Jingle bells, Batman smells…

No wait, that’s us after a warm and humid Jingle Bell 5K.

IMG_4088Last year, I missed this race–it was just a few days after the orthopedist instructed me to stop running for two months. It was a frigid morning, and I huddled in my winter coat as my husband and son ran together through the icy drizzle. The upside was that I got to watch the winner cross the finish line, which I don’t usually get to see.

This year, things are different. My hip is a little funky, but nothing like it was last December. And because Texas’ weather is typically atypical, this year it’s warm–at race time the temp was 70 degrees.

IMG_4090The kids’ race went first, and although my 9-year old was registered for the 5K, he decided to run the kids’ race too, along with about 25 others. At the starting horn, he took off at a sprint toward the Macy’s Christmas tree and back. He finished second overall, first of the boys. And then it was time for the 5K.

Santa, somewhat overdressed given the temperature, sent us on our way, and the sound of thousands of jingle bells echoed down the street. After a crowded start, the street opened up and runners spread out a bit. Lots of folks had donned costumes and holiday-themed garb–red and green tutus, Santa hats, elf costumes, and reindeer antlers matched dogs wearing similar attire.

The course looped around on itself a couple of times, and twice, coming from the opposite direction, I passed my son–he was head of me by a few minutes. His original goal was to finish in under 35 minutes, but the first time I saw him, he was flagging a bit–I think sprinting the kids’ race cost him some time in the 5K. When I met him the second time, though, around mile two, he had rallied.

The loopy course allowed me to see the leaders pulling way ahead of the pack–they’d already made the first turn and were heading the other direction, halfway done. It’s fun to watch really great athletes, but they reminded me how slow I am. On the other hand, after I’d made the turn, I could still see a huge crowd of both runners and walkers still on their way out, so I felt good about being sort of in the middle of everyone!

The last two times I’ve run, my hip started hurting somewhere during the second mile. Today as I finished mile two, I realized that nothing hurt. It was humid and there was just one water stop; neither caused me any significant difficulty, but some of the elves sweated in their costumes, holiday socks had begun to slouch, and a few people carried droopy reindeer antlers and Santa hats.

The race wound through a mixed residential and retail area, and the police had closed the streets. However, near the end of mile three a yellow taxi exited a parking lot and drove right onto the course! He came up behind me and cut down another side street. Several hundred people were still running and walking, so he got a “WTF?” scowl from me, which I am sure caused him immense guilt and remorse. Yeah, right. [eye-roll]

I made the final turn, and about 150 yards short of the finish line my watch said I’d reached 3.1 miles. I stopped the timer there, but sped up the last stretch to finish strong. IMG_4083Spectators cheered, a band played live music, and the sound of jingle bells punctuated each runner’s finish. My family waved and shouted. Next to them, the littlest photographer I’ve ever seen stood beside a camera on a tripod, using a shutter release cable to photograph the finishers. He was probably four or five–I think his parents were part of the official photography team–and I loved seeing the little guy participate too.

Nothing hurt, and I clocked a pretty decent time for me, although I am curious how the chip time compares to my Garmin. I was less than a minute slower than my best 5K time, but I’m okay with that considering I have been kind of taking it easy for the last couple of weeks.

As I drank my water and watched waves of people cross the finish line, I felt pretty good about the whole thing. Last year I couldn’t run it at all. This year, I finished solidly in the middle of the pack, jingling all the way.