Now in its 5th year, the West End St Patty’s Day 5k is a festive, fun-filled, flat and fast 5k through the West End of Allentown. The race benefits the West End Alliance, a not-for-profit organization of neighbors and merchants dedicated toward the continued emergence of Allentown’s West End Theatre District. I’m fortunate to know the Race Director, Michael Drabenstott, and since Michael is a runner, I knew that this would be a quality event – a race for runners by a runner. I was scheduled to run it last year, but a nagging IT Band injury kept me sidelined, so this would be my first time running what’s come to be known as one of the Lehigh Valley’s favorite and largest 5k’s
As anybody who has done more than a few races knows, having good amenities at a race of any distance can make a big difference both in your performance and in your overall impression of the event. It definitely comes into play during the colder months when the last thing you want to do is wait for the race start in the elements.
To that end the St. Patty’s Day 5k really delivered. Having access to Muhlehberg College’s Memorial Hall provided a warm place to gather both pre- and post-race. Check-in was well staffed and the volunteers were cheery, helpful and very knowledgeable. Warm bathrooms and a well-run bag check were two other really nice offerings. Another awesome bonus was the fact that the hall was next door to Muhlenberg’s track. This provided me with an awesome place to warm-up and cool-down. Sure I could have done both on the road, but when you have nice facilities accessible why not use them?
The post-race spread was really nice as well. There was an assortment of fruit, cookies sandwich wraps (including a all veggie option) and chips. It was actually one of the nicer 5k spreads that I’ve seen.
The race began on the Muhlenberg College campus in front of Memorial Hall and followed the same route as Allentown’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This translated into running on well-maintained city streets in a very residential area of the city with lots of built-in green clad, adult-beverage powered, crowd support. It also meant that other than a gradual incline up Tilghman Street (if you can call it that) this course was pretty darn flat (at least compared to what I regularly train on) and begging to be run fast. With a lot of local Allentown PD and fire police support to keep things safe and moving, the course was extremely well marked and very easy to negotiate.
Weather in mid-March is always a mixed-bag and despite having snow the day prior to the race, the weather cooperated pretty well. At the start it was around 32° F, mostly cloudy with peeks of sun and breezy. Granted it wasn’t as warm as in years past, but I prefer running in cooler weather so the conditions were ideal to me.
If memory serves me correctly, I believe that Michael said that there were a little over 600 registered runners. And based on my review of the results list, a little over 500 actually ran the race. I’ve been told that, especially when weather is questionable, you can expect to see a 10-15% difference between the two numbers and this appeared to be consistent. The Lehigh Valley really is an awesome place to run because we have such a talented running community. And for those who are unfamiliar with the area, we’re also home to Rodale, publishers of Runner’s World and Running Times magazines (to name just a few). That means that it’s not uncommon to spot your favorite editor or author toeing the line at a local race. The St. Pat’s race attracted at least two Runner’s World columnists: Mark Remy, Editor at Large and author of the Remy’s World column and RW Gear Editor Jeff Dengate. I’m sure there were plenty of other local notables, they were just two that I immediately recognized.
Another place that you can always tell whether or not the RD was thinking about the runners was in the selection of what they gave you as a reminder of the race. T-shirts are pretty standard. Pint glasses or beer mugs less so. Runner’s were given the choice of either a quality cotton t-shirt that had the race logo on the front and a tasteful amount of sponsors on the back or a really nice glass beer mug. I opted for the t-shirt when I registered but decided to pick-up the mug at the race because who can’t use another beer mug? And I can’t overlook the bibs…perhaps one of the most fun aspects of the race! Everybody received a bib with their proper Irish name…whether you were Irish or not. It really is all of the little details that make a big difference.
I was originally writing this to summarize my race day experience and performance but it quickly turned out to be more of a race review. So instead of sharing my time, I’ll share the winning male and female times below. If you’re so inclined you can view the full results on the Pretzel City Sports website.
- Top-3 Male
- Jeff Dengate – Emmaus, PA – 17:31
- Philip Rector – Hellertown, PA – 17:40
- Jeffrey Karwacki – Allentown, PA – 17:41
- Top-3 Female
- Lisa Boyle – Allentown, PA – 20:04
- Tracy McFillin – Allentown, PA – 20:29
- Michele Belisle – Wescosville, PA – 20:48
Course Records: Male – Nick Birosik (2009) 16:11; Female – Amanda Daws (2012) 18:06
Great amenities, a fast and well supported course, good weather, nice swag, a fun environment and for a good cause. I don’t think you can ask for much more from a race. The St Pat’s 5k will stay on my race calendar for years to come. If you haven’t raced it yet, I highly recommend it. Just remember registration fills-up fast so don’t wait too long.