There were two races I could have chosen for my 50th race. One was at an elementary school two miles from my apartment, and the other was on the Esplanade along the Charles River. I chose the more scenic because I like running along the water and I thought it would be a larger, grander operation. As it turned out, I may have had that last part backwards.
Before the Race
My first mistake was showing up early. It’s Sunday, so I thought the trains would take forever and I’d spend a half-hour or so waiting around in the stations. I got kind of lucky, though, and every train seemed to show up just when I needed it. This resulted in showing up at 10:30 for a 12:00pm race.
I didn’t mind showing up early, however. Registration opened two hours before the race, which usually means that it’s a big operation. It’s good to be there early so that you can be sure to get a shirt before they’re all gone. Of course, I didn’t expect to be the only guy at the table. The photo below was taken a little while after I showed up. Maybe they should have opened registration at 11am instead of 10am…
Have you guys done this before? I mean… EVER?
The registration form was pretty standard, but the waiver had several pre-filled blanks indicating that I agree to participate in this extra-curricular activity.
They also wanted my insurancy policy number and my Social Security Number, which I refused to give. The thing looked like an inter-departmental form for the university. It’s like they never considered the possibility that a non-student would show up and register. Did they not realize that Active.com is a public website? There’s a whole world beyond the campus grounds, kids. Seriously, it’s out there. I’ve seen it.
It was $25 for a non-student, (they had that much figured out) but when I paid with two twenties, they didn’t have change. The cash box hadn’t shown up yet. Most people had registered online, but there’s always a cash box at these things…
I had to wait around for other cash people to show up so they could get change. That was taking a while since the few people who were running seemed to have registered at the website. Since I had an hour to kill anyway, I walked to a CVS nearby and bought a cheap water so I could come back and register.
I asked if this was their first event, and they confirmed it. That explained things a bit. This was going to be a low-key deal, and I shouldn’t compare it to the more established races that I’ve seen.
Maybe I shouldn’t have paid for this…
From the moment I arrived, there were people running by on their daily training runs. There were also walkers, bicycles and roller blades. It’s a public park, after all. It’s free for everyone to use whenever they want. I asked, and found out that the permit was pretty easy to get for a small operation like the one they had.
As more and more people went by, I started to wonder if I should have paid for this race at all. I mean, if I was going to take the train into Boston, couldn’t I have just gone to the Esplanade and run as much as I wanted?
I guess I could have, but I really wasn’t out there for a training run. I wanted a crowd. I wanted a clock and a time to compare to my other races.
Finding some Peeps
I was feeling really out of place among the college kids, so I just sat beside a tree for a while and waited. That lasted for about two minutes before I realized that I had to have someone to talk to. In this crowd, that meant one thing. I needed to go looking around for someone who’s a bit closer to 30. In other words, a grad student. I wound up chatting with a guy named Jason, who is pursuing is Masters in Public Health… uh, Systems, I think. We kept each other company and shot the breeze while we waited for the race to begin.
The Race Itself
We started late because we had to wait for the EMS people to arrive. The Starting Line crowd was small and almost universally young. My first impression was that I would be shamelessly dusted by everybody. After all, look at the lack of body fat everywhere.
I was in the middle of a sentence in my conversation with Jason when an air horn went off and we started. No pre-race briefing of any kind. All I could do was hope that I didn’t lose sight of the other racers or confuse them with the folks who were just enjoying the park on their own.
There were several surprises along the way. First, some of those kids are slow. I guess it’s just youth that keeps them thin, because they don’t run very often. I wound up in the middle of the crowd, and I was grateful for it. The signs for the race were small and one had fallen over. I wouldn’t have known about the bridge crossing if I hadn’t seen some of the other runners take the turn. I’m glad they were wearing the official race shirt! There was another place where we forked right for a hundred meters or so, and I wouldn’t have known about that one my own either.
I didn’t push too hard on this one. I wasn’t sure if they would have a clock at the Finish Line or if there would just be a chalk line on the ground. I wasn’t going to risk tossing my cookies in a mad sprint if I wasn’t even going to know my time.
The Big Finish
Well, they did have a clock. It must have been set up while we were at the Starting Line. Most likely, they hit the air horn as soon as they got everything up and running.
I ran a decent race considering my inactivity over the winter, finishing at 23:49. There was a rudimentary Finishing Chute, but things weren’t very technical. The good toys cost money, so there was just a guy writing your clock time down on a clipboard and some people to take the bottom of your race number when you got through the chute. Like the organizers, some of the students didn’t know much about 5K races. Even with a guy blatantly pointing at it, some of them had to be told to run through the chute.
The “After Party”
Far away from the race was an after-party in the gym. You see, there isn’t much room on the trail. We were in the way as it was. Either they didn’t have permission to set up refreshments right there at the Finish Line, or it was just too much of a pain to haul it there. Luckily I wound up talking to another grad student named Greg, who knew where it all was. There were bananas, bagels, lemonade and even chicken. Not a bad spread, really.
Alright, so it was a bit of a mess. It was disorganized. It was really small, and it was in the middle of a place I could have enjoyed for free. And yeah, I felt way out of place because I’m over 30.
But it was organized by a bunch of kids who had never done this sort of thing before. It’s not all that easy to accomplish, and most of the race organizers I’ve known had been doing it for years. Considering that this was the equivalent of a class project, they did pretty well. Everyone was really nice and the food was good. And I have a t-shirt.
Next time I’ll do more research before I pick a race, but for now I have to say that the kids did okay. Race 50 is complete.