We registered for the Jingle Bell run primarily as a bridge for Alice between cross country season and track season. Of course 3 miles along a waterfront lit with Christmas lights and luminaries with live music every half mile was a pretty good draw as well.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the lack of general organization of the race. There were no numbers, no clocks and most definitely no awards. We did get T-shirts and our money went to support the Boley Centers so we can feel good about ourselves.
Alice and I warmed up for about a mile before the race and I caught up with Richie at the start. Of course, he had to pee first, so he headed back to the restrooms at the St. Petersburg Pier (site of a previous Richie bathroom meltdown). Of course, the line was too long and he soon returned to the start. We worked our way up near the front.
“So, you think we should run 6:30’s?” he asked. This was exactly what I had in mind.
“Absolutely,” I replied.
The mayor said a few words, rang some jingle bells and we were off. Mind you, I was wearing jingle bells on my racing flats and had a yellow glow in the dark rubber halo on my head. The Jingle Bell run is all about high fashion.
Richie zips through the rather unorganized crowd. Within 50 yards, we’re off the road and cruising down the sidewalk. We run this section of the pier quite frequently in training. Normally, Richie runs in the middle of the road. Ironically, the road is now closed – reserved specifically for runners – and he’s running on the sidewalk. Of course, I’m right there with him. For some reason, I’m keeping up with him. He said 6:30’s right?
“We’re a little fast,” Richie says several times, though he shows no signs of slowing down. We’re weaving in and out of walkers, joggers, dogs, strollers, men dressed like bananas, and people break dancing in the middle of the street. What the hell?
We pass the half mile mark and I try to look at my watch. Eventually, we pass under a street light and I read about 3 minutes through the first half.
“We’re 3 minutes through the first half,” I tell Richie.
“Yeah, we’re definitely fast,” he replies. We run on a few more yards.
“Hey, I gotta go catch those kids,” says Richie. I chuckle, happy for the excuse not to have to hang onto him anymore and quite amused that I can still chuckle and chat at the pace we’re running.
“Enjoy yourself,” I say as he takes off. I settle down and start picking off runners, albeit at a much slower pace than Richie. I lose sight of him after about a quarter mile.
We pass Santa and many merry children ready to sit on his lap, then make a right turn in front of the Vinoy resort. I pass the 1 mile mark in 6:07.
“Hey, much faster than planned,” I think to myself. Fortunately I feel pretty good, so I just settle in behind another runner and match his pace for a while. I run like that for about a quarter mile before taking an inside line on a turn and passing him. We enter a parking lot with a giant searchlight. It marks the 1.5 mile mark and the turn around point. I look for Richie coming back the other way, but don’t see him. I round the corner and head back for the pier, still feeling great.
Soon, I pass Alice running toward me, heading for the turn around. I give her a little clap and a “go Alice” before making a quick left turn.
“Yeah Darrow!” I hear from the other side. It’s Meredith, of Twisted Blister fame. I let out a yelp and raise a fist – the universal Ragnar Relay symbol of “I’m still alive and running!”. I’m amazed at how many people are still coming toward me. The two mile mark is on the back side of the 1 mile mark and it’s kind of comforting to know I’m twice as fast as these people I see in the other lane. I pass the Vinoy and make a left turn back toward the pier. I’m starting to feel the pace a little, but hey there’s less than a mile to go and I’m certainly not hurting.
I pass Santa once again and there’s lots of great live music. I make a left back onto the pier and pass the half mile mark again. I pick up the pace and cruise down to the end of the pier, passing as many people as possible. I see Raffi, and Richie’s wife along the side of the course with Richie stretching behind them. I cross the finish in 18:58, breathing heavily, but feeling great about the run.
It was a 3 mile race, but the pace translates to a 19:37 5K – or 3 seconds off my PR. The difference is that I felt like I was going to die after my PR and I felt like just phoned this one in. Really, it was like a hard workout. Richie finished in 17:28 – good for 8th place. He was pumped about all the high school runners he passed – like a little too pumped for the Jingle Bell run, but he was couped up at the office all week and you have to admire when a competitive guy lets the adrenaline flow.
Alice finished in 23:09 and we somehow missed the finish of Meredith and Scott, but they came around and chatted for a while afterward. Overall, I was quite pleased with my effort. I’m in much better shape than I thought I was. My knee is definitely better. I’m getting over the flu and the only major thing I have to complain about is a little tweak on the top of my right foot that seems to be due to some kind of friction with the tongue of my 5th pair of Adidas Supernova Sequence.
Richie talked me into a half marathon this Sunday. We’re going to try to pace Justin and Steve to a 1:45. It should be a good workout – roughly marathon race pace. It’s nice to be back in the game.