Run Walk for Whales 5K Race Recap

I recently returned from eight days in Hawaii, where I spent time on both Oahu and Maui. I always try to run at least a mile when I travel to add the location to my Places I’ve Run list, and hoped to get in short runs on each island. I liked the idea of doing a race so I could also put Hawaii on my States Where I’ve Raced list, but I didn’t put much effort into looking and wasn’t particularly hung up on it. I’m not working to race in all 50 states (at the moment, at least), so it wasn’t a huge concern of mine.

Winter is whale season in Hawaii, and Maui in particular is a hotbed for watching humpack whales. Whales generally arrive around or after Thanksgiving and leave in March, so January and February are the peak months to see mama and baby whales swimming the warm waters off the coast of Maui. I went on a whale watching tour while I was there–another post for another time–and after getting off the boat, decided to continue another mission of mine: finding a pen for a coworker who had requested I bring one back for her from Hawaii. My whale watching tour docked outside the Harbor Shops near Maalaea Harbor, so after the tour, I headed up there to search for a pen.

Right below the permanent Harbor Shops sign was a temporary sign: “Run & Walk for Whales.” Immediately intrigued, I asked my travel buddy, “Do you think the race is this weekend?!” We wandered into the plaza and found more signage that seemed to indicate that the Maui Whale Festival would mostly take place the weekend of February 8 and 9, so I figured the race would be that weekend, too. When we saw a sandwich board that said “Packet Pick-Up,” though, I got more hopeful. We made our way to packet pickup, and lo and behold: the race was scheduled for the following morning! Totally thrilled at this turn of events, I paid far and away the most I’ve ever paid for a 5K ($55 O.O) and got myself signed up for my first Hawaiian race!


Run and Walk for Whales featured four distances: a 10 mile, a 10K, a 5K and a one mile. My ongoing plantar fasciitis situation led me to take a bunch of time off running, and I had only logged a few miles at all since the beginning of December, making the 5K the most viable option. Plus, I was on vacation! I didn’t want to put too much effort into running ūüėõ

The race started at 7 a.m., which, given that sunrise on race day wasn’t until 7:02 (and that’s only sunrise, not sun-getting-over-Haleakala rise), seemed surprisingly early. Fortunately, I never fully adjusted to Hawaii time, so even though we had been there for a week by race day, I still wasn’t having much trouble getting out of bed early. We arrived at the race site around 6:30 a.m., got in a (gigantic) line to use the bathroom (no portapotties – the bathrooms available were the ones in the shop complex. Fine by me! I’ll never complain about access to running water before a race.), and then headed over to the start line. The race sent off the 10 milers first, followed by the 10Kers, and then us!


The course was a pretty simple out-and-back-ish, starting by running around the outside of the shop complex and spitting us out onto Honoapiilani Highway. I quickly discovered that the northbound (“out” portion of the course) part of Honoapiilani Highway is uphill, going from 15 feet to 147 feet over the course of that first mile and a halfish of the race. I wasn’t concerned about my time at all and was actually quite surprised to churn out a 10:02 first mile. Most of my running recently has been decidedly in the 11:30 range, and I didn’t think I had anything much faster than that in me, especially when running uphill.

There was an aid station at the turnaround, and then we got to enjoy a delightful downhill for the return to the Harbor Shops. Encouraged by the change in elevation, the sun cresting over Haleakala, and the time on my watch, I kicked into gear and ran the last mile in 8:36 (having done mile two, half of which was uphill and half of which was down, in 10:18). I was pretty sure I’d be able to finish in under 30 minutes, so I pushed it at the end and crossed the finish line in 29:44. Not my best 5K by a long shot–not a time I’d normally be remotely happy with, in fact–but given the circumstances (having logged a whopping 11 miles in all of 2020 prior to the race, finding out about and signing up for the race 13 hours before it started, being on the tail end of vacation, running in decidedly different conditions than what I’m used to for February, what with the hill and the temperature and the sun and the humidity), I was thrilled to break 30 minutes.

