Who: Me, Colin, Julie, a bunch of Julie’s friends, and Kate, with moral support from Drew
Benefited: a whole bunch of things (list here)
Time: 32:43 (course PR!)
Splits (according to Simon):
Mile 1: 10:16
Mile 2: 10:41
Mile 3: 10:17
Mile 3.1: 1:28
Photos: (click to open larger versions)
Recap: I have sad news to announce – this was my last* race with Colin. At least, my last race with him for the foreseeable future, as he’s moving away 😦 I’m very sad to be losing my running buddy (especially since I lost Gina already!), so this race was a little bittersweet. But it was also significant – the Somerville Jingle Bell Run was Colin’s (and Gina’s!) first 5K, so it seemed fitting that his first and last* here be the same race. It’s also the very same course as the Ras na hEireann USA, which was my first 5K, and I was eager to see if I could improve my course time. So when Julie floated the idea of a bunch of people dressing up and running the Jingle Bell, Colin and I jumped on board right away.
Originally I planned to deck myself out in a ridiculous outfit and just run-walk it for fun with Julie and her crew and then go out for drinks and frivolity after. However, once I realized that it would be my last* race with Colin, who was planning to gun for a PR, I knew I had to run it with him. (Plus, a shiny new PR sounded really nice!) We devised a plan much like what we did at our infamous Plymouth race – we’d run a fast first mile and then see how we felt from there, hoping that we had banked enough time to get us under the 30:40 mark. When we found out that another soccer teammate of ours, Kate, would be running, we decided to try to stick with her for as long as possible at the start, since she’s speedier than we are. Plan settled, we approached race day with our ambitions set high.
Packet pickup was a complete breeze for me, since Julie is awesome and picked up everyone’s packets the week before. (Thanks Julie!!) Julie had also helped me figure out my festive outfit, mostly by buying me a tutu and peer-pressuring me to wear it, and also by sending me links to tons of festive running gear. In the end, I opted for said tutu (we’ll file that under A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never* Do Again), stripey elf socks, a fabulous elf hat that was $3 at the Christmas Tree Shop, and Drew’s ugly-sweater-reindeer t-shirt that I wore at the Christmas to Give 5K last December. I came very close to draping some of Julie’s battery-powered Christmas lights over me as well, but they either choked me or got caught in the tutu so I opted out.
As gun time drew near, we all lined up between the 9 and 10-minute pace signs; Colin and I figured that trying to keep up with those around us would be a good way to ensure that we run a fast-for-us first mile. However, we quickly found that pretty much no one had paid attention to the pace signs (I’m slowly learning that most people tend to ignore them)… we felt really good about ourselves since we were keeping up with everyone and still feeling good, until we realized that we were going at about 11-minutes/mile. Oops. So much for the faster-than-usual start!
Kate was a trooper and stuck with us for the first 2 miles as we dodged around people and tried to pick up our pace. I figured the course would thin out after the first mile, but it was not to be. At the Ras, we had started in the 14-minute pace corral, so the course got quite sparse as we passed Mile 1. Starting farther up the pack AND the fact that about 1,000 more people were running this race than the Ras meant that we were jostling elbows with other runners the whole way this time around, and so we were never really able to fully speed up. I think we abandoned hope of a PR close to the first mile marker.
Around Mile 2 we gave Kate our blessing to run ahead, and she took off like a track star. Colin started breathing hard by this point and looked like he wanted to stop, and since I had decided to run this race his way, I told him that I’d stop with him if he needed to. When he didn’t answer, I asked if he wanted me to push him the rest of the way, or if I should coddle him, and after only a slight hesitation he said “Push me.” My inner running coach surfaced immediately and I began spouting what I hoped was encouragement and motivation; I tried to do for Colin what he had done for me at the Ras when I tried to stop – lots of “Okay, let’s just make it to that corner,” “One small hill ahead and then it’s downhill for a while!” “You’re doing great, we have less than a mile to go!” etc. Focusing on getting Colin to finish the race strong also took my mind off my own niggles, of which I had plenty since we hadn’t warmed up at all. Will I never learn?!
