The proceeds from this race benefit PAWS Chicago. Excellent! I've said many times how much I value the cause of animal shelters. So when I saw this race I signed up immediately.
This was actually my second 5K in seven days. Having been happy with how things went at the Mad Dash to Madison less than a week ago, I debated how to handle the 5K9 5K. Part of me wanted to just run easy and enjoy myself, but part of me wanted to see if I could beat my Mad Dash time.
There were a couple of other factors, too. Since I'm running the Prairie State Half Marathon in three weeks, I needed to get a 9-mile long run in sometime over the weekend. I know some folks run races and then tack on extra miles before and/or after to achieve their long run distances. I didn't feel like doing that, though. Instead, I went ahead and did my 9-miler the day before, planning to make a race-time decision on how to handle the 5K9. I do usually try to avoid running on consecutive days, especially on long-run days, but this time I figured I'd give it a try.
Now, onto the race itself. The weather was absolutely gorgeous - sunny with temperatures in the upper 50s. The race's start and finish line were both at Montrose Harbor. I was a little bit worried about finding parking since the start line for the CARA Ready to Run 20-Miler was only a few blocks away. Thankfully, I had no issue since I arrived pretty early, but I bet it got tough for participants that arrived later.
I went to pick up my race packet and shirt. The volunteer working the goodie bag table asked me if I was running with or without a dog. I told her I was running without a dog and she handed me an "athlete-only" goodie bag. It was stuffed to the max, so I got excited (I'm so used to the goodie bags that are basically just a stack of flyers). I eagerly went to a nearby table to check out the contents. This is what I found:
|Lots of doggie products!|
So much for the "athlete-only" goodie bag (although I have to admit the little sausage thing looked somewhat tasty). I am guessing I was given the wrong type of bag. But no worries - I gave the contents away to a dog-owner (there was obviously plenty of them at the race).
I found out there was no gear check so I went back to my car to store my belongings. I took a GU for good measure, then did a 1-mile warm-up run and hit the portapotty (no lines!)
Here are some pictures of the festivities pre-race:
|I think dog owners were able to get a free collar tag with their dog's name on it?|
|Dogs and their owners hanging out.|
|More dogs and owners hanging out.|
|In addition to medical personnel for the humans, it was nice to see an onsite veterinarian for the dogs.|
I then headed over to the start line. "Runners without friends" (i.e. runners doing the 5K without a dog) got to line up first, followed by "Runners with best friends" (runners with dogs), then "Walkers with and without friends." Since I was a "runner without friends" I went to the very front of the line (wow!). There were probably only about 100 or so runners without dogs, so in the back of my mind I was wondering if I might actually be able to snag some kind of age-group placement amidst the limited field?
An emcee announced that the runners without dogs would get a one-minute head start before they let the runners with dogs begin the race. Seemingly in answer to my ambitious thoughts on possible race placement, he informed us that the Petco Foundation has hosted this race in ten different cities across the country this year but only once had a human actually won the race. Every other time, a dog had won. The emcee joked that in most instances, the dogs had provided their owners an advantage by pulling them along the course!
While we were waiting to start, the emcee told all of us that they had poop bags available. He instructed us to raise our hands if we needed one. A runner without a dog standing next to me immediately raised his hand. Everyone laughed.
The starting airhorn sounded and off we went. The crowd spread out quickly. Even with the one-minute head start, it seemed like it took no time at all before runners with dogs started catching up to us and zooming past us.
Some of the dogs, which came in all shapes and sizes, were FLYING. I couldn't believe my eyes that the owners were even able to keep up. The emcee wasn't kidding when he said that the dogs provided their owners with a boost! I tried to push myself but seeing so many dogs careen past me with their owners in tow, I realized right away that the odds of me earning any kind of age group placement were exactly zero.
Mile 1: 8:04
Oh wow. Since I started wearing a Garmin two years ago, this is by far the fastest mile split I've ever recorded at a race (previously it was 8:29 at the Mad Dash to Madison). Who knew that trying to race alongside dogs could have such a positive impact? I thought, "It would be nice if I could maintain this... but more than likely it means I started too fast. Again!"
Mile 2: 8:36
Yeah, that's more like it.
I was still watching dogs fly past me. But I chuckled when I saw a couple of dogs suddenly stop to do their business right in the middle of the path, much to the chagrin of their owners. But hey, when you're a dog out for a big day in the park and you gotta go, you might as well just go, right? Just be careful where you step. =D
I kept at it but my legs definitely started feeling the effects from doing my long run the day before. I could feel myself slowing down. But the views of Lake Michigan from the course were gorgeous and I was still enjoying seeing all the dogs romping along.
Mile 3: 9:10
Yikes, did I ever slow down! I didn't think it was to THAT extent, but so be it. I did my best to sprint to the finish.
Mile 3.1: 0:52
My official time was 26:42.
Despite running a hugely positive split, I did succeed in beating my Mad Dash to Madison time by 5 seconds. Admittedly I had been hoping to do better than that and I now wished that I had pushed harder in the final mile. But I was very happy to have achieved the 8:04 in the first mile. It's been a goal of mine for quite some time to run a sub-8 mile, so it felt good knowing that it's within shouting distance.
I went to get some post-race food (they had bananas, oranges, bagels, and a variety of pastries). Then I walked around a bit admiring all of the dogs. Here are some more pictures:
|Dogs and their owners crossing the finish line while others cheer them on.|
|There were several tents with dog treats, so the organizers very kindly distinguished the human food from the nonhuman food.|
|The doggie agility area. |
(It's not a coincidence that I photographed the dog in the Blackhawks shirt.)
|It wasn't hard to identify the owners for the dog in the Blackhawks shirt.|
In addition to some pet trainer demonstrations, there was a doggie costume contest. I didn't stick around for the contest but based on some of the cute costumes I did see, I am sure was ridiculously adorable.
I was thrilled, as always, to run while supporting the cause of animal shelters. This race reminded me quite a bit of the PAWS Run For Their Lives, which is a must-do race for me. The Petco 5K9 race is going to become a must-do for me, too. I had a great time and I can't wait to participate in it again in the future!