I figured it wasn’t impossible that I might have placed in my age group, given the size of the field, so I insisted on sticking around for the awards just in case. When they read off the awards for the mile run, I found out that the age groups were MUCH bigger than I’m used to (I was in the 11-29 age group, rather than the 25-29 I expect to be in) and thought that meant I wouldn’t stand a chance. Turns out that far fewer women between the ages of 11 and 29 (15) ran the race than those between the ages of 30 and 49 (52), and I ended up taking home second place! It sounded like they were going to email me a certificate to acknowledge this, but I haven’t received anything yet. No matter – I’m perfectly happy just knowing that I came in second. Also, thank goodness I’m not 30 yet: I would have come in eighth in that age group.

This was definitely the most spontaneous race I’ve ever done, and I really enjoyed it! It was super pricey due to our on-site signup (I don’t know how much it cost prior to on-site registration, though presumably not $55), but was a fun way to knock out a race in Hawaii and support a worthy cause at the same time. I don’t know that I’ll ever be back in Hawaii at the right time to do this race in the future, but if I am, I’d happily run it again.


Jingle Bell Run Chicago 5K Race Recap

The tradition continues!


I’ve run the Jingle Bell 5K more times than any other race, having participated every year since 2012. While I enjoy the fun and festive atmosphere of Jingle Bell, the main reason I come back year after year is due to my odd history with age group placing at this event. Every time I’ve run this race in an even year (2012, 2014, 2016), I’ve come in second or third in my age group. Every time I’ve run this race in an odd year (2013, 2015, 2017), I’ve come in fourth (or, last year, sixth ūüė¶ ) in my age group. As this is an even year, I obviously had no choice but to register for the race to see if my even year streak would continue.

This year, the race was at the Chicago History Museum for the first time. Another big thing I love about Jingle Bell is that it’s always held at a venue with indoor space, and when it’s been held at museums (it was at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum from 2012-2015. I guess it might’ve been there longer than that, but I didn’t run it any time before 2012.), you usually have the opportunity to wander around the museum after the run. The Nature Museum is great, but I’m more interested in history than nature, so I was very excited that the race was at the History Museum this year!


One super weird thing about this year’s race was that, according to the email we got days before the event, there would be no gear check unless you paid extra for it with the race’s “Express Pass”. Since the race had day-of packet pickup, I thought that was insane. I don’t remember any race I’ve ever run in the city that didn’t have gear check, especially a race with day-of packet pickup, where you’re bound to get extra stuff you won’t want to carry with you on the course. They did end up having gear check for regular, non-Express Pass participants (like me), which was a huge relief, but the whole thing was definitely confusing!

The night before the race, I did some digging into past results to see what I thought I’d need to run to score an age group award this year. I figured I’d need to definitely do a sub-25:00, which was fine, because I definitely wanted to do a sub-25:00 regardless of where it would put me in the age group standings. 24:30 seemed like a reasonable time to target, so that was my goal for Saturday.

One of my friends from CARA training this past summer ran the race as well, so I hung out with her inside the museum for a bit before we parted ways at the start line. She was aiming for closer to 9:00-10:00 miles rather than the 7:53s I was going to have to turn in for a 24:30 race, and I have to admit I thought her race plan sounded a lot more enjoyable than mine.

I spent my time waiting for the race to start scouting out the other women around me near the front of the start corrals. Running for age group placement more than anything else meant that I really didn’t care about any of the men, nor did I care about any women under 25 or over 29. As this race has taught me several times, though, I am apparently totally useless at estimating a person’s age (especially when that person is bundled up), so as far as I could tell, every woman was almost certainly between the ages of 25 and 29. Of course, even that doesn’t¬†necessarily¬†matter, because the top three overall women are ineligible for age group awards. Even if every other woman in the corral was in the 25-29 age group, as long as three of them swept the podium, I could still manage to come in sixth out of all the 25-29 year old women and get an age group medal.

Of course, all of this strategizing went completely out the window as soon as the air horn went off to start the race, and everyone around me shot past the start line like a bat out of hell. Figuring that three miles isn’t¬†too¬†long, I did my best to keep up and turned in a 7:35 first mile.

