Over the weekend I took part in the 2014 Western Reserve Racing, Spring TRAINing 5 miler. There was also a 10 mile option. From what I found online this event has existed in some form for at least a year or two prior to 2014. However this was the first year it was organized by WRR. One of the key aspects of this event is how runners are attempting to “beat the train”. We all began in Howe Meadow of the Cuyhaoga Valley National Park (CVNP). From there we ran along the local Towpath (a “trail” which is a mix of gravel and limestone and generally flat. A favorite of cyclists and families in the warmer months.
After 5 miles we reached Lock 29 (locks were the things for boats back in the day to help them travel along the canal). At Lock 29 there is a collection of restaurants and local parking. The race began at 10:10 SHARP and the train was set to arrive at Lock 29 at 11:00. If you could finish in under 50 minutes, you beat the train!!! And were handsomely rewarded with a special medal. All registered runners received a coffee mug and the first 300 registered also received a green or orange cinch sack. 10 mile runners turned around at Lock 29 and ran back for a second attempt at “winning”. Guess what though? They had to keep like an 8 minute pace to “win”. IMPRESSIVE!
For my personal experience: I hesitated to sign up because of the winter we’re still having this spring, but a few friends finally convinced me (along with a discount code) so I jumped in with both feet. Or something. I decided I could use the mileage and opted for the 10 mile distance. The day before the race I went to packet pick up, which was super quick and easy and I LOVE early pick up because then I leave my bib in the car and if (when) I’m running late it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. Race morning itself arrived and I was greeted by texts from friends saying it was “too cold” and they were skipping. Disappointed I grabbed some hashbrown-egg casserole breakfast and plopped down on the couch.
It wasn’t long though before I reminded myself of all the months I HAD to sit out, all the months I CRIED over sitting out. Now I was willingly sitting out, because it was a little cold? NO! I rushed and readied myself and headed out the door. The race offered a special “early start” for slow runners and walkers. If I was going solo I was certainly going to be slow and steady. The slowbies started at 9:40, I was parking at 9:40. Ooops. Off across the field and down the road I ran to catch up. I fell into pace with a wonderful woman named Amanda and we shared our adventure. She tore her meniscus about 7 months earlier, I sympathized based on my previous injury. We kept a reasonable pace (13 minute miles) and I must admit it was nice to just get away from daily stress and run. To see the snow covered Towpath and nature and listen to the birds.
The first 2 miles were solid, then we took about 30 seconds (if that) breaks at each mile and the two water stops. Despite knowing we would never beat the train, it was pulling into the station (about 10 minutes early) as we were arriving. I took off sprinting down the final hill and toward the mats. Hey, who says I can’t get caught up in the spirit anyway?
When all was said and done I wasn’t feeling very well. Maybe it was my breakfast? Maybe it was something else? At any rate I wasn’t about to walk back 5 miles feeling cold and with massive stomach issues. I checked myself out after the 5 miles and rode the train back to Howe Meadow.
Overall this was a really great event. The course was nice, the theme was unique and a coffee cup was a lot more useful than another shirt. Results were sent THE SAME DAY and when I didn’t see my name, someone was in touch with me within a few hours and it was resolved before I could finish my Sunday TV shows queue.
My suggestions/comments? 1) I know it’s hard to control, but the train arrive about 10 minutes too early. It can be hard enough to be a 10 minute pace, but beating an 8 minute pace is even more difficult. More people should believe they have a chance to “beat the train”. 2) Offer two types of medals (maybe this isn’t cost effective though). Especially with the 10 mile option offer two. One for “I beat the train” and one for “10 mile finisher”. I think more people will be drawn to do the longer distance if you give a little more bling. If you can afford it, do the same for the 5 milers. 3) Ask the photographer to be careful to get everyone in a picture? I found a series where Amanda and I are in the back of a pack. The next 3-4 pictures are of a guy in blue shorts. The people before us had their own shots, the people behind us did, but there are no shots up close of the two of us. I was very heartbroken by this since clearly there was the ability to capture us in at least 1 nice picture.
I have no comments about the “after party” since I did not attend, but I heard great things about it. From what I understand there was pasta and pizza and frozen yogurt! Yum! Well maybe not in the snow (haha). Thanks for a good event guys, I’m planning to be back next year.