Fleet Feet’s Pumpkin’s in the Park is one of my favorite races and I’ve been involved nearly every year I’ve been in Chicago. I’ve volunteered as a course marshal twice (sweet pumpkin hat and neon vest are included in this gig!) and this was my third year running it. It’s in Lincoln Park so the course is gorgeous and the start time is 4pm which means no 5:30am wake up call. Win-win. I’ve never dressed in costume for a race and hadn’t planned on it this year but upon waking I had an epiphany. Brett had ordered a Where’s Waldo costume for Saturday night but then got tickets to the World Series in St. Louis (where he originates) so wasn’t going to be using it. A friend with season tickets offered him one which is why I wasn’t able to go. This isn’t really important but I assume you were wondering why on earth I wasn’t invited. But it’s cool, and for the record, I’m over it.
Point is, there was a Waldo’s hat and glasses just begging to be used and I just so happened to buy a new red and white Lululemon top that week. Some refer to this as fate. The temp was perfect, 52, but the 15-18 mph wind made it feel pretty nippy so my arm warmers came in handy (or, army?) I had to get my packet so I arrived almost an hour before the start and took advantage of the FREE Stewart’s Coffee. They always say try nothing new on race day but my being cold trumped the fact I don’t normally drink coffee before a race. Don’t worry, no foreshadowing here. I watched the kids costume show and considered taking a few pics to add here but since I was alone and have no kids I thought better of it. I saw a few girls I knew from Fleet Feet’s Tuesday night Chick’s Night fun runs and chatted until the last minute before surrendering my warm jacket over to gear check. I huddled in the corral and although I love hearing the National Anthem before a race my shivering body wished the song were shorter. I found a few other Waldo’s in the crowd but I was the only one who worked in actual running gear. Winning.
With over 1,800 runners and a few turns in the first 1/4 mile it’s amazing how smooth this race is organized. Although I probably could have shaved a few precious seconds off, I never had to walk and never tripped over anyone. That first half mile I kissed goodbye the tried-and-true advice “don’t start out too fast” as I dashed ahead of people purely to get warm. Before the 1st mile marker I had settled into a fast (for me) 7min/mi pace. My legs felt great. I was pushing myself for sure but I felt I could keep at it. I saw the lead runners heading south on the west path of the course and hoped that meant the turn was close ahead. It was! I don’t stop for water stops in the 5k distance so I positioned myself in the middle of the path and as I went through I heard a volunteer yell, “Where’s Waldo?!”. I pumped my fist without looking back and heard them all laugh. Hey, this costume thing is fun!
After passing the 2 mile marker I was actually warm and internally pumping myself up; “you got this!”, “hold on!”, “one more mile!”, as we headed towards the pond for a last hill (an incline for those not living in Chicago) and loop around towards the finish. I heard another spectator yell “It’s Waldo!” and while my heart wanted to pump my arm I could not muster the energy to make it happen. That was how I knew I was going all out. The finish line came in to view and I tried my hardest to move my legs faster. I crossed the finish, grabbed a water and leaned on the fence with a guy who also looked like he may puke. After collecting myself and getting back to even breathing I grabbed some Nutter Butters from a young volunteer who quietly told me I could take two. I asked for a recommendation and he pointed to the ‘Nilla Waffers. This kid’s going places.
Official time was 21:53. I placed 12th in my division of 228 and 99th out of an overall 1825. I love when I impress myself! I may never see a sub 20 but I do think that with some more attention paid to speed work and the dreaded tempo run I could get closer.