I ran this race back in May, as my first-ever timed 5k event. Originally, I had written about it on my Zumba Fitness blog, but I wanted to bring it over here to reach a wider audience, and to spread the word about a fantastic racing organization here in Chicago.
The Muddy Monk trail running group hosts races throughout Chicago year-round, including distances ranging from 5k to half-marathon. Their runs are cost-effective, and their swag is top-notch! Plus, the people - oh the people! Anyone who has ever been to an event with volunteers and/or organizers who clearly weren't in it to please their entrants knows that the human element can make or break your race experience. The people running the Muddy Monk runs are just phenomenal, and are probably one of the major reasons why I decided to make racing a regular thing in my life. I felt welcome, included, well cared-for after the race, and honestly, a little like part of a family! This should have come as no surprise, as the first thing they say about themselves on their website is "We love people." It definitely shows!
The I <3 Momma 5k, held just before Mother's Day, was a very cool event. I was thrilled to see so many families running, and was interested to see how the stroller runners would handle the trail course - but the stroller path was all paved, and well-tended, which allowed everyone to have the race experience they deserved. The actual trail course was technical but not too much for a beginner, with only one or two spots where extra caution was needed. A few bits were a little swampy, but that's all part of the experience! I snagged some photos of the trail from Muddy Monk, as they photographers on the course and provides all event photos FREE after the race:
As for the race itself - this was not as new an experience as I was expecting. Sure, the race atmosphere and the distance were fresh for me, but running through the woods was more familiar than I realized. I'd attempted to train in a trail setting only once before the race, and had gotten pretty distracted by some deer, which led to me getting lost in the woods, which ended up being a totally different kind of fun... But I digress. I had grown up doing orienteering events with my dad, which usually involved, well, running through the woods! I'd forgotten how much fun it was to enjoy the sensation of bounding through the trees, and the race was a welcome reminder.
I also made a friend at the event! After a brief chat while waiting for the run to start, I ran into Mary again on the last leg of the trail, and we paced each other to the finish line. We spent the post-race together, she won an awesome pair of Chicago flag shorts, then we exchanged numbers and parted ways - only to meet up again later at a couple other races! I love my new running buddy, and even though it's tough to sync up our schedules, it's great to follow her progress and achievements online, and catch up in person when we can. She's kicking butt! I hope to add many more running buddies over the next few months, but it's going to be hard to find someone as inspiring and awesome as Mary!
I finished the race in the middle of the pack and was thrilled to not have been last - that had been my biggest fear going into the event. I learned a lot about running a 5k; first and foremost was that it's *not that hard*. The thought of running sooooo far was, for someone who had been a sprinter her whole life, incredibly daunting, but now I know I can do it, and I've been snapping up as many runs as I can find/afford to keep pushing myself. My Muddy Monk experience really inspired me to get more serious about running, and now three months later, I'm in great shape and loving every minute of my running hobby.
Long story short here: trail running is AWESOME, and even better with Muddy Monk. They have lots of events, all year, and I'm already signed up for two more - the Four Stars four miler in September, and the Thriller 5k in October. There is not a doubt in my mind that both of these experiences will be absolutely incredible - and that this time you won't be waiting for me way back in the middle of the pack!
Finally, on a related note, Muddy Monk is hosting their annual Nearly Sane Half-Marathon on Sunday, August 24th, and they could really use some more volunteers! Anyone who helps out receives lots of free gear (and they really do have great swag), free food, and a free entry to another event, which means you could go have a blast with THEM and then come run with ME! So you should do it! You can volunteer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or checking the website. I'd be helping out myself, if I didn't have another race already scheduled that day!
All event photos are courtesy of the Muddy Monk photographers. All other photos are my own personal property, please be sure to credit any images you borrow from this page.