Last Sunday (December 16th) I ran the Shelby Township Jingle Bell Run 5K. It’s a race that I’ve considered for years, but you could say that I’m a fair weather runner when it comes to winter racing. The weather hasn’t always been ideal for this race which is part of the reason I didn’t get around to it until this year. I run all winter long but I’m super paranoid about slipping. If I have any question about the conditions, I find a place that I know will be plowed and salted or I might run inside. Well, this year it was a little warmer with no snow or ice so I thought I should finally give the race a try.
I was able to register for the race on Saturday at the Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica. I was happy that I received a nice long-sleeved shirt even though I signed up at the last minute.
The night before the race I decided to scrounge up a festive outfit. I knew that some people dressed up for this race and I figured I’d get into the spirit of things. I can rarely convince Matt to sign up for races with me anymore, so I was able to use one of his fun outfits that he wore at a different Jingle Bell Run years ago.
It was sunny and clear the morning of the race but there were warnings about freezing fog in some areas of Metro Detroit. Luckily things seemed fine during my drive and I got to the race about an hour before the 9:00 start. I was directed into the lot right by the community center where the race started and finished. The building had nice bathrooms with no wait. I tried not to feel self-conscious because not as many people dressed up as I would have expected. There was a good mixture though. Some people went all out, dressed as Buddy the Elf or as a Christmas tree. Lots of people wore the race shirt. Plenty had some other kind of Christmas shirt or ugly sweater, a Santa hat, or other festive things. I knew I looked silly, but that was kind of the point.
When I saw Lancelot, a mascot for the one of the local USPBL (United Shore Professional Baseball League) teams, I had to get a photo.
I ran a mile to warm up about 20 minutes before the race started. I started in a parking lot and found that it was kind of slippery. Sidewalks seemed to be salted though, so I was hopeful that conditions would be fine for the race.
When it came time, I lined up a few people back from the front of the crowd of 300-400 people. At some point I realized the National Anthem must be going. I couldn’t hear it and it was clear that most other people didn’t either since they were talking through it. I guess the speakers were facing the wrong direction for the runners! Fortunately the race directions were given via megaphone, so I could hear most of that talk.
We ran through the parking lot and onto a drive where we had a quick turnaround almost right away. I heard some comments about how it wasn’t ideal to face a hairpin turn like that considering the surface conditions. The course was new this year which kept us from running through a golf course like they had in the past. A couple people around me seemed to be thankful to avoid that. Although I ran along a salted sidewalk when I warmed up, we ran in one lane of the road as we worked our way up Van Dyke. It was not salted and a little loss of traction now and then made me pretty tentative. The road was wet and it was hard to tell if there were slick spots. Since it was around 30ºF it was best to be careful. The rest of the route was along sidewalks that were mostly salted, but turns around some of the corners could be questionable, plus there was one other out-and-back hairpin turn.
I was behind a couple of people who were running side-by-side and they really slowed down at every turn. Although I was cautious, eventually I got frustrated by how much they were slowing down and I hopped on the grass to go around.
I had no idea how to pace myself for this race, so aside from looking at my watch when I hit one mile, I had no idea what pace I was running. The Indy Monumental Marathon at the beginning of November had been my last race and I had not done any form of speedwork for quite a while. Knowing that I might sign up for this race, I tried a couple of quick quarter-mile loops around the pond in a park earlier in the week, but that was the closest I had come to running “fast.” It has probably been months since I’ve run anything resembling 5K pace. I’ve been concentrating on endurance lately – longer, slower runs. As a result, this race was pretty uncomfortable. Nothing hurt, but trying to maintain a fast pace for that long was a struggle because I wasn’t conditioned for it at all. I knew that going in but told myself it would be a good way to get some speed back into the mix. I haven’t been too motivated to try it otherwise.
I was pretty satisfied that I managed to run under 23 minutes for this race since I was totally unprepared. My official time was 22:46.
My best time is a little over a minute faster, but I knew I couldn’t expect anything close to that without training for it. According to my splits I managed to stay somewhat consistent despite feeling pretty miserable!
I got some Tim Bits (donut holes) and chocolate milk outside, then found lots of other goodies inside. They had some muffins from McDonald’s, cookies, granola bars, bagels, and more. I love when races have a nice selection of treats!
I found the results and saw that I had placed 5th out of 45 in my age group of women 30-39. Respectable, but not worthy of an award. I stuck around for a little bit anyway because I was curious if I could win anything in the raffle. Eventually they announced that awards would be given outside. I walked past the table where I had entered the raffle and saw that they had pulled numbers and written them down. When I realized I hadn’t won anything and knew I didn’t need to stick around for awards, I headed home.
Even when I’m unprepared for the speed aspect of a 5K, I know that I can run the distance and will enjoy the race atmosphere. Despite slightly slippery conditions at times and feeling like it was a stretch to run as fast as I did, I enjoyed this race. Although I’ll probably wait until the last minute and monitor the weather like I do for all winter races, I’ll definitely think about returning to this one again in the future.
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