Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chicago Santa Hustle 5k & Themed Race Thoughts

American culture is funny, we commercialize everything. Don't get me wrong, I love the holiday season, but as a Christian woman sometimes I have a difficult time understanding how the birth of our savior Jesus Christ is represented by a jolly fat man who gives out lavish gifts to those who have made the "nice" list in modern day. Then I remember that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we try to make a buck off of everything and suddenly things all make sense.

So I decided to indulge in the time honored Santa tradition and register for the Chicago Santa Hustle with high hopes for starting off the Christmas season with a warm festive cheer. The race was $40 where they distributed a Santa beard, hat, and a polyester long sleeved shirt that had Santa's ever-so-famous red suit with white trim printed on it. Delightfully tacky. I decided beforehand that because this was my first ever themed race, that I was going to sport holiday gear and partake in the morning festivities. I even went as far as to print "" on the back of the top in hopes to give myself some sort of individualism.

I accidentally put a letter on backwards...whoops

I think Santa needs to lay off the carrots and have some chocolate cake to fit into that velvet suit

With a father that is a professional photographer you would think that I could take a clear photo...
guess not

I decided to not sport the beard and hat as I discovered a few days earlier a beard made of synthetic material smells funky and gets all kinds of fuzzes in your mouth and eyes. Instead, I pulled out some candy cane striped socks that I randomly have to pick up a little extra seasonal cheer and have been using the beard as a toy.

Miles makes an adorable Santa dog

But the verdict is still out on D filling Santa's shoes...
looks like hes about to kill Vixen

As far as the race goes, I feel like it was an unorganized mess and slightly disappointing. The thing that annoyed me the most was the lack of indication as to where the starting line was. I asked several volunteers who had no idea, there was no signage nor was there any type of fencing to separate the runners from the spectators. And on top of that, everyone was wearing the same outfit which made it difficult to not just see a big blob of red all around. It became stimulus overload for me.

Because this was more of a "fun run" type of race, there wasn't really organization at the starting line. It was one of those "well this looks like a good place to stand" kinda things. I hate races that start off like this, especially those that have nearly 4,000 participants. These are the kinds of races where you get people lining up in front telling others that they are going to run slow or that they clock a 10+ minute per mile pace. I get it, we all like to start up front. But if you are toeing the the line with the front of the pack with intentions to run 4 minutes slower then the winners, you are just going to create unnecessary and unsafe traffic and maybe ran over. I usually finish up front and even I don't like to crowd the start area, but that's just my modest personality (sarcasm). 

The thing about races like this is that really they are cute and kitchy, but they lack a lot of conceptual thought and fail on the delivery. They did have a reindeer, a horse drawn sleigh, some blow up Santas, and free cookies and chocolate along the course, but this race didn't seem to spew out "Christmas" as much as they promoted. In my opinion they should have ditched the faux beards and cheap looking hats and instead spruced up the aid stations with some holiday garb, maybe added a few holiday characters along the course, and had the kid who was handing out bags of m&m's be a little bit more enthused about it.
Sadly, this was as Santariffic as the race got

All and all, this wasn't a race for those shooting for a PR. I ended up not racing like a maniac trying to earn that sub 19 clip my mouth is watering for and instead just kind of moseyed through the course. After having no choice but to let a lot of my fitness slip through my hands for the past 2 post marathon months, it was honestly unrealistic for me to even consider pushing my body to pump out a race with 6 minute miles at this time. I'll get there in 2012, but for now I need to continue to focusing on working out those kinks that 2011 brought while staying healthy. And sadly, that means I've lost quite a bit of speed recently. But it'll come back eventually and I know that my body will be ready for forward progress again, just have to keep giving it the TLC that it needs at this time.

Does it bother me that I finished only about 30 seconds behind the first place woman? Yes. Did I want to finish in the top 3 women but ended up coming in 5th? Yes. Will I run a themed race again? No, unfortunately this is where themed races and I will part ways.

I understand that this is America and we all want to make a buck off of something, but please theme races when you have the opportunity to blow my mind away with your creativity...DELIVER WHAT YOU ADVERTISE, AND THEN GO THE EXTRA MILE!


  1. I think your critique sounds like a good one. Organization pays... especially for a fun run of that size. Miles in that beard is priceless! Love it!

  2. I think you made wise use of the beard :) and loving the collapsed Santa in the background of your photo! :) yea, I'm quickly learning that races that are part of a series usually aren't worth my time

  3. I couldn't stop nodding my head as I read this. I ran a Jingle Bell 5K here in Peoria yesterday... and kinda the same thing. Unorganized chaos in mass. Absolutely no signs or indication of the start line... it started in the middle of a parking lot with cars on both sides... congested mess. I really just need to give up running 5K's... and stick to the longer distance races where the runners are a bit more educated on the etiquette of running alongside other people. But I had to remind myself when I got home... ho, hum, it was for charity...

