This was a small event with a capacity for 500 participants. While registration was “sold out” I would guess-estimate that about 200 or maybe even 300 were in attendance. It seemed like a very small affair.
Before the race started, we queued up for the kids dash and started off with some warm up stretches. The poor balloon arch was not going to stand after the morning drizzle and the cold weather perhaps effecting the helium. The atmosphere was no less festive and we listened to Christmas music while waiting for our race to start.
An announcer let us know that our run would be less than 3 miles. The website states a 3 mile run/walk inside the tree-lined trails of the park, but perhaps with weather conditions or safety, the course was a bit short. After the 8 minute mile pace (or faster) runners had finished their two laps and following their award ceremony, the rest of us were off and out on the course. However, it is really important to know your course. It is each runner’s responsibility to know the course route and not rely completely on course markings. Some how the leader of the second wave and every runner after missed the turn into the park and we all circled the parking lot for a quick 0.5 mile loop. By my Garmin stats, if you did not follow the crowd into the parking lot, you total distance would be about 2.6 miles. With those two loops through the park and the 0.5 mile mistake, my adventure was 3.2 miles.
Despite that initial mistake, the course was well-marked and I was a bit embarrassed to have missed the turn when I looped back for my first real loop on the course. The area was very pretty and we were lucky that the weather held out for the duration of the event. The trails were a bit narrow in some areas, but for the most part, everyone scooted over to let runners by. Maybe that was just my experience since I was huffing and puffing pretty good with some of those hills! Everyone probably heard me coming like big foot smashing through the forest and was getting out of the way… It was a lot of fun and just a few inclines here and there on a well-groomed trail.
The event was untimed (except for a digital clock running at the start/finish). I thought about that on my second loop through the park and I really enjoyed that. This limits the temptation for me to compare my results to others and how far in the “back of the pack” I might be. I could take my time off my GPS watch and use that info to compare to none other than myself and my past results with that distance. It didn’t matter if I came in last in my age group, my gender or last in the event… What mattered was I was out on a cold, holiday morning when I could have been sleeping in and out having a blast with my family. It was at that point that I ran into my husband and kiddos who were walking. I thought they were done after the 1/2 mile mistake, but the kids soon decided to go out in the woods to see what this race thing was all about. I found them with about a mile to go and my 4 year old ran/walked the entire loop without being carried. I am so proud of her. She has a new distance PR of 1.8 miles unassisted.
After the family had finished their race, we claimed our finisher’s mug and eagerly headed home to fill them up and enjoy each other’s company and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.