Parking was horrendous on the streets around the cemetery, but once I found a spot, the rest of the night was more than worth the hassle. I quickly found Mary in the crowd; she had already picked up my packet so all we had to do was check our gear - a smooth and quick process thanks to the efficient volunteers. We were about an hour early, so we spent the time trying to stay warm and socializing with other runners. Then, suddenly, it was already go-time and we were off!
The last rays of light before we entered the cemetery...
We'd been chatting with walkers, not runners, and ended up way in the back at the start of the race. Our first half mile was spent weaving through people, and I think we've sufficiently learned our lesson about lining up properly! We added at least three or four minutes to our overall time by not paying attention, but that didn't make the run any less enjoyable.
Once we broke away from the walking pack, we found our space to open up and run! There were no lights inside the cemetery, just electric tea candles along the path edges. We'd brought our headlamps (from our awesome Energizer Night Race swag bags earlier this summer) which gave us exactly the right amount of path illumination without lessening the "dark cemetery" aura. In the more spread-out runners' pack, we were able to settle into a comfortable pace that kept us moving at a good clip without feeling overly taxed. Mid-way through the course, there were several mausoleums and crypts that were lit with eerie colors, which added some extra spooky flavor to the race. I stopped for an incredibly backlit selfie. You can't see my face, but I still love the way it came out!
Whoever is buried here is resting in some real style!
Mary's hips (challenged a few days earlier by a late-night fire rescue) were struggling a little in the cold, so she stayed steady as we hit the last half-mile, but I was ready to GO! I took off to see how many people I could pass in that last stretch, and really sprinted my way down the last tenth of a mile. I passed something like 60 people! I know I'm not winning any of these races, but the competitor in me likes to feel like I might... Plus, I'm noticing I can start sprinting farther and farther from the finish line as my body is adapting to the 5k distance. With a little more dedication to training, I might actually have some sporting chance in the next couple years for an overall win!
I ended up finishing with a time of 33:45 - not a PR, but a solid time on an unlit winding course, especially considering all the lost minutes spent weaving through heavy traffic. Mary finished fifth in her age group! Once we get her hips back in prime shape, I have no doubt she'll be placing pretty soon! We grabbed our bags and headed for a celebratory drink at the Fireside Restaurant, which was co-hosting the run with Rosehill Cemetery.
This is when things got crazy. Normally we grab our post-race bananas and water (and Mary her beer), spend a few minutes refueling, then head out to do our own thing or head home if it's a busy day. After this race, though, there was a live band setting up in the Fireside's outdoor area, and their first couple songs were so much fun we decided to stay a little longer. The Late Night Lunatics play covers from the 50's through the 80's, and they're all top-notch musicians. They also all sing! I was incredibly impressed with their performance - and I showed it through CRAZY WILD DANCE for the next TWO AND A HALF HOURS. No joke. I was dancing so much that I had to strip down to my tank top despite the very low temperatures. The band even invited me onstage! Surprisingly, several audience members actually came up to me to thank me for my energy and entertainment. I'm pretty sure that means I looked ridiculous and people thought I was wasted. Nope! I don't drink, that's just natural insanity!
Those aren't Halloween costumes, they always dress like that!
I got a better workout at the after-party than I did during the race! Really, when you take great music and high energy and put them together, there's no way you can stop me from bustin' out some intense Zumba moves! Hopefully the Late Night Lunatics will post the dates of their next shows soon, I'd love to support them again in the future!
So what about the race details?
Organization: Though I didn't have to deal with the check-in or on-site registration, Mary reports that everything went very smoothly. There were plenty of volunteers and multiple lines for everything, which always helps facilitate participants' needs. I suppose race-start communication could have been more clear, and with both timed runners and untimed fun run/walk participants, having designated start corrals would have really helped. Post-race was well under control, with the ID check line moving quickly and the bar staff equally efficient. I was also impressed with the number of course marshals - for a night event, with little lighting, safety is always a concern; seeing enough people who were easily identifiable as race staff was a huge comfort. The only other place for improvement would be parking - but there's just not much that can be done when you're in a crowded neighborhood with no parking lots!
The course: Man, this was the best part of this race! Despite the darkness, the electric tea lights were the perfect way to designate a path through the cemetery, and there were LED arrows at any forks in the trail. Miles were marked with cool lighting effects and split clocks (thanks guys!), and the halfway water station moved very smoothly. All the spooky lighting effects were perfect for the creepy theme! Mary and I both thoroughly enjoyed the run, which was surprisingly scenic for a night race. Having the headlamps helped: if we wanted to get a closer look at something we were passing, we just turned our heads! Very cool experience, definitely one of my favorite courses so far.
The swag: Entry comes with a technical t-shirt and a free beer. I love the design of the shirts - and they GLOW IN THE DARK - but apparently their "unisex" sizing advertisement was not entirely accurate. I ended up with a small (though I could have sworn I requested medium) and it was immediately apparent that the shirt was going to be WAY too small. I wasn't allowed to exchange until after the race - but by the time I finished, they had already packed everything away! Props for efficiency, but boo to not having a wearable shirt. I guess I'll have to get crafty! I wondered if they would have free race photos, until I realized that no one was taking photos in the DARK! I feel the $35 cost for this race was appropriate, but next year might not worry about paying that extra $5 for chip timing unless I think I actually have a shot at an age award or something.
The bottom line: Mary and I will both be signing up for this race right away next year! It was such a blast, and definitely one of the two most exciting race experiences we've shared! Great course, great idea, well-run, and lots of fun, a MUST for your 5k race calendar!
Know of any other exciting Halloween-themed runs? Ever run at night or in a cemetery - or both?! I'd love to hear about it!