Ready, Set, Go — Discovering the Local World of Running

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.


My Camera-Shy Friend Downtown In the Corrals Before the MetroPCS Race

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.


Runners Milling Around By Start Line Pre-Dawn

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.


Full Corral Waiting To Be Able To Start Running

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.


Pit Stop Right Before Crossing the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

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.


Crowd Near the Start Line of Hotcake Hustle in Addison

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


biscoff 003

Cases of Biscoff Were Given Away at Hot Chocolate Expo

Until Next Time,
Happy Shopping!

6 Responses to “Ready, Set, Go — Discovering the Local World of Running”

  1. Stephanie Tyson

    Great article! Congratulations in your new endeavor!

    Just wanted to mention that the upcoming 3e McKinney sponsored Run For Cover is in its 11th year here in McKinney! Proceeds benefit those experiencing homelessness in Collin County. Ya’ll come out Saturday morning, April 13 to Stonebridge Beach Club. Go to for sign up info.

    • Beth

      That’s one of the races on our “definite” list! I found it on the Christ Fellowship site so I didn’t realize that it is a 3e McKinney race (although it does say so). I changed the info in the post to show 3e McKinney as the group behind the race and put a link to the 3e McKinney site there so that I can keep both links. I hope that is okay. It looks like a great race.

  2. shetuck

    Well done, you! My friend and I have been walking for years, and decided to WALK 1/2 of The Rock (can’t call it the other name–it doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well). Had a blast, too. Thinking about doing more…thanks for the tips. Always enjoy your posts. BTW, the 10,000 steps, or 5 miles, has been promoted by Dr. Oz…that’s where I heard about it.

    • Beth

      Thank you! We are definitely doing the Firefly Run on March 23rd. It’s a large group but several us got timing chips. I don’t know why though. I did because someone else did and she did because she thought a third person did but that person did because she thought that the other person did. Classic. 🙂 I think we might end up not even wearing them and just enjoying the sights. I can’t figure out where to get any glow-in-the-dark stuff though.
      I’ll have to look into Dr. Oz. I had later read where the medical profession had tended to agree with the 10,000 steps program but I never followed up.

  3. Toni

    Wow, Beth! That’s amazing. I used to run when I was in my 40’s. Now that I’m 60, I feel like an old woman. Good for you!


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