Race Recap by Heidi Finiff
February 19, 2011
A few months ago I got a Facebook event invite to a 5K. This wasn’t your run of the mill road 5K. It was going to be underground in a mine. I knew immediately that this was a race I just had to do. I don’t really run many 5Ks anymore. I’m barely warmed up when the race is over. And my super speedy days are long behind me. But come on when have you ever seen a 5K in a mine? I had to do it. I sent in my registration right away.
The race is held in Wampum, PA. It is in a limestone mine that is now being used as a underground storage facility. The company that owns the mine is The Gateway Commerce Center. It was an easy drive from Cleveland. The race also has a late start time of 11:00am. I got there for packet pick up pretty early. Like most 5Ks the race shirt was your standard cotton t-shirt. I had friends, Sandi Wethington and Tim Vincent, coming in from Cincinnati to join me. We met up at the entrance of the mine where they had registration.
Before the race everyone warmed up inside the mine. The entrance and first ½ mile or so into the mine looks pretty clean. They paved the ground and painted the walls. And it’s very bright. Lots of lights. There are offices up front too. It was a perfect place for pre and post race activities. Warming up for the race I saw several familiar NEO running friends including Jim Christ and Jim Chaney. As race time approached they ushered us down a tunnel toward the starting line. This race sold out with 500 runners lining up at the start.
At the start of the race it was paved for about ¼ of a mile. Then surprisingly the pavement, painted walls, and bright lights ended! The ground was now gravel, walls were dark rock, and lights were much dimmer. Now it was a TRAIL RACE!!!!! I was loving it. I’m not sure if all the road runners felt the same way. The course had a lot of left and right hand turns. It was a lot of fun seeing the runners who were ahead of you pass by after a turn. And then you would see runners behind you as they come into the turn you just went through. One of the amazing things about this mine is what they store down there. There were huge RVs, boats, trailers, trucks, cars. The temperature is always between 50 and 55 degrees down there. I even saw an ice cream truck. So between the turns and checking out the vehicles and the runners the race went by really fast. And for there being 500 people in the race it didn’t feel very crowded. The tunnels through the mine were really wide. And when you looked around the mine looked like a huge honeycomb. It had the huge pillars of rock which hold up the ceiling. But between the pillars you can either see through to the next lane. Or it was a closed space like a cell stuffed with a RV or camper. Before I knew it we met back up with the pavement and the finish line was approaching. They have you finish just outside the mine at the entrance.
The race was extremely well organized. It was chipped timed. And following the race they had pizza, fruit, and Eat N’ Park Smiley Face Cookies. The awards were very nice. They were wooden plaques with a Limestone rock attached. Sandi Wethington placed 2nd in the 40-44 age group. And Jim Chaney placed 21st Overall for 3rd in the age group 45-49. I would definitely say this was one worth checking out. How often can you say you get the opportunity to run a race underground?