Running With Santa

Each year =PR= Races’ Run With Santa 5K is more like a party in Reston Town Center that just happens to have a race around its outer perimeter. It’s the perfect start to the holiday season, and many of my friends and I now make this race an annual tradition.

This was my fifth Run With Santa 5K and my slowest to date, yet after 136 races this is the first time I can remember feeling something painful rear it’s ugly head during a race. Call me stubborn or stupid, but I finished the race by slowing down and slightly changing my stride.

One of the amazing perks of running in a =PR= Races event are the free photos. They’ve recently changed it up so that high definition uploads cost $2.99, but low definition pics are free. Not realizing that the low def pics are plenty large enough for my blog, I paid for the download; however, I don’t mind making such a small expenditure considering the plethora of free photos I’ve received over the years.

Another interesting note is that I actually registered for this race on March 21st when we had a surprise late-season snow storm and =PR= Races offered registration for the Run With Santa 5K for one day only for $15.


Packet Pickup

My good friend Erin and I often take turns with one of us picking up our race packets and the other driving to the race. This time Erin offered to do the pick up if I’d drive on race day. She even remembered to take a picture for the blog and just happened to mention to these cuties that she was taking it for Deb Runs. The young lady in the middle mentioned that she loves my blog and my GoPro (affiliate link) pictures. As soon as I saw her picture, I remembered her from the shirt exchange after the Firecracker 5K on Independence Day and that we’d talked about GoPros before I took a picture of us together.


Our race packets included this cute long sleeve technical fabric shirt (or a $10 gift card to Potomac River Running Store) and a Christmas tree ornament.


Tooling Around Reston Town Center

It was 42° with 100% humidity when we arrived at Reston Town Center. The dampness from the humidity made it feel colder, and I kept slipping off my throwaway black hoodie for the sake of colorful pictures. Erin and I were in the right place at the right time and the race photographer snapped this picture of us right after we arrived.


At 8:10 we met our fellow MRTT friends for our official pre-race picture.


Just as we finished taking our selfie, the race photographer saw us and offered to take a picture of our decked out crew!


I was thrilled to see my friend Cindy again. Now that she’s recovered from a foot injury that took her out of racing for over a year, it’s great to see her back at races. We need to meet for some Saturday morning training runs so we can hang out more often!


One of the things I love about themed races is the creativity of some runners. Me? I’m lucky to pull together something in the right colors of the season, but Jenna and Connor? They went all out with Jenna running as an oven and Connor as the baker. For Thanksgiving, Jenna said she had a turkey in the oven and Connor was a chef. I’d never met them before, but they kindly agreed to pose for a picture for my blog.


Ready to Run

With about ten minutes until race time, my friends and I walked over to self-seed in the starting corral. As we approached the starting area, I slipped off my throwaway jacket and hung it across the base of a street lamp with hopes of it still being there after the race (it was).

Cindy and I hoped to stay together, but agreed that each of us would run our own race. Our plan was to try to run even 8:20 splits so we slipped in near the 8-9 pace flags.


We chatted as we waited for the race to begin, and I snapped pictures of the runners in front of us and the huge crowd of runners stretching toward Market Street behind us.


And We’re Off!

After wishing us good luck and saying they’d see us in 3.1 miles, we were off! It was nice to be running because I’ll gotten a little chilly as I waited for the race to start.


The Course

I’d describe the course as rolling hills and not too difficult; however, the race does finish on a gradual uphill and that always makes things a little interesting! This was my eleventh time running this course and the familiarity makes it easier to know how to race it.


The First Mile

We started out being careful not to get caught up in the excitement of going out too fast and each time I checked my watch, I was right on track at around an 8:20 pace. My right glute/hammie, which had reared its ugly head during the final mile of my Thanksgiving Day turkey trot and hadn’t healed completely, felt fine which was quite a relief.

  • Mile 1 – 8:19

Photo credit: PR Races


Feeling it at Mile 2

Just as we hit the beginning of Mile 2, my glute/hammie let me know that it wasn’t happy. As my stride changed to a limp, I told Cindy that I was going to slow down and for her to go on at her own pace. I looked to my right and realized that I could pull over and walk three blocks to the finish area and be done, but I didn’t want a DNF.

After I slowed my pace slightly and made my way up a gradual hill, I found a non-limping gait that felt a little better, especially as I topped the hill and started down the other side. I slowed long enough for a couple of sips of water before forging on.

  • Mile 2 – 9:04


Jumping Ahead to the Winners

Just after I’d stopped for a swig of water around mile 1.5, Quincy Schmidt of Fairfax, VA crossed the finish line and won the race with a time of 17:03 (5:29 pace).


Shortly afterward and around the time I approached Mile 2, Perry Shoemaker of Vienna, VA was the first female to cross the finish line as 7th overall runner with a time of 18:15 (5:53 pace).


Meanwhile, Limping Along at Mile 3

I usually hold my own in a race and once the initial crowd thins out, I rarely get passed by other runners. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a day for holding my own and I was repeatedly passed. It was a bit demoralizing, but I kept reminding myself that at least I was running and not hurting so much I needed to stop and walk.

Just as we were about to turn off of the long flat stretch and head back into the town center area, I heard a fire engine blast its horn and siren. One of the guys behind me said, “I didn’t need that ear anyway.”

  • Mile 3 – 9:33


The Final Stretch and Crossing the Finish Line

Unable to kick like I usually do, the final uphill stretch didn’t seem as difficult as usual and I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.

  • Final .1 Mile – 8:20 pace

My official time was 28:14 (9:05 pace) which put me at 4th place out of 17 women in my age group. According to my Garmin, I didn’t run my tangents very well and ran 3.16 miles for an 8:56 pace.


The Party after the Race

Almost immediately after crossing the finish line I found Cindy who had pulled ahead and run a great race. We soon found Erin and Kim, and as I started to get chilly I walked back over to the starting area and found my jacket exactly where I’d left it (had it not been there, I had another jacket in my car).

Photo credit: Kim

As I returned to where all the runners were milling around post-race, I saw several of my van 1 teammates from Ragnar DC. They’re a fun group, but I rarely see them except for before or after races.


I walked over to the post race refreshment tents and admired the cookies and thought about getting a cup of hot chocolate, but decided to wait until we were leaving.


But by the time Erin and I left, I’d waited too long and only a little dribble of hot chocolate was left even with turning the container upside down and pouring it out from the top.


Wrapping it Up

Erin and I said goodbye to our friends and stopped by to check out the race results sheets as we walked back to our car. Once again, our timing was perfect and we were able to get a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus as we wrapped up another fantastic Run With Santa 5K.


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:
  • Have you injured yourself mid-race and limped to the finish?
  • Have you ever had a DNF?
  • Did you run a holiday themed race this year?