Well, the Oregon Ducks’ dreadful football season for 2016 is over! I’m looking forward to the energy and vibe that new coach Willie Taggart seems to be bringing for next year. But in the meantime, I am caught riding the Seattle Seahawks’ roller-coaster, and worried about a crash up ahead (especially without Earl Thomas). I’ve been counting on them going back to the Super Bowl.
Just before the Hawks got clobbered 38-10 at Green Bay last Sunday, Dec. 11, I joined a few thousand runners and walkers for the annual Jingle Bell Run 5K in downtown Seattle. This race is part of a national series supporting the Arthritis Foundation that is billed as the nation’s largest holiday 5K series.
The Christmas-sy fun and the challenge of it helped make the day better, even if I really hate to see the Hawks play so poorly in December. (The Duck basketball team’s narrow win over Alabama also eased the sting of the Seahawk loss. A promotion at work last week helped too.)
But since this is a blog about running, I should stick to talking about the Jingle Bell Run. I should not even mention how we need to buckle up for four years of Donald Trump and a roller-coaster ride that could also lead to a crash.
Yes, about the run …
I hadn’t run in this event since 2010, so I got a chance to re-familiarize myself with it. It is a cheerful, colorful and casual race that starts and ends near Westlake Center. Most of the course runs through the I-5 tunnel and express lanes, and it is crowded and deceptively hilly.
The volunteers beforehand told me that about 6,000 people had signed up for the timed and non-timed “waves.” The race results listed 1,302 timed finishers, so I will assume a couple thousand or so did the non-timed wave (though I’d be surprised if it added up to 6,000). Still, it was a strong turnout — and Santa Clauses and Santa’s elves were well-represented among the participants. Most everyone wore red and/or green.
As usual, I got to the starting line a few minutes before the race started, and had no time for a pit stop. I made it through the 3.1 miles OK, but this lack of being completely relieved is my first excuse for recording a poor time. Here are three others:
- Congestion in the first mile: The starting line is the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, and it is a mass of runners and Santa caps. It spreads out a half-mile later at the crest of a hill, but you do lose time running around and through and into people until then.
- The hills! This is much more of a hindrance. The first hill up Fifth, combined with the congestion, are sure to hurt your time. But there are also inclines in the two-mile stretch of express lanes under I-5 (yes, mercifully, they are closed off from cars for the morning). And the ramp from the express lanes back to Pike Street in downtown is hilly and a bottleneck in that last mile. In other words, this is not a fast course.
- The scenery: One of the best reasons to do this race is to look around at all of the cool costumes and interesting people. But it does slow you down.
My slowest 5K, but one well worth doing
So, about my time: I finished this race in 40:27 (13:02 per mile), my slowest 5K time since 2013. Full results are here.
This was the fourth time I’ve done the Jingle Bell Run, and it’s turned out to be one of my worst races. My best time is 28:48 (9:16 per mile) in 2007, and I followed up with 30:06 (9:41 per mile) in 2009, both before my ankle problems began in 2010. In 2010, the year before my surgery, I slowed down to 37:16 (11:59 per mile), a time I’ve beaten five times this year (admittedly on flatter courses).
My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005, and my post-surgery best is 34:29 in 2014. While my latest time is a step backwards — it’s my first time over 40:00 since 2013 — I’m not overly concerned about it. Here’s my one tip for this event:
- Enjoy the race, and don’t worry about your time! It’s very cool to see runners and walkers in costumes having fun. Or moms running with a pack of kids. Or entire families keeping up with each other. It’s a pleasant holiday vibe worth soaking in, even if it means a slower time because you’re people-watching.
What’s next: my last race of 2016
Congrats to all of the runners and walkers who finished, timed or untimed. Despite the mob of runners descending on the heart of Seattle’s downtown retail district, I did not see anyone I knew.
Upcoming this Sunday, Dec. 18, is the 12Ks of Christmas 12K in Kirkland, an event I am doing for the 13th year. A good chunk of this 7.45-mile run is on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, a trail that bisects the Google campus. Looking forward to getting through what will be my 16th and final race of 2016, and my 205th race overall.
After that, I will start 2017 with the Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Dive. Then I will take a break from running to get ready for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Or not.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!
Thanks for reading. Till next time.