The MeStrong 5K in Deland, Florida, is a huge small town race put on by a local cancer charity and fund-raising group. The 2021 event, converted to virtual, would have been the 10th event. The organizers wanted to end on a high note, deciding that ten years of MeStrong 5K races was enough, so they dubbed this edition the "Victory Lap", proclaiming it to be the final MeStrong 5K.
The popular race goes through the streets of and around downtown Deland. The 3.1 mile course is lined with spectators, cheer zones, volunteers, and refreshment stations. During this year's event there were at least 5 private stands offering adult beverages, and several other groups offered snacks and treats to participants. Local businesses and student organizations from Stetson University cheer the runners along with live bands and other groups.
Training & Goals
Back in July, persistent but manageable knee pain became acute. I've been working on mitigating the pain with stretching and strength training, while also trying to get back into running shape and losing a bunch of COVID weight. Since the beginning of the year, I've been very slowly adding short running intervals into 3x weekly walks. By race day, I was up to a ratio of 1 minute running and 90 seconds of walking. For this race, I figured I would probably walk the entire course. I had completed a long 7 mile run the day prior and didn't want to hurt myself. If I ended up feeling okay and running a little bit, that would be okay too.
Race Day: February 5, 2022
My packet already picked up ahead of race day, all I had to do was find a parking spot on race morning, and find my running club for our group photo.
Before the race began, organizers spoke to the crowd, and the mayor of Deland gave out some keys to the city, including to MLB pitcher and Deland hometown hero Jacob deGrom of the Mets. DeGrom waved a checkered flag to mark the start of the race.
It took me about 3 minutes to cross the start line in the sea of participants. It was a cool 59°F at the start with gloomy overcast skies. I had been waiting to get going with some run club mates, but as we started shuffling forward I lost them in the mingling crowd and ended up on the course alone (typical Amy anyway).
Mile 1: 15:43
It was super congested at the start. Without thinking I started slow jogs during my usual run segments, and kept them up for the whole race for the most part. If it got too crowded, I would slow to a walk rather than try to weave around. I also slowed to a walk at the water stop.
Mile 2: 14:41
A memorial stretch of the race where yard signs memorializing those who fought, lost, or won battles with cancer was extremely emotional. The rest of the course was just so much fun, with bands and musicians playing live music, cheer squads from Stetson Greek houses, local businesses, and homeowners.
Mile 3+: 13:57, 1:44
I didn't even see that I had such negative splits until much later. Nice.
MeStrong takes over downtown Deland with sponsor booths and food and drink vendors. A lot of shops and restaurants opened early for the runners. The after party is pretty legendary! I looked at a few of the booths but started to feel super anxious in the huge crowd. I cheered on some of the later runners but ended up leaving after a short while.
I think there are hopes that some organization might take over the MeStrong mantle, but otherwise this well-organized race series definitely ended on a high note. If MeStrong comes back, I'm sure the support will as well.
Chip time: 46:01
Placement details: 72/210 in age group, 1380/3728 overall
Race Amenities: Nice cotton race shirt, super course with lots of support and a great cause. No race medals.
Race branded photos (c) Almost There Photography
Silly selfie photo (c) Marieann Bannan