async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Christmas in July Race Recap

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Christmas in July Race Recap

Last winter, I signed up for the half marathon distance of this new to the Chicago area race. My running club was sponsoring it and there was an 'early bird special' of $35. Never one to sign up early for a race, this was too good to pass up. I figured if I couldn't run it, it wouldn't be hard to walk away from $35.



Fast forward to the approaching race day. Summer arrived late but it came on with a fury. In addition, my longest run was 7 miles. Not being anywhere near half marathon ready, I decided to drop down to the 5k distance. I emailed the race organizers a few weeks prior to the race but heard nothing. The week prior to the race, I found a link that would allow runners to change their distance. Unfortunately, the website wanted to charge me $15 which would bring my fee up to the current price for the race. There was also a $4 service fee.

I posted about this in my running club's Facebook group and the club president reached out to me. He spoke with the race director who stated that it was a "glitch" and he would take care of it. When I arrived at bib pickup on Saturday, I told the RD who I was. He hadn't made the changes as promised, but I did leave with a 5k bib and no extra charges.

I didn't sleep well that night and even turned off my alarm at one point, thinking I would just DNS the whole thing. Fighting an upper respiratory virus, I didn't want to run in the hot and steamy conditions. But as I tossed and turned, guilt got the best of me and I turned my alarm back on. It was only a 5k, right?

After a cup of coffee, I drank my Tailwind as I drove the short distance to the Busse Woods Forest Preserve. As I pulled in, I saw all the half marathoners running the bridge over the busy road below. There were a hella lot of runners! I ended up parking about a mile away from the start line and walked through the fields to the race village. There were a handful of runners starting to gather. The race would be held on the bike path and as we lined up on the right, cyclists whizzed by. This would be interesting!


As I did at last week's 5k, I ran this one without headphones. I knew this would be slower than last Sunday's race because the humidity was so high.  I started out running comfortably at about an 8:50 m/m pace. The path took us in and out of tree cover. Mile 1 8:57

I kept running but started to slow down. So did a lot of the runners who flew past me at the start and I began to pass them. At mile 1.55, there was a turnaround and we headed back the way we came. I stopped for water just before mile 2. It was getting tough. Mile 2 9:15

Knowing that we were almost finished, I tried hard to push my pace but the heat and humidity started to take its toll. I crossed the finish line in 28:51 (mile 3 9:44). I caught my breath and walked over to the beer tent.

Happy to be done?
Free race photos
A local brewery, Church Street, was handing out Heavenly Helles Lager. After running in that heat, it did taste heavenly. I perused the finish line treats. There were sandwiches, cookies, bananas, and pretzels filled with peanut butter. No Gatorade. I took a cookie and walked over to the running club tent to wait with the other 5k runners for everyone to come in.

Breakfast of Champions!
We watched all the half marathoners come in and chatted with the winner. Soon, the members of my running club started walking towards the tent. One guy was talking with us when he grabbed one of the tent poles and started to collapse. We helped him to the ground. I flagged a paramedic and he came over to the tent. It became very clear to me that he had no clue what to do. Someone grabbed some cool towels and I grabbed a banana and some water for him. Not long after that, one of the women who ran the half started wobbling. Her speech was slurred and she had goosebumps. She refused to sit down. Someone convinced her to walk to the ambulance to sit in the AC. She still wouldn't sit down so I used my nurse practitioner voice. It worked and within 10-15 minutes she was much better. While all this was going on, we heard an ambulance siren and later found out that someone collapsed around mile 12.

The heat got to Santa too.
Meanwhile, a line was forming near the finish line. Apparently, they ran out of finisher medals for the half marathon. They also ran out of water on the course. I walked over to the registration table to pick up my AG award and was handed a shot glass. Huh. I ran into the president of the running club who was chatting with the race director. I held up my shot glass and the RD said, "whomp, whomp, right?" I didn't say anything and our club president congratulated me on the AG award. As I walked away, I could hear them talking about some of the problems that were happening.

This was the first time this race was held here in Chicago. The race has been held in Indianapolis for the past 3 years. Clearly, the RD has a little work to do. I'm not sure what to make of the "glitch" aka the extra charge I encountered when I dropped down to the 5k. When I complained, he did make it right. Others runners I spoke with didn't have the same experience. No Gatorade or electrolyte drink on a racecourse in the summertime is completely unacceptable. Running out of water is another thing. They did have cool washcloths which were being put to good use by the half marathoners. The finish line food was so-so. We received a race shirt which I will never wear--I think it was pretty ugly. The shot glass I received for an AG award was pretty chinzy. But that was better than no medals, which was what many of the half marathoners got.

