I've always felt a kinship with refugees, given my family history, which I've written about in an earlier installment of this blog. The families must work hard to establish themselves in their new American home, which is often very distant from their countries of origin, not only in miles but also in culture. The older generation makes great personal sacrifices, so that their children can enjoy the American dream. That was definitely the case for my grandparents Rudolf and Elizabeth Kefer, who were stateless at the end of World War II. They had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States in 1950 through my great-uncle Ed Zamola. As a child, I remember how hard my grandparents worked, so that my mother Cecilie and my aunt Mira, who were ages 14 and 16 when they arrived, could put the horrors of the war behind them, and rebuild their lives in the United States.
|At the entrance to town on Ponce de Leon Avenue, driving west from Tucker|
Metro Atlanta is home to immigrants and refugees from virtually all parts of the world. The city of Clarkston shares a border with our town of Tucker, along the Stone Mountain Freeway, and has become home to many refugee immigrants to Georgia. One of my Chem 222 students this semester, a business major with career interests in medicine, works with the Emory Impact Investing Group, which makes small loans to support new business ventures in Clarkston. You may have heard of Lost Boys of Sudan, some of whom were resettled in Clarkston, or the Fugees soccer team, or the Fugees Academy, a school for refugee children who have been unable to attend school due to war or displacement prior to arriving in Georgia. I'm reminded that my mother could not attend school for three years during World War II, when children her age would have been in elementary school.
|logo on the race T-shirt|
Earlier this month, Priscilla Hammond in the Tucker Running Club told us about the Refuge Coffee Run. Although I'm running another 5K race tomorrow, Priscilla told us that we could still register for the race on Thursday, and I decided to sign up, as the race was close to home. Several other Tucker Running Club members also registered. Last year 278 runners finished the race, and I heard that the year before, it was even smaller. But today there were quite a few more people waiting to start (587 finishers!). I had arrived early enough so that I waited less than 10 minutes at bib pickup, but as the 9 am start time for the race approached, quite a few people were still in line for their bibs, so the start was delayed for about 20 minutes. While we waited to begin, a member of the Tucker City Council took the photo below.
|Four of the Tucker Running Club representatives:|
(l-to-r) Robin Mitchell, me, Lindy Liu, and Priscilla Hammond.
Robin won the female masters title this morning,
and I believe that Lindy set a personal record!
After warming up for a couple of miles in a short-sleeved T-shirt, I ran back to the car to apply some sunscreen and to change into the Tucker Running Club singlet for the first time this season. The temperature was beginning to rise and the sun was feeling warm as it rose into the cloudless sky. As we gathered for the start, there were so many runners that we did not all fit in the space between the start-finish line and the booths for the festival to follow the race! Some of the runners had to gather to the right of the start, and join in after those of us near the front had cleared the start-finish line. Fortunately I had taken a spot along with the other Tucker runners in the photo about 50 feet behind the starting line, and hopefully none of the faster runners were impacted.
|I started my watch a few seconds before crossing the starting point.|
With the soundtrack to AC/DC's anthem "Thunderstruck" pumping us up, we counted down to the start, a trumpeter blew his horn, and we took off, crossing Ponce de Leon Avenue and the railroad track that passes through the center of Clarkston. The first few blocks were fairly crowded, but once we reached Norman Road, I reached my target pace, just under 8 min/mile. In fact I was probably moving faster than that, as the first half-mile was downhill, until we reached a small lake in the middle of town. I was careful to run easily, knowing that I would have to run back uphill at some point to return to the start-finish line. The one-mile mark was in front of Jolly Elementary School, after which we tuned into the neighborhood for a moment, then back onto Otello Avenue heading north. The second mile seemed to be mostly uphill - was happy to confirm that when I checked my Garmin results afterwards - but I took shorter strides and managed to keep up with most of the others. I took a short walk break at a water stop shortly before the 2-mile marker. After the water stop, we left the street and moved onto the PATH Foundation trail, a concrete and asphalt walkway that begins in downtown Atlanta and extends (with a few unfortunate breaks) to the base of Stone Mountain, 19 miles to the east. The trail was nicely shaded and I picked up a little speed. It helped that we were past the highest point of the race and on a gentle downhill section.
In the last half-mile of the race, I began to feel a bit tired. I was running by myself for much of this section, unable to gain on some runners about 50 feet ahead, but not being passed. I could see a few blocks ahead the intersection where we turned right to return to Refuge Coffee. Although it helped that the volunteers were cheering us on, my race pace began to go downhill as the final section of the race went uphill. Then as we turned right, crossing the railroad tracks, a young man raced past on my right. I tried to accelerate, then another young man passed, also on my right. The volunteers were encouraging us to finish as strongly as possible. I didn't manage to catch up with the guys that passed me near the end, but they did spur me on to finish a bit faster than I would have on my own. I saw 25:03 on the clock as I reached the finish line. Knowing that I had started about 15 seconds after the official start, and had also started my watch some seconds before crossing the starting mat, I was very happy to have broken 25 minutes on a warm morning.
A volunteer was handing out medals - but she was standing so close to the finish line that I had not slowed down enough - I barely managed to grab the medal while gasping "Thank you". It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realized that the medal was on a small circle of wood, onto which was pasted a section of a map, showing the place of origin of one of the refugees involved with the race. S/he was from the border area of Russia near eastern Ukraine, near Rostov-on-Don. After the race, there was a generous selection of fruit, water, ice coffee, donuts, and pastries. I will neither deny nor confirm that a donut may have been consumed.
|A unique finishers medal!|
I was pleasantly surprised to see the official result, where I finished 47th out of 587 finishers, although I certainly thought that there were many more people ahead of me in the first mile of the race. I was 8th among 63 male masters, and 3rd of 8 in the 50-54 age group. The chip time of 24:51, while not one of my fastest times, was certainly under my goal of 25 minutes. I was delighted to have run each mile within 12 seconds of the 8:00 min / mile pace. The mayor of Clarkston, Ted Terry, finished in 22:38 - but he was in the 30-34 age group.
|I wonder if I will ever run a 5K in 22:58?|
I will definitely run this race again. Although the atmosphere was relaxed, as typical for fundraisers, the route was USATF certified and was a legitimate 5K distance. The route was well-protected by police and volunteers, as we ran mostly along quiet residential streets or the PATH Foundation trail.