A medal for a 5K?? YES PLEASE.
Last Sunday, Diane and I went to Austin to run The Haunted 5K, which was part of The Haunted Half race. Diane is a Halloween baby and loves all things Halloween, so when she heard about this race, she was in - and it didn't take me long to register as well. We planned on driving in that morning, doing the race, then meeting up with her sons (2/3 of them live in Austin) for breakfast, followed by making the rounds of the running stores there. A full day, for sure, especially after we'd gotten up early the previous day to do our usual long run, but hey - sometimes you just have to set your alarm and go for it. Which is how Diane ended up on my driveway shortly after 5:00 am, and we inadvertently started the spooky theme of the race early by driving through dense fog with very limited visibility for most of the two-hour trip to Austin. Not optimal conditions getting there, but we made it with plenty of time to pick up our race packets and stow everything in the car before hitting the start line at 8:30 am.
The race was held on the grounds of the Travis County Expo Center. We arrived there after taking the back way in, thanks to Google maps, which ended up being the theme for the day, but that's for another post. Although they had packet pickup the day before, we'd asked if we could get our bibs and swag that morning, so we didn't have to make the two-hour trip to Austin twice. The race organizers said we could do that, so we didn't think anything more about it, until we found the tent for packet pickup and saw how disorganized it was. We were just a couple people from the front but the line wasn't moving, and when we finally got our turn, we could see why - one person had a printout of registrants, and there didn't seem to be a good system for bib retrieval plus handing out the swag bag and race shirt. The person couldn't even find my name, but I saw it on her list and pointed it out to her. Eventually she came back with a bib, handed it to me, then took it back and said "no wait, this is her bib" and gave it to Diane; then she went back for my bib. I told Diane that she probably just grabbed a random one for me, and sure enough, when I checked the race results later on, my number had a different person's name tied to it. That didn't matter to me as this was just a fun run, but hopefully that person didn't mind getting my finish time. Oh, and I never saw a finisher result with my name...and when they emailed me with the link to my race pictures, I was a man. Luckily Diane's were correct and since I ran next to her, I found mine.
Anyway, that wasn't the only snafu. One of the big reasons why Diane wanted to do this race was all the cool swag that they offered - everything had a sugar skull theme - check it out:
This was the promised swag - pretty cool, right?
While we were waiting to get our bibs, we could see that the race shirts they were handing out didn't have sugar skulls on them - instead, they were black long-sleeve technical shirts, with a jack-o-lantern face on them. Cute, but not what we were expecting. There were people around us who were angry about the shirt snafu, and some were berating the woman who was in charge. We suspect that she was hired by the organizers in Utah, where this race has been held for years, and she was at the mercy of what was sent...which ended up being the wrong shirts. Well, Diane and I had plenty of time to scope out the area and we saw a big tub of shirts with sugar skulls on them - not nearly enough for the race participants, and they weren't printed in color, just all white, but they looked pretty cool. So after we'd been given our bibs and black shirts, we approached the beleaguered woman and asked very nicely if we could trade our shirt for one of the sugar skull shirts. Turns out they were t-shirts, and she said we could just go ahead and take one of them as well as keep our other shirt, so we quickly went through the tub, found our sizes, and got the heck out of there. We tried to be discreet about it as I'm sure it could have turned into a free-for-all of everyone trying to get one; but I think being nice and sympathetic to her situation (it obviously was out of her hands, and she was distressed) helped.
The swag that we came home with:
Drawstring backpack, super soft cotton t-shirt, and the black technical shirt that actually fits! Plus some Halloween candy (ahem, not pictured because you know why) - we were happy with our haul.
All of this and I haven't even gotten to the race yet! We wanted to dress up a bit for the race, but not go crazy with costumes. Turns out that the cute witch hat headbands from the gift shop where I volunteer ended up being perfect - Diane and I each bought one, and I found purple and black striped socks with a little witch hat on them at Target, so with that, we were good. We wore our purple running shirts and normal black capri skirt/shorts combo and it was just enough to run a 5K in, plus having the crazy ribbons and Medusa-like snakes on the headbands made me feel like Cher as I kept flipping everything out of my face when the wind blew:
The blow up pumpkin was fun to run under as we started and finished the race.
