Before I delve into the scary deets of the race itself, let me just say that I love the Cool Kids Campaign.
I’ve talked about Cool Kids on my blog before and have even met up with the running group a couple times. I am also so excited to be joining Team Cool Kids for the Baltimore Marathon in October!
In addition to their involvement with the Baltimore Running Festival, Cool Kids has their own Running Festival that includes a 5K, a 1 mile run, and a fun and family-friendly post race celebration featuring a DJ, food, face painting, games, and crafts for kids. This year the festival would take place at a beautiful local park called Oregon Ridge. I, along with some of the lovely members from my Moms Run This Town Chapter – including my girl Sara over at Fun Mother Runner…stop by her blog and say hi! – was signed up for the 5K and a couple of our kiddos were in on the action for the 1 mile, namely my Betty and her BFF Charlotte. Charlotte’s mom is one of my most awesome friends who will be running her first half at the BRF this fall and I think you should start a blog too, Sara.
I know a lot of Saras.
Both of the Festival’s running events were cross country. This was unknown territory for me; if I’m running on grass, it’s because I’m either chasing Betty or trying to get away from a bee. I wasn’t exactly afraid of the idea, but I definitely felt nervous as I had no idea how this new terrain would impact my race.
The start was set for 8am and we had all talked about meeting up at the registration tent at 7:30. I quickly found the Saras, a cool new friend, Danielle, and Julie who was planning on running the 5k with her two girls in a double jogging stroller. She had also been up since 3pm the previous day, was just coming off an overnight work shift, and yet she was still functioning like a normal human being. I was thoroughly impressed.
At around 7:45 they started a group warm up that I didn’t participate in because I had already been running around a little to loosen up my legs, but it was a great way to get people moving and then it was go-time. I gave Betty a big good luck smooch and headed down to the start.
The race was small – just a couple hundred people – and we were able to spread out a lot at the starting line because we were on a big field. It was nice to know that I wouldn’t really be tripping over anyone in the beginning. (Save all the tripping for later, I guess.) We were given the pre-race instructions. The course was marked with little flags and we wanted to be sure that the flags were always to our left, sometimes there would be a marshal to tell us where to go, and to follow the people in front of us. Honestly, the instructions made me really anxious about possibly getting lost somewhere seeing as I get my lefts and rights mixed up on the regular. I didn’t have much time to worry though. The runners took their marks, an air horn blared, and we were off across the field and up a hill.
I knew right away that this was going to be a looooooong race.
Although it hadn’t rained very recently, the ground was wet and my shoes were soggy almost immediately. I felt like I had to work extra hard to move my legs. Despite this I managed to keep up with the leaders as the course looped off the grassy hill and onto a wooded trail. I run a lot on a rail trail which is mostly packed dirt and crushed stone with the occasional hole to fall into, but this trail was totally uneven and roots and mud and a whole lot of other ankle rolling obstacles. I had to be very careful where I was putting my feet. I started thinking about Julie and how the hell was she going to do this with a double stroller!?
Soon we were back out on the grass again and the sun was glaring down on us. It was already hot at 8am and the humidity was through the roof. I felt like I had been running forever already and I took a glance at my watch: .8 miles. OH MY GOD. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the 1 mile marker come into view a short time later. We were on the side of a ski slope so basically on an angle until the course made a hard left and then we were running down the slope and it was STEEP. And the grass was wet. I had so much momentum that I was close to flipping over and rolling all the way down. (Frankly I’m shocked that this didn’t happen to anyone.) Somehow I flailed my way to the bottom without incident, passed the water station at mile 1.5, silently cheered that I was about halfway done with this madness, and then we were heading back UP the ski slope. I wanted to cry. I felt like I was running in quicksand.
I couldn’t see anyone in front of me besides this one girl so I used her to pace myself and make sure that I didn’t go off course. As we headed up yet another steep hill she almost missed some flags, but luckily there was someone there to send her in the right direction. We turned back into the woods down a steep, uneven dirt hill that I had just run up 3 hours earlier. Or maybe it was 10 minutes earlier. I had lost all concept of time. The race began and ended in the same spot and since we had started this way I knew I didn’t have too much further to go. I ran out of the woods prepared for a straight shot down the hill to the finish. No such luck. A smiling course marshal – who didn’t look at all like she was about to keel over from a heat stroke as I probably did – pointed me to the right and OH HEY LOOK ANOTHER HILL. This time I almost actually DID cry.
The girl I was following had already gotten over it and was hitting the home stretch which gave me a little bit of an extra boost. I had never been so happy to see a finish line in my life. I was able to muster up a pretty strong finish too and as I stopped my watch, a friendly volunteer tore the bottom off my bib and another one handed me a bottle of water and an icy cold towel which I promptly threw over my face. My finish time:
I don’t even freaking know how I made that happen. I seriously felt like I was running for an hour. I’ve never worked that hard in a race in my life.
I headed back to the pavilion to wait at the end of the 1 mile for Betty and Mr. Salt. I spotted them before too long and he was surprised to see me already. They hung the cutest medal around Betty’s neck and we went to join the party and meet up with our friends as they finished. Everyone agreed that it was a ROUGH race. As it turned out Julie didn’t run with the stroller. Thank goodness because she might still be stuck out there today.
We got a great group shot:
Betty thoroughly enjoyed the celebration:
And I CAME IN 2ND!
I think this might be one of my favorite medals just because of how disgusting I felt during the race. As you can see, Betty is quite pleased with hers as well.
Some of the Cool Kids and their families were in attendance and it was wonderful to see first hand just how much this organization makes a difference in their lives every day. I am so proud to have been a part of it and to be showing my daughter what it’s like to get involved and give back to such a important cause. The event was really wonderful in every way from the well organized packet pick up, to the pre-race warmups, to the post-race celebration, the awesome volunteers, and YES even the course. In hindsight I loved it because it challenged me in ways that I’ve never been challenged before. (And I didn’t get lost or do a header down that hill which were my two biggest worries anyway.) It sounds like every year the Cool Kids Running Festival continues to grow and I hope that next year it will be even bigger!
I’m so NOT a cross country runner and today my legs feel like they went through a meat grinder, but I’d do this again in a heartbeat. 🙂
Have you ever run cross country? If so, do you love it? Have you ever fallen down a hill or gotten lost on a course during a race? Are you as directionally challenged as I am?
Happy Monday, everyone! (And a short holiday week for many of us I’m sure!)