Now, I don’t think I’ve ever run a 7:35 mile when I planned to run more miles immediately afterwards. I knew if I could keep that up, I’d definitely PR, which was a secret goal of mine for this race. I haven’t even come within spitting distance of my 5K PR in four and a half years, but I did so much more training this summer than ever before (and continued that training past marathon season) that I thought I might stand a chance at updating that PR this year. After all, I only had to hang on to that pace for another 15 or so minutes!

As it turned out, I couldn’t even hold onto that pace for another two minutes, haha. I slowed down pretty quickly after that first mile and logged an 8:07 mile two. I was too tired to do any significant math on the fly, but I thought that maybe a 7:35 and 8:07 would average out to be close enough to PR pace to get the job done. (For the record, 7:35 and 8:07 average a 7:51 pace; in order to PR, I need a sub-7:48 pace.)

I was d.y.i.n.g. for the last 1.1 miles. I was huffing and puffing and trying to will my legs to go faster, but it wasn’t happening. There was a girl in a Northwestern hat that I had passed somewhere relatively soon after the two mile mark who came up on my heels around 2.5, so I threw down a (reckless) surge, assuming, once again incorrectly, that I could sustain that kind of speed for the remainder of the run. WRONG. She (and another woman) caught me around 2.8 or so, and try as I might, I couldn’t get back in front of them. Sigh.

I checked my watch at mile three (8:13. Yikes. How to Not Run a 5K 101: Run your first mile 38 seconds faster than your last mile >.<) and thought I had plenty of time to finish in under 25:00, but I was wrong. I crossed the finish line in an infuriating¬†25:01 and knew there was no way that’d be good enough for an age group award. The even year streak would end at three.

I gasped for air for a bit at the finish line, then waited for my CARA friend to finish before heading back into the museum. Jingle Bell always has timers inside who can print off your results for you, but this year they had computers, too. I went to one just to see how far I was from an age group award, and saw it say, “F25-29: 3rd out of 19.”

*falls over*

I could NOT believe it. I was¬†so sure¬†I didn’t stand a chance, especially since I blew up so badly as the race went on. Last year I ran a 24:54 and came in sixth–SIXTH!–in my age group. Seven seconds slower this year was enough to move me up three places?! Are you kidding me?!

I stuck around for the awards ceremony so I could get my medal right away, and I ended up actually getting second in my age group, not third, because the second place woman was a 27 year old. Fine by me!

I had a great time at Jingle Bell this year, though I have to admit that I am fairly shocked my even year tradition continued. I really thought it would come to an end this year–I thought that before I started running–so to walk away with an age group medal was a really nice treat ūüôā


Life Time 5K Race Recap

Most expensive 5K ever.


Back in April, I signed up for what I intended to be my fourth running of the Chicago Half Marathon. When I upset my hamstring in the middle of last week, one of my big concerns was whether or not it would be wise for me to run a half marathon in that condition. Realistically, I knew the answer: no, it would not be. If I had planned on doing the scheduled 12 miler every one else did, I would’ve skipped it without a second thought. But I paid $93 to run 13.1 miles, and wasn’t particularly eager to throw that away if I didn’t have to. Part of the reason I went to the PT last Thursday in the first place was to ask if I could do the half marathon on Sunday, to which her answer was an outright, “No.” I tried bargaining (“What if I run/walk it?”), but she was clear that she didn’t want me running more than three or four miles at a time until further notice. Fine.

It occurred to me soon after that appointment that the Chicago Half Marathon also includes a 5K (which I’ve done before), and that a 5K is well within three to four miles. You don’t get a refund for the difference in price if you drop down, but at least then my $93 was going towards¬†something. I swapped my half marathon bib for a 5K bib at the expo without issue.

Normally, I go all out at 5Ks. My goal is to redline the race basically from start to finish. I usually feel worse (or at least more exhausted) crossing the finish line of a 5K than I do crossing the finish line of a marathon. On Sunday, however, I had no such goals. In fact, I went into the race specifically with the goal of personal worsting. Ideally, I wanted to run close to a 33:00 5K: a far cry from the usual 25:00-or-faster standard to which I try to hold myself. I was kind of excited to find out what it would be like to run a comfortable 5K!