For his part, the RD sent an email the night after the race acknowledging the problems. He apologized for the errors including running out of cups and asked for feedback and suggestions to improve the race next year. He also thanked all the volunteers and asked that runners who didn't receive medals contact him personally via email.

On the other hand, the medal I received for the 5k was awesome. I don't expect a finisher medal for a 5k and the Santa medal was pretty cool, complete with flashing lights! The half marathoners who did get a medal received a bigger and flashier version. We also got a pair of sunglasses with bottle openers on the earpieces. I gifted those to my 21 year old son, thinking he'll probably make better use of them than I will. The beer from Church Street was a really nice treat--I always appreciate a good beer at a race. My running club provided volunteer support at the aid stations.

There were 33 runners in my AG
Would I do this one again? I don't know. This kind of race isn't really my thing but with my running club as a sponsor, I wanted to participate. It's always a treat to run in the preserve where I do a lot of my training. I'm enjoying the 5k distance immensely, especially in this unbelievably hot summer we're having. I was really impressed and inspired by the half marathoners, who really dug deep and brought some great finishes. I'm glad to see the RD reaching out to participants for suggestions to improve the race, which should only make it better next year. We'll see.

It was a hot Christmas in July race! /via @oldrunningmom #runchat #running 

Have you ever run a race where they ran out of medals? Of water? Gatorade? Would you run this one again if you were me? 

I'm linking up with Zenaida and Kim for Tuesday Topics.



34 comments :

  1. Wow, sounds like a mess!!! Running out of water and not having an electrolyte drink (even at the finish?) is completely unacceptable. That was a dangerous race with a lot of issues but happy to hear the RD sent an email and took responsibility. Happy no one was seriously injured and that YOU were at the finish line to help a few runners in need!! CONGRATS on your AG placement and very cool bling - turning that alarm back on was a good decision after all...I think? LOL!

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    1. I was really concerned about the heat. Having 2 of the clubs' very well-conditioned runners collapse after the finish was an indicator of how dangerous the conditions were. Instead of the "paramedic" they hired, an athletic trainer would have been a better bet. None of us could believe there wasn't any electrolyte drinks. I'm sure next year will be a completely different experience.

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  2. I would run it again. It’ll probably be great.

    The water thing is bad especially in the heat.

    The medal is very cool. So is the age award. At least useful. Sunglasses? They put more effort into the swag than some other important stuff.

    Right decision about dropping down. Even a 5k is hard in the summer.

    Congrats on your award. You’re racking them up lol.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head about the swag. I had that exact thought. This was not a race for runners, it was a race to attract participants and make $$. Like I said, not my kind of race. They are lucky nothing serious happened to any of the runners.

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  3. Congrats on your AG award! I like the shot glass because it is something different. I ran the Chicago Marathon the year it was hot and they ran out of water. Clearly lessons were learned from that year. The RD knew it would be a hot day and should have been more prepared. Hopefully it will go smoother next year. That is scary about the runners that were affected by the heat. I am glad you are enjoying the 5k distance. I like them because you're done "quickly" but hard that you still need to pace yourself.

    I love the medal!! I would run it again and hope that there are fewer problems. Oh and the extra charges? Ridiculous! I could never understand why they charge so much.

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    1. It's so nice having a race close to my home--I hope the RD is able to sort out the problems and come back next year better prepared!

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  4. Yikes! Definitely sounds like the RD has a lot of work to do if he wants to make next years race better but I do like that he sent out an email immediately after the race to acknowledge the issues. At least he is willing to learn.

    So scary about those runners that struggled with the heat but they are lucky that you were there to offer assistance!

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    1. It was really unnerving seeing these very experienced and well trained runners go down! I'm just glad it wasn't worse.

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  5. Yikes on the people with heat exhaustion- so scary. LOL at Santa. It sounds like the race was more popular than they were ready to handle? The medal is awesome! The shot glass is meh but a lot of race awards are blah. Most races do let you drop down for no fee — glad you could.

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    1. Maybe so. But knowing they were expecting almost 700 runners, a trip to Costco or Walmart to get more cups and Gatorade would have been wise.

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  6. I completely forgot about picking up my age group award, but I think I can live without a shot glass.
    Too bad you were required to put your nurse practitioner training into play, but it was great that you did.
    I think I would only run this again just to see if they learned their lessons from this first one.

