The Santa Hustle has been on my radar for the past couple of years. The cost and obviously gimmicky nature of it kept me away, but when my CARA friends mentioned that several of them wanted to do the race, I threw all my normal hesitations out the window.
As it happened, two of my roommates ended up doing the Santa Hustle as well. One of them was kind enough to retrieve all of our packets, saving me a trip to Fleet Feet.
The goodie bag was very straightforward: no inserts or advertisements aside from a Determination bib. We received plenty of swag, though, in the form of a tech-ish sweatshirt (it’s more fleecy on the inside, so it doesn’t really feel tech) that fits SUPER small in women’s sizes (I normally wear a women’s small or medium in tech gear. My sweatshirt is a large and is quite cozy.), a Santa hat, and a Santa beard.
Race organizers sent us all a pre-race email last week, telling us we should wear our sweatshirts and other Santa gear at the race. While I will break some rules of running one could argue are not worth breaking (the 10% rule, for example), there is one rule I REFUSE to break, even for the most gimmicky of gimmicky races, and that is that you DO NOT, under ANY circumstance, wear the race shirt on race day (unless it’s post-race, of course). Therefore, I was That Person, decked out in regular running gear like the Very Serious Runner that I am.
This race makes no claims of being anything other than a good time, so the “fast” corrals (anything 9:00 or faster) were delightfully empty. Though I said time and again that I was only doing this race “for fun,” I don’t do races for fun: I do them to do them to the best of my ability. I lined up towards the back of the 8:00 minute corral and decided that I would see what I could do.
The race started at Soldier Field and went south, taking us through the tunnel under McCormick Place and making my Garmin lose signal, per usual. I didn’t want to get too bent out of shape over my time, so I had my watch tucked away under my sleeve anyway. We hit mile one soon after emerging from the tunnel, but not before passing an on-course cookie station (which I skipped. See: Very Serious Runner.)
We continued south to 31st, and during this stretch I started the mantra I would repeat for the rest of the run: “I love 5Ks.” This could not be farther from the truth, but I hoped some positive thinking would distract me from my burning lungs and overall misery haha. All the misery I thought I felt before getting to 31st paled in comparison to what I felt after the turnaround, however, when I discovered much to my dismay that we’d be running directly into an unobstructed wind right off Lake Michigan for the next mile and a half.
I skipped the aid station and candy station around mile two and kept chugging along. I felt like I was fading a little with half a mile or so to go, and right after the three mile mark, a girl who looked to be about my age passed me, seeming (from my perspective) intent on beating me. Never one to turn down a challenge, I kicked with everything I had left, passing her maybe 10 meters before we crossed the finish line, which I counted as the most important victory of the day 😛
I finished in 25:10, making this my second fastest 5K. It’s a ways off my PR, but it was also only the fifth time I had run since the marathon almost two months ago, so I’m quite happy with my time and my splits (8:13, 8:20, 8:20, 6:38 for the last .03). My Garmin did measure the course at 3.03 miles, but I’d imagine the McCormick Place tunnel contributed to that.
The race had a great spread of post-race refreshments, including water, bananas, granola bars, apples, and, most importantly, the candy and cookies I skipped while running 🙂
I bundled back up in my sweats and coat and then headed back to the course to cheer for my roommates, who declared the race their worst 5K ever and that they hated it. Haha. Winter running definitely is not for the unenthusiastic! (Or the sane, depending on how you want to look at it 😉 )
Even though I thought the race was excellently staffed and organized, I doubt I’ll do it again. Gimmicky races have never been my thing and continue to be something I personally don’t enjoy. (Though I do enjoy the opportunity to be way more competitive than at a serious race. I finished within the top 10 of my age group, which doesn’t happen all that often, because the VAST majority of participants don’t run this race for time. Great for me! Haha.) I think they’re an awesome way of encouraging fitness and introducing people to the running world in a low key environment. I already drank the Kool Aid and don’t need convincing anymore, so I don’t feel like this sort of race caters to what I’m looking for. Nevertheless, it was a nice way to start my Saturday.