PR’s, Paint, and Race Fees

Today I PR’d in the 5k. Hell. Yes.

I didn’t intend to, in fact, I went to run happily with friends in fitness, Megan Hetzel and Hannah McGoldrick (you may know them better as megrunnergirl and fithappygirl) to pay tribute to the bombings at the Boston Marathon and contribute to The One Fund Boston. As for everyone involved, Boston means something special in our circle, both Megan and Hannah having been there–me, watching nervously on TV back at Rodale HQ in Pennsylvania–so I was thrilled to be helping out concretely and symbolically. 5k1

It was a BEAUTIFUL morning for a 5k as the three of us parked our car on a side street in nearby Hellertown, PA and walked to the start/finish line. With about 80 to 100 others milling about, checking in, stretching, and heading out for warmup runs it was quite a small race. We collected our bibs, which were glorified pieces of paper with numbers on them. But considering most of the money we spent on the entry fee (a whopping $30) was going to charity, no one seemed to mind the informal timing system and the homely race setting.

Not really realizing all that was absent from this experience until mulling it over just now, it was really a spartan race–and no, I’m not talking about this kind of Spartan. The simple, out and back race took place on a gravel trail. There was no music, no police barricades, no hordes of race personell in matching tshirts, just a few happy volunteers in neon vests at the turnaround–just enough guidance to help our small mass to govern itself. I didn’t miss the fanfare. It was simple. It was fun. And we got down to it! Megan and Hannah blew out of the start line, dodging 5k3running strollers, dog leashes, and all other kinds of unholy race day obstacles, with simplicity and ease–not hemmed in by barricades and sinage or bogged down by corrales–and bound off into the distance. I, on the other hand, began to run at a comfortable pace only to realize a few tenths in that I could still see Megan’s neon-blonde hair up ahead; was I keeping up? I decided then and there that I would try to do as best I could, after all, I could do anything for just a half hour!

The race was great! Megan and Hannah breezed in just under 25 minutes, and I trailed shortly behind at 25:50–way faster than I thought I could run! Now, I’m no stranger to races (tri’s, 5k’s, 8k’s, 10k’s, etc.) but I had never felt the thrill I felt today. The feeling of “I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!” kept me going through tight legs and burning lungs and pulled me happily to the finish line–where I promptly guzzled water  to the detriment of onlookers… sorry, guys. While I was running and trying to beat my own nay-saying brain with other thoughts, I came to think about my most recent race prior to this morning: The Color Me Rad 5k.

We’ve all seen promotion for Color Me Rad. It.looks.so.fun. For $40 you can run, untimed, to the heartbeat altering tune of the latest hits, all while getting doused with paint and having a GREAT.TIME. I fell for it. When a friend approached asking if I wanted to run Color Me Rad BETHLEHEM (what whaaat) I was all in! All in, only to be let down on race day. Let me put it this way….

Here’s what it’s supposed to look like…                                Aaaannnnd here’s me.

Whomp.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw PLENTY of people having a great time at Color Me Rad, but the fanfare did not live up to its hype–and when it’s fanfare that you’re paying for, you expect a little umph to your average start-to-finish experience. That being said, there are many external factors that pushed on my paint experience from all directions: rainy weather, a small race wave, the rumblings of what ultimately sent me to the ER 4 days later (see previous post), etc.; however, I still couldn’t help but feel like the experience was very blase. Blase, for a race like the small 5k in Hellertown, is ok (though I thought it was excellent), but blase for a race built on the foundation of color, fun, and radicalness is, well, a failure.

I would’ve never considered myself a racing purist, but perhaps I am. I’d much rather pay $30 for a glorified group jog through the park, enjoying the sport and supporting a cause than fork over an extra $10 to line someone’s pockets as they deliver more of a party-like atmosphere than an athletic event. That being said, there are plenty of races that mix entertainment and athletics well, for example my old internship alma-mater, The New York City Triathlon, any Disney race (of course), and the Runner’s World Half and Festival {shameless RODALE plug}. It can be done, but it takes time, thought, and finesse, not just a haphazard pop-up method that is quickly becoming the norm. While there might be fewer bells and whistles, there is something a local race brings to the table that these larger “corporate” races have not yet been able to tap into, and that is not to be ignored. To paraphrase recent food trends: support your local races.

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2 thoughts on “PR’s, Paint, and Race Fees

  1. Like you, I absolutely believe in the power of small, local races and the ability to feel like your race registration is helping to make a difference. Its fun to of course be a part of the larger races, but there’s almost a more fulfilling feeling about your ability to help others when you know that most of your registration money is going to charity.

    Also, congrats on your PR!

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