As we tackled the last two hills and fought our way to the straightaway that would bring us to the finish line, I couldn’t help but marvel at how relatively easy the race felt compared to the Ras. At the Ras, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, and I averaged a 12:07 pace. On Sunday, the course was flying by so much faster, and Simon was giving me paces all under 11 minutes each time he beeped. I’m sure it helped that I actually knew the course this time, so I knew when to expect hills and turns, but it was a huge confidence boost to see how far I’d come in less than 2 years!
When we turned the final corner and caught sight of the finish line banner in the distance, I glanced at Simon and saw that we were at 28:something. If we could sprint the rest of the way (maybe a quarter-mile?), then we still had a slight chance of PRing. I told that to Colin, and I saw a steely determination enter his eyes. Our pace quickened for a bit, but the finish line was farther than it seemed, and we had been expending too much energy to sprint more than a few hundred meters. I asked Colin what his course PR was, and if he wanted to try to beat that even if we couldn’t PR overall, and he nodded his approval. Then I caught sight of it – a Shammies singlet up ahead. I’m *never* that close to another Shammie during a race, and that gave me a boost too. So much of a boost, in fact, that I decided to pick that Shammie off… something that makes me feel ashamed to admit. BUT, I figured if we could beat a Shammie then we’d have a good chance of getting Colin his course PR, and what a good way to end his season here!
We kicked into the next gear and drew level with the Shammie. Overcome with warm fuzzies, I yelled out “Nice job, Shamrock!!” (quite possibly into a stranger’s ear… if so, I’m sorry, person!) We grinned at each other and then I upped the pace even more, because the finish line was getting so close. As we got to the place where we usually sprint to the finish, we somehow verbally agreed to go for it and began running harder… only to wind up behind a wall of 5 or 6 people across, all running nice and slow toward the finish line. The course narrows right there too, so there was no way around them, and screaming “Make way!!!” seemed a tad unsportsmanlike. So we had to throw on the brakes and coast over the finish, though we did hold our arms victoriously over our heads for the finish camera. (Photos forthcoming… maybe?)
People at the finish line were yelling at everyone to keep moving, and volunteers were herding finishers into two finish chute-type-areas. We were herded straight, and I was looking so forward to a nice bottle of water, which had been obtained quickly at the Ras. Not so much at this race. I had to walk the length of the street to find any liquid whatsoever, and ended up with a bottle of raspberry tea – not water, but it was liquid and I drank it gratefully. There were also no smiling volunteers handing out medals right near the finish like there had been at the Ras; instead, a huge crowd of finishers were swarming one poor boy way down by where the water was, and he was fishing medals out of boxes as fast as he could as people crushed in on him. It was a little intense.
Despite the lackluster finishing area, the Jingle Bell was definitely a fun experience. There were nearly 5,500 runners, most of whom were dressed in festive costumes (including a water-skiing Santa being pulled by a runner-powered speedboat, as well as Santa in a sleigh being pulled by running reindeer). There was an air of fun over the whole event, and even though we didn’t PR, we still enjoyed ourselves! Plus, I knocked almost 5 minutes off my course time (37:38 at the Ras, 32:43 on Sunday), which is nothing to shake a jingle bell at! Running at a faster pace felt easier than ever, and made me want to sign up for a bunch more cold-weather races to see just how fast I can go! (Then my runner’s high evened out and I wrote this post instead of signing up for millions of races. Probably better that way.) All in all, it was a fab running sendoff for Colin, and I sincerely hope I get to run with him and Gina again. After all…
*You never know what will happen in the future!
Did you run any Jingle Bell races? Did you dress up?
What are your thoughts on running in tutus – yay or nay?
Ever gotten stuck behind slow runners right at the finish?