2012 Santa Hustle 5K Run Recap

This past Saturday, December 1st, I ran a holiday 5K decked out in a Santa suit and a beard on my face.

I registered for the Santa Hustle 5K back in July during a particularly crazy race registration binge. I figured the December race would keep me motivated enough to maintain my running habit. It worked, kind of, but that’s beside the point!

The logistics of this race were far from ideal. Packet pick-up, although it went on for four days, was only at Fleet Feet in Old Town. I couldn’t figure out the best way and time to pick up my race bib and ultimately ended up taking the El (metro) during my lunch hour. It was so inconvenient!

Getting to the actual race was another logistical nightmare. In previous years the race was held in Grant Park, but this year the location changed to Soldier Field to accomodate a new wheelchair race. Come race day, my mom and I decided to simply drive to Soldier Field and find parking nearby. I ate my usual breakfast consisting of half a sprouted bagel topped with nut butter and banana slices with a side of frothy coffee. I later snacked on a Health Warrior coconut chia bar on the drive over.

We managed to find cheap parking in a lot that ended up being a fifteen-twenty minute walk to the actual start line. Everyone just kept walking and walking what felt like a never-ending distance. Very inconvenient! We finally arrived at the race start where we were greeted with a sea of Santas.

So festive! I’m totally against wearing a race shirt on the race day, but this race was clearly an exception.

(I wore: Lululemon Wunder Unders, Lululemon Run Swiftly top, Santa Hustle tech tee, Brooks PureCadence, Armour Bra)

I literally had only a few minutes before race start so I skipped a visit to the port-a-potty and lined up with the 9 min/mile group. The “corrals” were so over-crowded that I had to wait outside until the people started moving.

Luckily, the unusually warm weather made the wait tolerable.

At 9AM, each corral was released in 2-3 minute intervals. I crossed the start line fairly quickly and we were off!

Mile 1
8:49 min/mile
Unlike smaller races, this start was jam-packed with people. Some runners started mere minutes after crossing the start line. It was so frustrating! It took a good quarter mile for the crowd to even begin thinning out, but I continued to weave between runners for the remainder of the race. At the end of the mile there stood a long line of volunteers handing out cookies. I grabbed a lemony cookie but it tasted awful so I sadly had to throw it away.

Mile 2
8:36 min/mile
The crowds finally thinned out and I took advantage of the extra sidewalk space to pass other runners as I sped up. My legs felt surprisingly great even though this was my first run in five days! The candy station stood at the second mile marker and I was disappointed to see that they were handing out M&Ms instead of candy canes. I also grabbed some water to sip. One newbie runner threw his semi-full cup away across the sidewalk and sprinkled me with water.

Mile 3
7:54 min/mile
My Garmin completely lost reception as we entered McCormick Place and I simply gave up on tracking my speed. All the runners and I sped up as we approached the finish line. By this point all I wanted to do was stop running, I was hungry and tired! The crowds thickened as we neared the finish line…and then we were done!


My Garmin indicated a final distance  2.84 miles and a time of 24 minutes, and I immediately knew that something was wrong. I overheard multiple people complaining about the seemingly short race. I know my body well enough to realize that I didn’t run a 24 minute 5K, so I’m confident that this race was too short.

Final Time24:04 (8:28 min/mile pace)
Place: 743/7458
Age Division43/843

It goes without saying that I’m incredibly annoyed and disappointed with the shortened distance. Of course, I understand that is race wasn’t one to PR or even race in, but the organizers still should have worked to provide an accurate distance. Apparently, I’m not the only person bothered by the distance discrepancy. There is much discussion on the accuracy of the distance on the Facebook page – some think the distance is accurate while others (like myself) do not.

– Great post-race party: I loved that the race gave out fancy treats like coconut water, bananas, water bottles, candy canes, cookies, and granola bars. I may or may not have “stocked up” with eight coconut waters…
– Festive atmosphere: the holiday decorations were everywhere and Christmas music helped filled the race with holiday spirit.
– Crowd support: with the larger race, there were many supports out along the course especially near the finish line…always a great thing!

– Short distance! Most people agreed that the total race distance was short by a quarter mile. Very disappointing and unprofessional…
– Chip timing was off: my pace was listed as 11:01 min/mile…how does that even make sense?
– Inconvenient packet pick-up: the Old Town Fleet Feet is not easy to get to for most folks. I recommend there be more pick-up locations for future races.
– Race location: while the race route was beautiful along Lake Michigan, the overall start/finish at Soldier Field was horribly inconvenient. We parked far away to avoid the $20 on-site lot. There was simply no easy way to get to the race location.
– Race shirts: while the tech tees had a cute and festive design, they were huge and we weren’t allowed to swap sizes.

Overall, I’m glad that I ran this race. I love the idea of 8000 santas running through Chicago…it was quite a sight to see! However, this is certainly not a race I’m planning on running again in the future.

♥ Irina


  1. December 7, 2012 / 11:20 am

    dude that shirt is awesome! I want one to wear for christmas.

    • December 10, 2012 / 9:43 pm

      RIght? I think I’m gonna wear it on an early morning Christmas or Christmas Eve run.

  2. December 7, 2012 / 11:51 am

    I’m sorry about all of the race troubles but at least you got to dress up like Santa and go for a run :P.

    • December 10, 2012 / 9:44 pm

      Agreed! And I got free cookies, candy canes, and coconut water 🙂

  3. December 7, 2012 / 12:20 pm

    I seriously considered running this race and after things I’ve heard from various people who ran, I’m glad I opted out of it. It’s interesting — races like these are designed to be fun and lighthearted, but I think for people who actually take running seriously, they’re anything but fun. I ran a gimmicky 5K in September and while the course was the right length, a lot of stuff about it was downright awful from a runner’s standpoint.

