I’ve attended the Arnold Sports Festival every year since 2010. I’ve been there as a fan, as a member of the media, and in other roles as well. The one thing I had never done in Columbus was participate as one of the 20,000 athletes, competing in any of the 50 plus events. That changed this year when I was one of 750 people who took part in the 5K Pump and Run – and it was truly an experience worth sharing.
Why the Pump and Run? I was working my way back from an ACL injury I suffered while moving last year and I needed something to train for. I decided there was no bigger stage to be than Columbus and I always wanted to participate at the Arnold so this was as good a time as any. I never ran a 5K and I was always told that the Pump & Run was a fun event…….so why not?
My day started with my arrival at the Greater Columbus Convention Center at 6:30 AM. After chatting with a couple of Columbus’ Finest, registration opened and we got our numbers. Then we stepped on the scales for Part 1 of the event.
The “pump” portion requires the athlete to bench press a portion of his or her bodyweight depending on age and gender. As a 34 year old male, I had to do 100% of my bodyweight. I weighed 231 pounds so that meant I had to bench press 235. Each rep earns you a 30 second bonus on your time, up to 30 reps or 15 minutes. With members of the military acting as spotters and counting the reps out loud, I ended up getting 16 reps or 8 minutes bonus time.
After everyone got checked in and lifted (750 people total so it took a while), we lined up for the start of the run. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up as the official starter of the race. It’s amazing how seeing him in person got everyone excited. I’ve seen him and even shaken hands with him a couple of times over the years, but there was something different about seeing him before participating in an event. Everyone started hopping, jumping, and getting psyched up. It was 35 degrees outside that morning but it might as well have been 70 because no one was cold. His energy was contagious.
After he gave the command, we took off. I’ve never done a 5K run before I started training for this so it didn’t take the more experienced runners long to break out ahead. I will admit that I never expected to win but my goal was to finish by running more than walking and not to finish last. There were times I had to slow down and walk for a minute or so before catching my breath and going again but my knee never gave out and l never thought about quitting. I was excited to be a part of the Arnold as an athlete. The others who were running were positive and encouraging as well. No one had a bad attitude or said anything negative. That helped as we braved the late winter air and kept running.
33 minutes and 29 seconds after Arnold said “go” I crossed the finish line. I finished in the second half of the field. My personal goal was to break 30 minutes without the bonus time. I didn’t achieve that but my fastest time during training for the event was 34:30 so I beat my best time by a minute. After the bonus from the lifting, my official time was 25:29. All finishers were offered medals. Some of the runners took them and others didn’t. The only reason I did was because this was the first Arnold Sports Festival that I competed in and I wanted something to remember it with.
I’ve obviously never competed in the Arnold Classic bodybuilding events or any of the headlining events so I don’t want to go crazy with hyperbole but I have done other events over the years and I can tell you the energy in Columbus that morning was unlike anything I’ve experienced. I used to tell people that if you’ve never been to the Arnold you have to attend at least once. Now I will say that you should compete, at least once.