By way of preamble, I had the choice last spring to either buy the next size up in all of my clothes or find a way to lose weight. I read on the Internet that “you should walk 5 miles a day”. This is even counting steps to the fridge, so I thought that was worth checking out. Five miles became my goal. In the beginning, just the one-mile walk from home to the square and back was about all that I could do. Quite often the middle part of that walk would involve stopping at one of the pubs, coffee shops, or candy stores. It wasn’t entirely effective for losing weight. After a little more Googling, I found out that the original article I had read had actually been penned by a Japanese company selling pedometers. Sigh. Just when you thought that you could trust the Internet.
I eventually just modified my goal from losing weight to being more healthy (diet, exercise, and all that jazz) and that really seemed to work. By fall, I was struggling to get some distance while walking, eventually scheduling an hour and a half in the morning to attempt unsuccessfully to walk four miles before work, but I was happy with my progress. I had not had to buy all new clothes after all and I even had a new pair of jeans that wouldn’t have fit before.
Then the company I work for signed up for the corporate relay portion of the December 9th MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, formerly known as the White Rock Marathon. A friend and I signed up for the first leg of the relay (4.9 miles) although neither of us had ever run in an organized race before. All we had to do for this relay, according to the race documentation (which I’ve now learned is pretty standard), was to keep up a pace of at least a 15-minute mile. I had accidentally walked at least 6 miles on a recent vacation, so the distance didn’t concern me as much as the pace. (Accidental walking occurs when you go for a walk and fail to consider that every mile you walk in one direction must be walked again when coming back). I’d never run four miles and neither of us really knew what a 15-minute mile felt like. I still had not been able to walk four miles in an hour on my morning walks. We trained after work for about a month before and, by my figuring, were averaging about a 13-minute mile when we ran. Trouble was that we couldn’t run far before we’d be back to walking and gasping for breath. Our plan was to just run as much as we could and hope that it averaged out.
Nervous but excited, we rode DART down to downtown Dallas on race day. It was still dark when we got in our assigned corral (yes, they call them corrals) and waited for the race to start. Actually, we waited for the sun to come up.
Then we waited for them to let us start. Big races like this one release groups of runners in “waves”. Since the timers don’t start counting your “run time” until you physically cross the start line, it doesn’t matter when you actually get to start. This lets slower runners start last and not get in the way of the faster ones. There are “pacers” who hold up some type of identifier so you know that you are with others that run about the same speed. We were packed tightly in the corral, towards the very back. The time posted on the railing nearest us was 9:40 and got progressively faster as you went forward. There was no further back we could go in our assigned corral so we assumed that, at some point, presumably 9:40, they just stop grouping by pace. We were so far back from the START line that the race had actually started about twenty minutes before we finally crossed it.
And then I was hooked. From that minute on, I found that I LOVED it. We ran across the Commerce Street Bridge and then over the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. There were bands along the way – good bands – playing the Beatles or rock-n-roll or Mariachi music. Shop keepers stood in their doorways and waved. Galleries had their doors open. Locals ringed the streets in support with posters and pom poms. I was amazed at the number of runners who shed the expensive-looking long-sleeved race shirt that we had gotten as part of our packet and left them draped across the guardrails along the course or balled up on the sidewalk. Race officials come by later to gather them up, get them laundered, and then donate them to charity. There were frequent water and gatorade stations and plenty of port-o-potties. I had never thought about what it would mean to have that many people exerting themselves in such a way for so long. (Remember, a good many were running a half or a full marathon so they were just starting a 13- or 26-mile run). There’s a certain amount of “life support” required. Over FIFTEEN THOUSAND people ran in that race.
We finished our stretch and were bussed back to the Dallas Convention Center where we could sit in the warmth and eat free cookies, bananas, and pretzels and drink our free beer (one per racer) and chocolate milk. This was very nearly heaven for me.
Since then, I’ve run the Hotcake Hustle 5K in Addison, where I put my timer on wrong and didn’t get timed but my friend and I went through the free pancake line twice. I ran the Hot Chocolate 5/15K at Fair Park, where I completed the 15K (9.3 miles) in just under two hours and learned to never, ever again try to drive to a Fair Park race and that the earlier you finish, the more free stuff there is to eat afterwards. The Allen Eagle Run (a 5K), this past Saturday morning, was my first “spontaneous race”. I decided on Friday afternoon that I would just turn up at the registration table at 7 AM the next morning. Next weekend, a bunch of us from work are running in Stonebridge Racer’s Leaping Leprechauns 15K here in McKinney and I am anxious to compare that experience to the Hot Chocolate race.
A few of us at my day job have compiled the following list of races that we have either already signed up for, will very possibly sign up for, have done at some point in time and therefore recommend, or just really want to do but may not be able to this year. This list, while not even nearly comprehensive, does not count the races you can get through local running groups like the Plano Pacers, the McKinney Running Club, and the Stonebridge Racers. The Plano Pacers even have timed races the last Saturday of every month, free to members and $10 to non-members.