Honestly, I think the 5K is the¬†way¬†better portion of the Chicago Half events. You get to experience all of the hype associated with the race while running substantially less than half of the distance. You only run in Jackson Park, instead of killing time Jackson Park before doing your out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive, which makes the Jackson Park portion of the race feel enjoyable rather than like something you need to get out of the way. You finish before the vast majority of half marathon finishers, so you get the whole post-race party basically to yourself for a good 30 minutes or so. What’s not to like?!

The start line logistics are really the only downside of this race. You have to get to Jackson Park so early¬†for the Chicago Half, and since the 5K starts 45 minutes later, you end up getting to there INSANELY early (because you have to get there before roads close for the half). There’s a lot of waiting around–I was there for nearly two hours before the 5K began–but since the 5K is so much later, there’s no need to rush to check your gear or wait in long portapotty lines. You can take care of all of that after the half marathoners start and¬†still¬†have plenty of time to get to the corrals before the 5K starts. I also think the 5K shirts and medals are almost always better than the half shirts and medals, even if they’re short sleeved and not obscenely large, respectively, if that’s something that matters to you.

Anyway, my race! The mosquito situation in Jackson Park was BONKERS, so I left my throwaways on as long as possible to attempt to ward off the bloodsuckers. The start area is completely self-seeded (and very uncrowded), so I lined up where I felt like it and had no trouble wrestling myself out of sweatpants and a sweatshirt just before getting to the start arch.

Due to the self-seeding situation, there were a bunch of walkers at the front of the pack. Since I was out for a PW, I wasn’t even half as annoyed by this as I normally would be. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so zen during a race. Nothing really mattered to me other than enjoying my tour of Jackson Park: something I was particularly excited about, given my recent reading of Devil in the White City and subsequent obsession with anything and everything related to the World’s Columbian Exposition.

I hit the first mile in 10:09, which was really a bit faster than I was hoping for. I didn’t feel like I was working hard, though–it was cooler than it’s been in months on Sunday–so I tried to slow down but didn’t get too bent out of shape about it. I thought about how awesome it would be if it could be even colder than that (“that” being 55 degrees) on marathon morning and continued down Stony Island to mile 2, which I hit in 10:12. Still too fast, but better. I didn’t really need water at the nearby aid station, but one of the volunteers was saying, “I got up at 3:00 for this! Please take water from me!” so I obliged and got a cup.

As I came up Lake Shore Drive and approached Hayes, I saw a few half marathoners coming in and heard the announcer mention that the lead female was coming up. I will admit that I started to care way too much about finishing before she did and sped up too much as a result, even though I knew that was a stupid thing to speed up over, and turned in a 9:58 last mile (and 1:02 last .11 for a 9:17 pace during that stretch. Oops). The lead female ended up beating me by a few steps (and, you know, 10 miles). It was cool to see her break the tape, even if it meant that I didn’t “win” ūüėõ


SIGH. (I’m the one in the teal.)

I finished in¬†31:23, which tragically was about 30 seconds faster than my previous personal worst. Alas! But that’s okay. I didn’t break a sweat on this run and felt comfortable the entire time, so I think I accomplished my goal.

Even though this isn’t the race I signed up for (literally, I suppose), I had a wonderful time. The weather was great, my pace was great, and I am obsessed–OB.SESSED.–with both the shirt and the medal. While I like to believe I know everything about Chicago, I only recently learned that one of Chicago’s mottoes is I Will, and when I learned that, I instantly adopted it as my motto for the marathon this year. I feel like that’s ~my~ phrase these days, so to have it on my 5K shirt is awesome, but then the medal…! *heart-eyed emoji*


You see, I went to the Chicago History Museum for my birthday a mere week ago, where I learned that I Will came from a statue sculpted by Charles Holloway, winner of a contest sponsored by the Chicago Inter Ocean that tasked entrants with designing something that represented Chicago’s spirit. Holloway’s sculpture depicted a goddess-like woman with a breastplate emblazoned with the words “I WILL.” I had no idea about the sculpture until I saw it at the museum last Tuesday:


And then, what do you know, my medal was a depiction of that exact sculpture, with the added bonus of a stylized “C” and the four six-point stars!


Like I said, OB.SESSED. It all felt very serendipitous, and two weeks away from the Chicago Marathon, I’m happy to take all the marathon-related serendipity I can get.