A Year of Races – First Quarter
The race season in Michigan really gets going in May and June but never really stops. Sure, the races get few and far between during the cold months of winter, but there are still races every month of the year. That got me thinking – why not run a race in Michigan every month of 2016? I couldn’t think of a reason not to sign up for races and get in a few miles even with snow on the ground. We might be on fifth or sixth winter but that is not enough reason to stay indoors.
January – Freeze Your Fanny 5K
There is a whole series of races in the winter that take place in Bay City, MI. Starting in December with the Ugly Sweater 5K and continuing into January with the Freeze Your Fanny 5K. I signed up for the Ugly Sweater run with some friends and co-workers and despite chilly temperatures had a good run. The Freeze Your Fanny takes place in the exact same location and seemed like a good recovery run following the Disney Marathon (just the week before).
This is a straight out and back, no frills, small race. It was a very cold morning in January and while the snow wasn’t falling, there was enough on the ground including some localized ice patches. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who came out for the run – more than I would have thought based on the temperature. Most people huddled inside for warmth until the last moment before the gun start but once the gun went off, people flew down the course.
I started out fast and probably a little too ambitious given that my knee (remember my Disney comments from the week before) started to hurt about three quarters of a mile into the race. Once I turned down my pace some and decided to take it easy, everything went really well. I even placed in my age group (there were very few of us really) and got a medal for my efforts. I had a good time, but this was about as small a race as you can find.
February – Mardi Gras 5K
The third in the winter running series is the same course and set-up as the Freeze Your Fanny. I was able to convince my wife to come out for this one and even bring the jogging stroller along. We lucked out on weather and had a nice and sunny day. The temperature may not have peaked over freezing but it felt much warmer once you got going.
The race was again well put on and attended by more people than you might think would come out for a chilly winter morning run on the water edge. There were even other jogging strollers and people with their dogs. We ran into (almost literally) some high school friends of mine and were able to catch up quickly before the award ceremony. I again placed in my age group (I swear there must only be three of us going to these things) but really was just happy to be out with my family.
For completing all three winter races, I got a special ‘award’. In my mind I was picturing a hat, gloves, or even coffee mug. I was wrong. Each person completing all three events received a wine glass. Maybe not my first choice but having since put that wine glass to good use, I cannot complain at all.
These races may not have been anything amazing or special but it is a great excuse to get out and do something in winter. Spending too long indoors is obviously not good but neither is spending all winter running with nothing but snow drifts to keep you company. To see so many people come up in the cold and get a run in reminds you that it is a community.
March – BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races
March was an odd month. The weather was 60-65F the week before the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Races; it was maybe 35F the morning of the race. This was my second year running the event and while I think there was more snow last year, I think this year was much colder.
This year 5,000 people had signed up to run the event making it one of the larger (if not largest) in the area – especially for the time of year. You can never predict Michigan weather in March and this year was just plain cold. Despite the frigid temperature, thousands of green and orange clad runners came to downtown Bay City in the early Sunday morning for a run. The event offers an 8K, 5K, and Irish Double (running both races back to back). I had done the Irish Double last year and set a 5K PR that held for about 9 months, so there was no chance of missing it this year. With registration limited, I signed up early to reserve my place.
This was also very well put on race. The streets are closed well in advance and a huge starting corral is set up for the participants. Fences running the length of a block allow for plenty of spectators to cheer on their friends and family. There are food vendors and stores are open to support the event. The community comes together for the race and the parade that follows.
I took off in a mad dash with a co-worker for the 8K but had to fall off pace about half way through. I really wasn’t worried about it though. It allowed me more time to enjoy the architecture and old homes that stretch up and down the race course. I really do like the course which is good because an hour after finishing the 8K, I was lined back up at the start for the 5K with my sister-in-law. We did a run-walk through the 5K and had a really good time. Seeing friends, co-workers, and more than one spectator enjoying a morning beer always makes for a good race. We finished to cheers and our names being announced on the PA before scooping up some refreshments. Along with the normal water and banana, there were sports drinks and sandwich cookies to enjoy. We didn’t stay for the parade but instead took our high quality finisher medals and headed for somewhere warm.
So far, so good. Three months into the year and three Michigan races underway. I am not sure the temperature was above freezing for any of them but it was still a good excuse to get out and enjoy running.