=PR= Races’ Run With Santa 5K has become one of my favorite annual races, especially since Erin and I declared it one of our races three years ago and the shenanigans ensued. Monday evening, just five delivery days prior to the race, Erin texted with updated pictures of her sugarplum fairy race costume. Peer pressure is real and I instantly hopped on the Gone For A Run website in search of something Christmasy, but not sparkly.

My outfit arrived in just three days, at about the same time Erin realized that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to run the race while fighting walking pneumonia – glad I didn’t go rouge and go sparkly, or I would have been all alone.

Bill was kind enough to swing by the Potomac River Running Store in Reston Town Center to pick up my race packet on Saturday, the day before the race. He tied it in to a bike ride which worked out great for both of us.

Photo courtesy of Bill

Photo courtesy of Bill

I was thrilled with this years’s shirt even though the color is a little more  greenish than it appears in the photo. I’ve already worn it several times, both for running and running errands, so that’s a win in my book.

I felt like an elite runner with such a low number. 😉 In reality, I was given a free entry into this race back in the summer after one of the owners of Potomac River Runnng read my recap on the Firecracker 5K, another of Erin’s and my favorite races. Despite the free entry, I will recap this race honestly ’cause that’s how I roll.

As with past years, we also received a race themed Christmas ornament in our race packet.

Sunday morning I woke up before my alarm, and while getting ready I heard rain hitting our bathroom skylights. What the heck? There wasn’t rain in the forecast!

I quickly checked my weather app and it looked like the rain would move out about the time the race started. I decided to stick with wearing my new shorts and short sleeved shirt because the temperature was in the high 30’s and climbing, and anything more would be too hot for me. By the time I left home the rain had moved out and the sun was starting to shine.

Once in the parking garage, I took my time deciding what throwaway layers to wear and whether or not to break out my hand/body warmers. I left my long pants and hand/body warmers in the car in what turned out to be a great decision.

While trying to pin my bib on straight, this adorably dressed family parked next to me. As I watched them all spill out of their van, I couldn’t help but think how much fun they were going to have running the race and wondered if they would stay together (and couldn’t help but be a little sad missing my side-kick). I asked for a picture for my recap and they gladly obliged.

I left the garage, turned right and headed out for a one-mile warm-up run before heading to meet my friends at our designated spot. My plan was to test out my festive footies covering my shoes to see if they were slippery, and since they worked just fine, they stayed on for the long haul.

I finished my warm-up run near the start/finish area and immediately saw Mr. and Mrs. Claus (aka Santa and Kris) who were posing for pictures with runners.

Once my MRTT friends arrived at our meet-up location, we asked someone to snap a pre-race photo.

Since Gayle and some of the kids didn’t get in the first picture, we snapped a quick selfie before heading over to the race start.

At the race start, I self-seeded just behind the 7-8 minute pace section with the plan of running around an 8:00 pace or just under a 25:00 race.

While everyone was waving at the photographer on top of the parking garage I snapped one more picture before folding up my GoPro selfie stick and focusing on the race.

Red bibs were for seasoned 5K runners and green bibs were for first timers who would receive a My First 5K medal when they crossed the finish line. You have to give credit to these first timers for their level of confidence when lining up in the second row right behind Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

And you can’t help but wonder if it was through the magic of Christmas that Mrs. Claus was able to get such a great start!

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

Trying not to get caught up in the excitement of the start of the race, which is easy to do with lots of little kids all around sprinting out of the gate, I held back and was happy to see that I was right at an 8:00 pace and not a 7-something which is often the case. About a quarter mile in, a little girl stopped abruptly right in front of me as she turned to look for her friends. I thought I was going to bowl her over, but zig-zagged quickly enough to just brush against her. I smiled as I remembered how often similar situations like this have happened and reminded myself that it was a great thing that she was out running in such a fun race with friends.

Apparently that first quarter mile was a dangerous stretch because this young runner got bonked in the head by Mrs. Claus as she waved for the camera.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

I held my ground for the first mile, staying within the pod of runners around me, not passing a lot of people and not getting passed by many. I also was not looking at my watch a lot, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t using it to regulate my pace.

  • Mile 1 – 8:22

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen a picture of Santos; however, when I took his picture after the race, I had no idea he’d been cheering the runners on from the comfort of his own skateboard.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

While I was still out on the course approaching the two-mile marker, Jack Bolas won the race with a time of 15:27 (5:48 pace).

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

And not too long after I’d passed the second mile marker, Perry Shoemaker won the women’s division with a time of 17:46 (5:43 pace). Congrats to both Jack and Perry!

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

Still out on the course, I stopped at the water stop long enough to get some water in me and not on me. Even though I was plenty warm, I knew my hands would get very cold if I got my fleece lined mittens soaked with water. I finished my second mile, the only mile with a decent downhill, much slower than I should have and it’s safe to say that I was running and not racing.

  • Mile 2 – 8:11

I didn’t even see the photographer in time to smile (how could I when I was looking down?) until I was almost even with him, and didn’t realize that I was just behind my friend Rick who I used to work with when I was a trainer at Worldgate Sport & Health. Rick’s wife is Kim of Kim Runs Miles With Smiles.

  • Mile 3 – 8:39

I had chased Mr. and Mrs. Claus the entire race, but had never tried to actually catch them. For whatever reason, my head was not in the game and as I mentioned earlier, I simply ran the course, I didn’t race it. I could see the Clauses finishing up ahead as I turned the final corner.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

With the finish line in clear sight, I picked up my pace and pushed hard just to be done.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

I picked off a few runners in that last stretch and crossed the finish line with a time of 26:07 (8:25 pace), happy to be done. If only I had been that focused and aggressive during the entire race…

  • Final .13 – 7:30 pace

When the final results were posted, I realized that I had missed finishing in third place by 2 seconds and had missed second place by a mere 8 seconds, times I could have easily run if I’d just focused on the race by paying attention to my watch.

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

I didn’t happen to see them finish, but the family I chatted with in the parking garage did indeed stay together during the race. Check out all those smiles!

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

In addition to the typical post-race fare of bananas, bagels, and water, the Run With Santa 5K serves holiday cookies and hot chocolate. Even though I’m never hungry immediately after a race and knew that if I ate something sweet I’d probably regret it, I just couldn’t pass up one of those chocolate and mint cookies in the center.

After grabbing a cookie and a water bottle, I wondered around looking for my friends and ran into Ray, one of the owners of Potomac River Running. He’s a great guy and I look forward to interviewing him sometime in the new year for another segment of Spotlight on Local Athletes.

I walked back to the starting line in search of my jacket that I’d stowed away before the race and was thrilled to find it exactly where I’d left it! Since it was a throwaway I didn’t care if I lost it, but since I’d gotten cold after I quit running, I was happy to find it. Warm again and milling around the finish area, I found speedy Debi from my Ragnar DC team. She had placed second in her age group and was waiting for the awards ceremony.

Despite not having my partner in crime along for the fun and not running a very smart race, I had a good time. I can always count on a well-organized race with attention to detail from a runner’s perspective whenever I run in a =PR= Race. Their special touches on quality shirts, post-race refreshments, free race photos, and add-on surprises (a Christmas ornament this race) make for an event well worth the reasonable registration fee. No wonder their races are always so well attended!

  • Questions:
  • What is your favorite sweet combination? ~ Mine is mint and chocolate!
  • Have you ever not had your head in a race even though you planned to race it?
  • Did you run a holiday themed race this year?

Disclaimer: Even though I was given a free entry into this race, all thoughts and opinions are my own.