Normally, I dread the thought of running in the cold, but after last year's Hot Chocolate run on Chicago's lakefront and a quick check on the extended forecast here in Cleveland, I realized this Thanksgiving wouldn't actually be all that cold. Come race morning, it was a little chilly, but the day was clear and beautiful, with minimal wind even downtown by the Cleveland lakefront. Once we got moving, it was sure to be perfectly comfortable. I wore long sleeves and leggings just in case, but was ready to shed layers or roll up sleeves if it heated up too much. Turns out, I was perfectly dressed for the temperature, and felt comfortable throughout the entire race! Clothing is always a concern for me in volatile temperatures, so it was great to start the day out with a small victory.
As usual, when I run with my dad, I struggle to keep up. He runs faster than me and staying near him in a race is always a challenge. We started towards the back of the massive pack, but by the time we got to the starting line timer pads, the crowd had already started to stretch out enough for us to move through the congestion and find some good running space. The first portion of the course was largely downhill as we passed the Cleveland Browns Stadium, but with so many runners the tactical advantage of the downhill was largely negated by the need to bob-and-weave through the traffic! Still, as usual my dad set a brisk pace and we found our way through many of the gaps. And, as usual, I struggled a bit to keep up - until we suddenly passed the one mile flag. I thought we'd only gone about half a mile, and the sudden jump in distance gave me a little extra oomph for a while.
Accurate depiction of running through the crowd.
Unfortunately, that oomph was mostly used to get up the 9th Street bridge, which is a long, not-so-gradual uphill. We managed to keep a fairly consistent pace as I focused on putting one foot in front of the other all the way up. Finally at the top of the hill the course leveled out and we were on flat, straight streets for the rest of the run, with only a few quick turns. The five milers separated from the 5k runners and I started to feel like maybe I was pushing way too hard. I had already started trailing behind my dad and was having to remind myself that mile two is always the longest, hardest section of the course for me - and then, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as the first one, I passed the flag for the end of the second mile!
Well, alright then! I knew I was already making good time, and mile three is always time to pick it up and run down the tank. I picked up my pace a bit, tried to eye down my dad ahead of me (I couldn't find him, too many people), and pushed hard for the finish. Despite my early expectations to run a poor time, I started to feel like this run might get me in close to my best time. Split clocks at every mile had reinforced my confidence as I logged roughly 9 minute miles for both sections of the course (my previous PR of 29:09 obviously would have had about 9:40 splits) so in that third mile I definitely started entertaining dreams of a new PR, as long as I could keep up the pace. The only thing that tried to thwart me was the sudden burst of awful gusting wind with about a quarter mile to go. I'm talking barely-able-to-move-forward gale force winds, coming at us head-on out of nowhere. Very cold, knocking me backwards, ruining my changes at a PR horrible awful wind.
Actually this dude is owning it. I didn't have so easy a time.
And then we turned for the finish line, and that gust was at my back. I sprinted out that last tenth of a mile, finally managed to pass the guy dressed as a turkey and pushing a double stroller I'd been eyeing down for a while, and smashed through the finish line. A quick check on my run tracker showed a time of 27:04 - more than TWO MINUTES faster than my previous PR! When the final results were posted, I got an extra shock: my official time was 26:56!!! This simply proves that I should ALWAYS run with my dad, as I always seem to PR when he's pushing me!
We didn't stay long after the race, hoping to beat some of the heavier traffic as the 5k wrapped up and the five milers started to cross the finish, so I grabbed some surprisingly delicious blueberry peach Nooma and a handful of Rice Krispies Treats, snagged a post-run selfie with Santa, found my dad (who finished less than a minute ahead of me) and headed home to EAT ALL THE THANKSGIVING DINNER. Returning home with such a huge personal victory was an amazing way to start off the holiday, but now that I've cut off so much time all at once, I'm worried the next one won't be anywhere near as good! Oh well - bring it on anyway!
Organization: Hermes runs a pretty tight ship (there's a reason they're the big fish in Cleveland's racing pond) so race registration, packet pickup at any of several Fleet Feet locations around town, and all timing logistics were smooth and simple. There was a little expo in Public Hall along with gear check and race day registration, which looked like a madhouse but kept moving. The race received something like 7,000 participants between the distances offered, and Hermes handled them all deftly. The only complaint I might have about the race was that we started way behind schedule, which left many of us waiting out of range of the starting line announcements in the dark and a little confused. Once we started running though, it hardly mattered.
The Course: I have never run in Cleveland proper before, so it was a pretty cool experience to have my first run circle the stadium and run down some of the main streets of the city. I love downhills, but I'm not as much a fan of uphills though usually they are fated to appear together! Still, even with the challenging elevation changes, we always had plenty of road space to find our own pace, and the entire second half of the run was completely flat. Everything was well marked, and they even had an announcer at the 5k/five mile split, which was very much appreciated. One water station was set just before the two mile flag, and despite being sandwiched between two turns, the aid station staff stayed spread out and kept the race flow moving smoothly. I actually really enjoyed this run (and not only because of the PR) and am looking forward to more races in downtown Cleveland!
The Swag: My $30 late entry fee got me into the race with a long sleeve shirt that I actually found to be quite nice! It's not performance material, but it was slightly baggy (just how I like my outer layers) and super comfortable. I even ran in it on race day, which is highly unusual for me to do, but it was perfect for the weather and I'm very glad I chose to keep it on! Fleet Feet provided little goodie bags too, but it was mostly ad fliers and discount codes for services I don't really need. Post-race food and beverage was well-stocked, but official race photos come at an additional cost. If I had registered in advance and only paid $20, I'd have gotten plenty of value out of my entry fee. Even with the higher late fee, I can easily see where my money went and definitely consider this race a good value - though we all know FREE race photos is always the best way to improve a race's value!
The Bottom Line: What a run race! And a great way to convince yourself you've earned that third helping of Thanksgiving feast! Between the cool course and the energy of a big, well-run event, the Cleveland Turkey Trot is definitely on my list for next year, when I'll probably try to tackle the five mile course instead of just the 5k. I'm also excited to participate in other Hermes events around town; they offer races all year long!
I know the post is a little late for sharing other Turkey Trot stories - so did you (or will you) run a Christmas or holiday themed race this month? Is your holiday shopping done yet? If you were to receive a free race entry to ANY race, which would you want most?!