  4. Must be the weekend for unorganized races! I love your shirt personalization even with the backwards "C"

    Great job being 5th that is still awesome!

  5. I totally agree- I don't think I've every run a well-organized themed race (although I still love them...). Congrats on coming in 5th, though-- that's awesome! I can't wait to see you crush a 19 minute 5k next year :)

  6. The shirts and hats for this race are so cute!! the beard is a little too much, can you breath and run in it? :) your review is great! you should send it to the race director and see if you can get free entry next year!

  7. Oh my goodness you look adorable in your outfit!

  8. not to sound like a race hater, but this experience is one of the things that fires me not only are they charging so much, but the least they could do would be to deliver an organized race!! ugh, not even knowing where the start was?!? oh, and i hear u on the whole 'just line up where u want, who cares if u run 5 min pace or 12!'

    well, at least u got one super hot beard and outfit out of it, right? ;) hehe. naww, to now get ungrinchy...hey, good job for going out there and getting it done. u kno ur fitness will be along, and soon u'll smoke that girl who finished ahead of u. ;)

  9. Congrats on the speedy time despite the conditions! I also expected more from the race and was dissapointed. There was a lack of organization contrary to my post about it being organized. Yes. The start line. Um, I just followed everyone else and tried to get into a start position that would be with our 10 minute miles.

    I did go to an after party. It was advertised that cubby bear and sports corner has the buffets on the website. We saw a huge line for the cubby bear and went over to sports corner where they said the race Misrepresented them because they didn't have a buffet- only drink specials. We just decided to stay there.

    I did try to look for you, but it was difficult with the chaos as myriad number of Santas ;) perhaps well see ourselves on travel channel soon? They were filming the race for something.

  10. Congrats on 5th overall woman! That's quite the accomplishment.

    You totally have a sub 19 in that body of yours, it's just a matter of time and next year you are going to do it, no question. Maybe your body still wants a little bit of a rest after such a ridiculous year of PRs!

  11. After doing the Hot Chocolate 15K last year, I've kind of changed my mind when it comes to themed races. I'm all for themes, don't get me wrong - I ran the Reindeer Run 5K at Brookfield Zoo this past weekend in red & green - but I also appreciate organized races that aren't oversold. (Also I can place in my age group in smaller races.) So I think I'm kind of done with races that only have some kind of novelty as the appeal in favor of races that are actually run well. PS - I know it wasn't your goal, but way to go being the 5th woman!!!!

  12. I hate disorganized races too! At least you looked cute and still had a great race! You smoke every race you run so I'm not surprised :)

    Now you have an outfit to wear on Christmas!

  13. 5th really are incredible and you WILL get that sub 19, I know it. LOVE the santa suit and beard gorgeous girl. Thanks for the garmin help, I owe you big time!

  14. I need a good Santa suit and probably would have bit too :) Did you wear the beard the whole race?? Too cute- so are Miles and D!
    30 seconds off the #1F, and in a pack of Santas? That is a pretty big achievement! Hard to pick out a person to follow/ pass that way. You'll get that sub 19 soon!!

  15. I could not agree with you more!! I am sooooo glad I had decided earlier in the week that I was not going to "race" this one. I was running with someone several minutes a mile slower than me just to have a good time, but it ended up being one of the most frustrating races I have ever participated in. We, too, could not find the start OR a volunteer that could help us. And I second that the line-up was a disaster -- even pace signs or flags to encourage safe "self-seeding" would have helped a LITTLE and been pretty simple for the race organizers. And to think this madness was before the race even started. I am guessing the front of the pack was not as big of a nightmare as what we dealt with -- hundreds of Santas that were completely oblivious to the fact that they were not the only one in the race...running you over, shoving, stopping RIGHT in front of you, walking 2-3 across on painfully narrow paths while amongst people trying to run.... ugh, don't get me started! They also needed course marshals -- I am sure this was not the case with people up front actually competing for awards, but I swear 90 percent of the people were cutting corners and overall cheating not only the race but themselves. Total nightmare! Ok, I will shut up and get back into the holiday spirit now. :)

  16. Like I said, no doubt on the sub 19. We'll do it together, virtually, sometime soon:) I can't imagine racing in a mass of santa's. Also, there is something noncompetitive about being surrounded by people dressed up who are out there to have fun! Would kill my competitive juices.

  17. Oh my gosh! You look super cute! Love the outfit! I don't think I could have handled the beard either!! I bought a pair of those same socks at Target for a half that I am running this Sunday.

  18. Wow! Congrats on 5th overall despite the loss of speed over the past two months! That is great!

    Was this the first year of the race? I had never heard of it until this year and wondered. I can see how these themed races get so unorganized. The one I like in Arlington Heights is kind of like that, and I just go with it since I am doing it for fun. But when you are in Chicago with all those people, it gets really annoying.