To her surprise, La Jolla Light reporter goes for a run in her first 5K at La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Light reporter Ashley Mackin-Solomon celebrates crossing the finish line of the La Jolla Shores 5K.
La Jolla Light reporter Ashley Mackin-Solomon celebrates crossing the finish line of the La Jolla Shores 5K.
(Provided by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Reporter’s Notebook: ‘While I knew I would never be first ... I no longer wanted to be last,’ Ashley Mackin-Solomon writes.


In the years I have been covering the La Jolla Half Marathon and La Jolla Shores 5K for the La Jolla Light, one thought has always occurred to me as I looked at the runners: You will never see me do that.

I say that with admiration for those who embark on such a run. I am not a runner — never have been. I was the kid who walked the mile in PE in middle school up to my high school graduation. That said, I do like to walk and have no problem walking long distances.

This year, motivated by who knows what (and knowing I could walk the whole thing), I decided to give the 5K a try on May 20.

The La Jolla Shores 5K, which covers the last 3.1 miles of the La Jolla Half Marathon course, charts a path from The Shores to La Jolla Cove by way of La Jolla Shores Drive, the La Jolla Shores boardwalk, Torrey Pines Road and Prospect Place. The Half Marathon goes from the Del Mar Fairgrounds to La Jolla Cove, totaling 13.1 miles.

Proceeds from the day, presented by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, are distributed to charity, many with a focus on children’s causes.

Hundreds of runners wait to start the La Jolla Shores 5K on May 20.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Like many of the runners who participate (excluding myself), the races are organized with speed and efficiency. Bibs with each runner’s number and corresponding bags for one’s belongings or keys are distributed the day before at Scripps Park. While the park is a gathering place for visitors from across the country anyway, it seemed that every other license plate was from another state.

On race day, runners were encouraged to park near the finish line, so in the predawn, participants descended on Scripps Park and lined up for buses to take them to the starting lines. The buses came frequently enough that the line was constantly moving, with volunteers calling out which bus was going to The Shores and which one was going to Del Mar.

As we traveled from Scripps Park to La Jolla Shores, the distance between the two seemed farther than I realized, and my first moment of panic set in.

At the start of the La Jolla Shores 5K, runners descend La Jolla Shores Drive headed for Scripps Park.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

I lined up with a crowd of other participants (there were an expected 5,000 runners between the Half Marathon and the 5K), many of whom were taking selfies, stretching and selecting their music for the race.

The wait and anticipation gave me time to think about my goals for the race. Bearing in mind that I walk a 20-minute mile — or a one-hour 5K — my only goal at the start was to complete the race in less than an hour. Even if I came in last, I still would have finished.

Given that the first part of the 5K course is downhill, the first mile goes by deceptively fast. As we crossed the Mile 1 flag, I knew I would reach the less-than-an-hour goal.

Then something weird happened. I decided to run.

While I knew I would never be first — that honor went to Jake Mitchem of San Diego, who ran the race in 14 minutes, 50 seconds — I no longer wanted to be last. So in bursts, I ran on the flatter portions of the course and decided to sprint on any remaining downhill portions.

With no other goals in mind, I focused on the multi-sensory experience that running a 5K can be.

I watched the changing terrain and noticed how the gray sky was only slightly lighter than the ocean below it. I also observed all the runners around me — families with children, pairs of friends planning a trip, participants young and old, pros with backpacks filled with water.

I also was motivated by the sounds of spectators and volunteers cheering on the participants, chuckling as they told the runners (and more importantly, the walkers) that they were doing great.

There were even changes in smells along the course. There was the ocean at La Jolla Shores, the flowers that line the exterior of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and surrounding houses, the exhaust from cars on Torrey Pines Road and the infamous sea lion smell at La Jolla Cove (I never thought I would look forward to that smell).

Reporter Ashley Mackin-Solomon had never been so happy to see this La Jolla Cove directional sign on Torrey Pines Road.
La Jolla Light reporter Ashley Mackin-Solomon had never been so happy to see this La Jolla Cove directional sign on Torrey Pines Road.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Perhaps most impactful, the sweat beading on my forehead and the burning in my hamstrings got me out of my head as far as this being “just” a 5K and realizing that it is actually work to complete the course.

It may not be a half marathon, but it is a challenge, especially on the uphill climb of Torrey Pines Road. Having traversed it thousands of times by car over the years, walking on it was sort of a thrill.

Even more thrilling was the realization that once I turned right onto Prospect Place, it was all downhill from there — literally.

At a joyful and relieved jogging pace, this non-runner crossed the finish line at 46 minutes, 8 seconds, placing 757th out of 981 in the 5K.

Not too bad for a kid who walked the mile in PE. ◆