has recorded the race as ~3 miles in their running logs. I would be simply amazed if I ran a 15:57 last year as the results indicate (and Scott mispelled in the results) was quoted in the News Gazette talking about how surprised he was that he ran that fast so early in the training cycle. I went through the mile in 5:06 last year and hit the 2-mile mark at 4:38 after making a conscious decision to let the lead pack go because I realized I wouldn't be able to hold the pace without falling apart. Perhaps the 2 mile marker was just in the wrong place, but it would be consistent with an early turnaround and the miraculously fast times that seasoned, consistent runners post at the race.

When was the last time the course was measured? It sounds like it was when the surveyors did the original measurement (it's interesting to note that the original method used is not acceptable for USATF course certification). I know you make no claim that the course is USATF certifcation, but I think the axiom used in the introduction to that manual still holds true that 'If an entry fee is charged for a road race, runners have a right to a properly measured course." I obviously don't expect you to go out and buy the special bike setup for measuring this course, but considering the inconsistency between "the course has never changed" and "it may have happened more the once," I think it would be nice to know that somebody went out and walked the tangents with a measuring wheel.



Greg, That's good because the last couple of weeks I used a wheel (ChampaignCentennial's) to make sure the turnaround as at proper stop. There were pins instreet, but those where covered up when Lincoln Ave. was changed to 3 lanes.I should have remarked at that time. Pins are still at Start and Finish, [Race Director 2]

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Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting the letters about the 5k distance. I ran the Freedom 5k the past two years, and both years I scored a PR there. This year I broke 19:00 (18:48), and my training times did not indicate I was capable of this (at least not yet).

The one positive thing I can take from this race is I ran it 30 seconds faster than last year - so, I am still making progress.

I enjoy reading about your races, you are one of the better runners in the area.

Take care,

James W.

Greg said...

James, thanks for the comment. I ran with Andy Derks on Sunday and asked him how short he thought the race was this year and he said he'd heard numbers between 3.02 and 3.05 mi. At least the race seems to have been consistently short for the past several years, so I think it's definitely fair to chalk up the improvement from year to year as a victory. Your running has improved markedly since I first ran with you on the track two years ago. The Freedom 5k has a lot going for it with a big crowd and some solid runners who show up for it; it's just a darned shame they can't measure the course accurately.

Lori Northcraft said...

you have entirely too much time on your hands. Maybe you could ride your bike to Atlanta (or whatever state in which I happen to be residing) and tune up my bike or sew patches on my backpack. P.S. I hope you don't wear that visor around Illinois' campus