|03/09/2013||Leaping Leprechauns 1K,5K, & 15K||Mckinney||Stonebridge Racers|
|03/09/2013||Tap N Run 4k||Dallas||Jam Active (National)|
|03/16/2013||Dash Down Greenville 5k||Dallas||Run Project|
|03/16/2013||The Warrior Dash (5k)||Smithville||Red Frog Events (National)|
|03/23/2013||Lone Star 5k/10k/1k at the Rangers Ballpark||Arlington||Powerade|
|03/23/2013||Celina Cajun Festival 5K||Celina||City of Celina|
|03/23/2013||FireFly Run||Dallas||FireFly Run (National)|
|04/06/2013||Fairview Half Marathon & 5K||Fairview||The Active Joe|
|04/06/2013||The Color Run||Dallas||The Color Run (National)|
|04/13/2013||Run For Cover 1, 5 & 10K||McKinney||3eMcKinney|
|04/14/2013||Austin 10/20||Austin||TKO(TurnKey Operations)|
|04/14/2013||Big D Marathon||Dallas||Mellew Productions|
|04/26/2013||The Vampire 5k||Dallas||Lifes2Short Events (National)|
|05/05/2013||Cinco De Miler||Dallas||RAM Racing|
|05/19/2013||Rock The Block 10K/5K/Fun Run||Plano||The Jim Utley Foundation|
|05/19/2013||Disco 5k & 10k||Dallas||Dallas Athletes Racing|
|05/25/2013||Ennis Polka Fest 5K/10K||Ennis||National Polka Festival|
|05/27/2013||Stonebridge Memorial Day 1K, 5K, & 10K Race||McKinney||Stonebridge Racers|
|06/01/2013||Run For Your Lives Zombie 5K||South Forney||Run For Your Lives (National)|
|06/22/2013||Run or Dye 5K||Dallas||Run or Dye (National)|
|07/04/2013||Fireworks 1K & 5K||McKinney||Stonebridge Racers|
|08/03/2013||Melon Dash 5K||McKinney||Run Project|
|09/02/2013||Labor of Love Run 1K/5K/10K||McKinney||Stonebridge Racers|
|09/03/2013||Fort Worth Runners Club Labor Day Race||Fort Worth||Fort Worth Runners club|
|09/22/2013||Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon/5K||Plano||Plano Balloon Festival|
|10/27/2013||Halloween Hustle 1K/5K/15K||McKinney||Stonebridge Racers|
|11/??/2013||Crape Myrtle Trails 5K||McKinney||Crape Myrtle Trails|
|12/08/2013||MetroPCS Dallas Marathon & Corporate Relay||Dallas||Metro PCS|
|12/14/2013||The Spartan||Glen Rose||Spartan Race (National)|
I include the Spartan not because any of us are wanting to do it but because I met someone who did. It was after the MetroPCS relay and, as my friend and I sat on the floor drinking beer and eating cookies, we got to talking to the runner sitting beside us. She had just finished the half marathon in about the time it took us to run our 4.8 relay leg. She had run the Spartan the day before. She showed us the bruises on her legs from where she had climbed a rope and rung a bell in the Spartan. She grinned and said that she had accidentally slipped while ringing the bell and slid backwards down the rope. The bruises were from where the knots she had used as footholds on the way up had hit her legs as she slid down. Tickets for this race in 2013 are $110 for the early birds and rise incrementally after June 16th to ultimately reach up to $205 in December (though some discounts may apply).
No one in my circle of friends has done the Spartan, but one has done The Warrior Dash. You can tell by her smile while she’s telling you about how she got all scraped up crawling under ropes or through the mud that she loved it. In the same way that I used to look at “runners” and privately think that they are completely insane, I am concerned now that there may actually be obstacle course junkies out there. If you try it, love it, and are smiling as you point out your injuries to strangers, remember that you were forewarned.
So, even though I have a great deal more to learn, I am going to leave you with some of my early observations that may seem so obvious to a long-time runner that they might forget to tell you:
- Local runs are normally cheaper than the big national runs but you don’t necessarily get less. In fact, I liked the free pancakes at the Hotcake Hustle in Addison better than the chocolate at the Hot Chocolate race in Dallas.
- Do not attempt to drive to Fair Park Races unless you are going hours early. Traffic is absolutely unbelievable. It is even worse than you think it is when people tell you that it is unbelievable. Use DART.
- For Addison runs that start on Quorum drive, be concerned about parking. For the Hotcake Hustle, there was free parking in a nearby covered lot. That was by far the best choice. I heard that the DART lot filled and you had to be extremely early to get a spot by the start line. If you are extraordinarily lucky, those ARE some sweet spots.
- Expo races are a pain in the neck unless you can take time off from work to attend the expo. These races – and almost all the big national races coming through Dallas are expo races – will not let you pick up your running bib the day of the race. You MUST GO to downtown Dallas the day or two before the race to go to the Expo to pick it up. The Expo itself might be cool or it might not. You an usually have someone else that you know pick it up for you.
- Most races have a “Bag Check” where you can check some gear while you run and pick it up later. Use this! At the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K, the weather turned unexpectedly cold while I was running but I hadn’t brought a sweater or sweatpants because I wasn’t sure how to check a bag. I suffered for my ignorance.
- Check out the web site Athlinks to track the runs you have been in and the results. This site gets all the results from all the races it can and stores them until the runners sign in and claim their results. If you have ever run and been timed, they probably have your time. It’s also got the best race calendar I’ve seen so far.
In closing, here’s a shout out to the clever promoter who gave away free cases of Biscoff at the Hot Chocolate 5/15K. Biscoff is basically a crunchy spread made of crushed up cookies and canola oil. You are an evil genius but we love you anyway. I finished one jar all by myself over the course of two days. Yep, that’s only 1000 calories.
Until Next Time,