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    1. Same. Glad we were able to hang out while we waited for everyone to come in!

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  7. Why do you think I always carry my own water, LOL? Yes, that's happened many times! And yes, no medal -- in fact, my first half they ran out (but after me, and they did mail them out to those who didn't get one). I have zero desire to be an RD!

    I'll bet you were really glad (but probably in some ways sad, too) that you dropped down to the 5k. You did a great job considering the heat! Summer racing is not my thing, but then again, our winters -- like yours -- are so loooooong . . .

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    1. You are right, when the half marathoners came in, I had a little FOMO. But mostly I was glad that I did the 5k. I even struggled with that. The half would have been really tough for me to even finish. I kept thinking how hard ZOOMA was last September.

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  8. I bet your nurse practitioner voice is nicer than my wife/friend voice when I was trying to convince my husband and also my running buddy to get in the ambulance after the Houston half marathon a couple of years ago...haha. Sternness works, doesn't it? ;)

    That race sounds like a couple we've had in our area in early fall, when it's still 100 degrees and highly humid. One race, I ran by two water stations in a row where the tables and cups had been dropped off...but the volunteers never showed up. And there was another one where they had water but ran out of cups. And another with no Gatorade. Yeah. That kind of stuff really burns into your memory for the next year with consideration as to register.

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    1. Well, I take care of kids so I do have to use that voice on occasion... runners are the worst! We all think we're superhuman.

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  9. Sounds like it was poorly organized, that's too bad :(

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    1. It felt pretty unorganized even before the race. They 'added' a Saturday packet pickup at the last minute. It was weird. I forgot to mention that there were no portapotties at the race village!

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  10. What happened is unaccetable but I am sure that the organization has learned the lesson and the next time the things will go better. Congrats on the finishing time despite the humidity and the heat and also congrats on the AG placement.
    Here I have a long list of organizers' failures ........

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    1. About 10 years ago, I ran another memorably unorganized race in Chicago. I vowed never to run it again. Lo and behold, they learned their lesson and have expanded this race all over the US. So there's hope.

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  11. Oh that is really bad! I have been in a few Birmingham Half Marathons where they've run out of water for the slow people - i always carry enough to fuel myself. And no electrolyte drinks, too. Hm. I love your nurse practitioner voice - Bernice got someone to take a painkiller on Sunday by using her nurse voice! Well done but I wouldn't do this again.

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    1. I don't know if I'll run it agai--it will depend on my running club and what they decide.

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  12. There have been a few races here where they ran out of water and medals. I cannot remember what they were now so I guess it did not have too much of an impact. Nice job on the 5K. I have been too miserable out there to even attempt a race. Keep moving forward right?!

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    1. I've got one more 5k this weekend but it's supposed to be really hot. We'll see.

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  13. That's really bad that they didn't have enough water or any electrolytes at all! It's not just disorganized, it's downright dangerous this time of year. That combined with the shot glass award almost makes it sounds like they weren't thinking too much about the runners. Good work on your 5K and congrats on the AG win!

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    1. Lots of lessons for the RD and hopefully he'll figure it out and bring it on next year!

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  14. Wow...running out of water is so NOT good. It's great that you were able to assist all the heat victims, though it sounded like they were in denial of their condition(s). I think the Santa medal is cute. The hubby and I started collecting shot glasses on our honeymoon, so I wouldn't have minded that as an award...but it is a bit unique for a race. Congrats on the AG.

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  15. Running out of water and no Gatorade in this heat - not cool at all! Scary to see runners going down - I just couldn't imagine taking on a half marathon in this weather. Congrats on your AG!

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    1. Those half marathoners were tough! Running in these conditions and still crushing it? Impressive.

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  16. It does sound like they have some work to do! I find a lot of first races have problems like this, but at least he reached out with the intention of making things better. Running out of water is unacceptable though, especially on a hot and humid day.

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  17. I love that Christmas in July theme but yikes! Sounds like this race had problems. Running out of water and not having electrolytes for a July race is a serious problem. Hopefully they fix the issues if they do the race again.

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  18. Oh my goodness, this race sounds exactly like the one and only time the Hot Chocolate Race came to the DC area. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, including them starting the 5K runners off in the opposite direction of the way the course was set up. As those of us running the 15K showed up to run our race, the 5K racers were running toward us instead of away from us. It was a mess!

    Congrats on your AG place! I love the idea of a Christmas in July race. Too bad the race had so many problems...

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