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!
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.
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.
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 Time: 24:04 (8:28 min/mile pace)
Age Division: 43/843
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.