Trail of Lights Fun Run

A little rain isn’t going to keep us from having fun at the Trail of Lights Fun Run!

At school this week the weather turned from Flip Flops to Fuzzy Boots, then to Rain Boots by Friday. A muddy Zilker Park prompted email reassurance that the event would go on, rain or shine.

Shine it did not.


Which led to Saturday afternoon’s text exchange debating the merits of bailing on the race. We’re not normally the bailing-out types, but rain and cold sounded distinctly un-fun. Finally, I suggested that perhaps because of the weather, it won’t be as crowded. And that was enough to tip the scales to the Go side.

We didn’t pay extra for on-site parking (I don’t understand parking as close as possible to … the start of a run) so we parked at Austin High and walked across the bridge. Despite living in the area for more than a decade, S had never visited the Zilker Tree (gasp!) so that was our first stop. Spinning under the tree is my favorite Austin tradition–one of the last things Austin hasn’t screwed up. They tried two years ago when they plopped a Ferris Wheel (and its loud, garish music) next to the elegant, peaceful tree, but last year remedied that by moving the Ferris Wheel to the more -appropriate Trail of Lights side of the park.

Because of the rain, race organizers moved much of the finish line festival to the parking lot of the playground near the start. The fine folks at Schlotzky’s were handing out cookies, hot chocolate, and Jedi-style flashing light sabers. We made a tactical error of collecting freebies before the run, requiring us to figure out what to do with it all, but at least the cookies weren’t a problem in that respect. In the end, I rolled up the bag and tucked it into the inside pocket of my jacket. Awkward and bulky, but better than carrying it while I ran. Especially since I was already carrying a light saber.

We’d opted for the early wave (this one started at 6:30, and the second would begin at 8) so at about 6:15 we walked (in a steady drizzle) back up to the starting area next to the tree. The start line situation was typical of a Fun Run. S and I had no plans to sprint the thing, but we wanted to start ahead of obvious walkers so we kept moving forward. I felt ridiculous lining up so close to the front, but even then little kids, dads carrying umbrellas, and women wearing rain boots surrounded us.

I spotted us at the very end of this clip.

The first mile followed the road around the southwest side of Zilker Park. A couple of kids kept sprinting past us, then coming to a dead stop to wait for their parents to catch up. One dude admonished them (“Run to the left, walk to the right!”)  as he passed, but it didn’t make much difference. That kind of thing drives me crazy, but I kept telling myself that it’s a fun run so chill out about it.

A downhill stretch felt a bit precarious on the slick asphalt, but we made it unscathed. By now the rain had stopped and I was warm in my jacket, but I couldn’t really take it off because I’d stuffed my goodie back into an inside pocket, and my zipped-up jacket was the only thing holding it all in place. Eh, it’s just two miles. I can survive.

I skipped the water stop in front of the pool, then followed the course up toward the playground. Then we crossed Barton Springs Road and entered the Trail of Lights itself for the second mile. Because of our early start, we weren’t caught up in the crowds of people who stopped to take pictures–we just kept running.

S recognized this part of the park from the Zilker Relays a few years ago. This time we felt significantly less pressure to race. Still, we had a speedy (for us) pace going on, so we just rolled with it through to the finish line. I thought perhaps we could just turn around and go back through the trail, more slowly this time, but we were turned away. Instead, we circled back out of the park and down Barton Springs Road to the trail entrance. A wave of walkers just now reached this part of the course, so we jumped back in, this time walking through the trail to look more closely at the light displays.


We decided to visit the Schlotsky’s booth again–hot chocolate would really hit the spot now–but they’d run out. A volunteer handed us a stack of cookies, though, so I was happy.

We checked out the rest of the freebie stuff, then walked back up to the tree. By now the second wave was ready to start, so we took that as our cue to exit and headed back to the car.


Yeah, we had to dodge a thousand small people, strollers, and rain boot-clad families. And yes, the course was only 1.9 miles. But we never pretended it was a serious race–hell, it says Fun Run right there in the title. No, we went into it knowing the main goal was to enjoy the Zilker Tree and the Trail of Lights, and we did just that–twice. The rain stopped just in time–our feet still got a little wet, but I’m pretty sure I could convince S to run this one again.