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:08 pm

      Yea it was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime races or a race you do for fun with friends. While I chose it “for fun” (I guess such a large 5K shouldn’t be taken too seriously), I still felt that the shortened distance wasn’t appropriate and very unprofessional. Oh well!

  4. December 7, 2012 / 1:21 pm

    I’m assuming everyone who thought the distance was accurate just wants to be able to say they ran an awesome time, haha! I did a 5K race last year that was 2.9 miles. The race was at Brookfield Zoo, and everyone’s Garmins measured the same distance. After the race, the organizers (from the local YMCA) emailed us that the distance was short because of last minute re-routing due to construction. So at least they owned up to it, but it was a little annoying.

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:13 pm

      Hmm I wish I could say that I ran a 24 minute 5K! One day… But I certainly hope that the race organizers own up to the mistake – there were 8000 runners after all!

  5. December 7, 2012 / 2:23 pm

    That race is so cool! Having such a big race with that much of a difference is not acceptable. Most race directors actually strive for the race to a bit longer than shorter because people will complain about it either way and at least with it longer people will have run whatever time. Sorry to hear it wasn’t accurate but it does look really cool!

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:14 pm

      It was a cool race! I did it for the experience and I’m glad I did. Honestly, the true annoying issue was the shortened distance…all the other “issues” were minor in comparison.

  6. December 7, 2012 / 4:13 pm

    Aww, that’s a bummer that they didn’t even have an accurate course mapped out :(! But your times look awesome! Look at all those cookies too :D!

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:15 pm

      The cookies and candy were the only redeeming part of the race 🙂

  7. December 7, 2012 / 5:22 pm

    Ah, I understand your frustration about the deficient organisation. That would have upset me, too. Really, seeing as it wasn’t a super small race they should have gotten the distance, packet pick-up and things like that right. I’m glad you were able to enjoy the race nontheless! Chicago, the city of running Santas :D! How I wish Germany had races like the many fun ones you’re partaking in!

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:17 pm

      You should run your own Santa Hustle, even if it’s just you running in a Santa hat and beard 🙂

  8. December 7, 2012 / 8:50 pm

    Awwr that really sucks about the logistics and organization, but I have to say that it would be pretty epic to see a sea of red Santa hats bobbing up and down. I guess this is just one of those things that you do for fun to get into the Christmas spirit, but I can totally understand why you wouldn’t want to run it again.

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:24 pm

      It was awesome seeing the sea of Santa red! This was just one of those races that you run for the experience, and it was worth it! There were annoying glitches, but I don’t regret it 🙂

  9. December 7, 2012 / 9:57 pm

    Oh man! I feel like my Garmin never works around Grant Park anyway. Last year’s Hot Chocolate 5K was too long and it was frustrating because the official times weren’t actually official. But, it looks like you had fun!

    p.s. you should wear this outfit to the Blogger meet up!

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:27 pm

      I guess we shouldn’t have too many expectations with the shorter distance races with thousands of people. Oh well..still a fun experience though!

  10. December 7, 2012 / 10:54 pm

    It’s such a bummer that this race was a bit frustrating. But, on the bright side, you got an awesome run in! I’m probably going to have to take a week off of running since it’s just been a bit too cold and icy in Moscow for me 🙂

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:29 pm

      Yup there is always a bright side 🙂 Those icy Moscow winters are brutal…you are a champ for even attempting to conquer them by running outside!

  11. December 8, 2012 / 8:58 am

    OMG you are such a cute Santa! I love that you have your race day routines. It is like me with tests. I always have the same things before test. I don’t want to mess things up lol

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:30 pm

      Haha thanks! I used to have a routine for tests too…ahh I miss college so much 🙁

  12. December 8, 2012 / 7:48 pm

    The Santa costume is adorable, and how fun to see thousands of Santas running like that! So sorry to hear about the race frustrations but it still sounds like it was a fun time with all the cookies and other treats. It’s a nice way to cap off a really great year of running for you! Cheers to an even better year of running and racing in 2013!

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:31 pm

      I sure hope that 2013 will bring with it plenty of great running (along with much needed happiness in life)!

  13. December 9, 2012 / 10:44 pm

    How frustrating! But I actually laughed out loud at all the Santas 😀 😀

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:32 pm

      It was definitely a sight to see!

  14. December 10, 2012 / 4:14 pm

    Ugh, what a bummer that such a fun idea for a race turned out to be annoying. It sounds like this type of race would attract a lot of people and some new runners too… kind of like a Thanksgiving Day race? But ugh, the annoying parts sound like why I avoid city races to begin with – just logistically nightmares sometimes.

    Did they say anything official to you yet about the short distance?

    • December 10, 2012 / 10:38 pm

      Yea I tried not to have too many expectations for it for the exact reasons you listed (newbie runners, large crowd, etc.) but the short distance was unacceptable. They didn’t fess up to it yet and this is all they wrote on the Facebook page: “Due to the inquires we have received regarding the course length, we will be reviewing the course map with our verifier and make any adjustments necessary to ensure an accurate course. We apologize for any inconvenience and rest assured this will never happen again. We hope you still had a great time at the Santa Hustle and will join us again!”

      Most of the commenters seem to agree that the course was too short and many are as disappointed as I am. Such a bummer that ASM won’t own up to the mistake!