There was a half marathon as well as the 5K - the half marathon started at 8:00 am, while the 5K didn't start until 8:30 - we were a little concerned about the heat and sun, but shortly before our race started, the skies clouded over and a breeze kicked up, so we ditched our sunglasses, lined up, and set off running with all kinds of crazily costumed people.
As soon as we started running, both of could tell that we'd run 6 miles the day before - usually we don't run two days in a row like that, so we just adjusted our already low expectations and walked up every hill...and this being Austin, there were a lot of hills! But it was really fun; there were so many costumes to look at and there were groups of friends who'd gone all out - we saw all of Batman's enemies in one group, and there was a Ghostbuster with a Sta-Puf marshmallow person, and a little kid Beetlejuice, and a nerd kid running with his dad who was wearing a gorilla costume, and a lot of Wonder Women, both big and small; combine all the costume watching along with running in a new-to-us area, and the race went by pretty quickly.
I do have to mention that mile two was almost entirely uphill, and we (along with everyone around us) walked it. The weird thing is that ahead of us, we could see a little kid wearing a yellow hooded rain slicker, carrying a red balloon, like the child from the movie IT. The kid was all alone, just walking up the hill like the rest of us. We caught up to him, and saw that he had a race bib on, but he was young - had to have been maybe 8 years old - and he didn't have any adults with him, nor any that seemed like they knew him either ahead or behind. He seemed perfectly fine, just walking, holding his balloon, but it was a little odd, and it kind of added to the creepiness of his costume, to be honest.
We finally crested that hill and soon encountered zombies:
I got a high five from the skeleton as I ran by.
Then we were in the haunted graveyard portion of the race; there were also a lot of Halloween blow ups to take pictures with, so naturally, we stopped to do that. We helped out some other runners by taking their pictures and they reciprocated - this was fun and made me glad that we weren't trying to finish in any particular time frame, we just got to enjoy all the extras that the race provided:
The wind had really kicked up at this point and some of the blow ups were laying down - we picked up this one to pose with which added to the creep factor with him leaning over us like he was, LOL.
Haunted tunnel, which wasn't very scary being that it was light outside, but still, we had to take a picture!
As we were coming in under the giant pumpkin, Diane said she was going to reach up and touch the pumpkin as we ran under it. I cropped out my sad attempt in the second picture - sometimes I forget that I'm not as tall as she is!
Then we were at the finish line - the announcer may have said a name that went with my bib but it wasn't me, haha. Still, there were quite a lot of people cheering for us as we finished - hey, I always like that! We got our awesome sugar skull medals, and then picked up a bottle of water and a cold washcloth, which was a nice touch.
The photographer said to hold the signs so our bib numbers could be read. You can see how well we both did with that.
Finished! We had a great time!
Good stuff: Medals, cold washcloths after the race, shirts that fit, all the Halloween blow ups and decorations, enthusiastic volunteers directing everyone along the course, Halloween candy everywhere afterward, free social media picture downloads (and only $1.99 for better digital files).
Stuff that needs a little improving: Packet pick up organization, promised shirts, the water at the finish was in a metal trough but it wasn't iced down/cold, the chocolate milk that was promised was there, but it wasn't cold (it was Horizon, in Tetra packs, so it wasn't spoiled, just hadn't been iced down), and the pizza that was supposed to be for the after party was just being delivered when we were leaving. We hadn't planned on eating it as we were going out to breakfast, but still. Speaking of breakfast, here's my dining companions:
Ben, me, Diane, Heather, and Mick. Such a fun group to spend time with!
This race had some growing pains with their expansion from Utah to Texas - it was like they tried, but they just didn't quite hit the target on everything. That said, it was a fun event and we'll probably run it again next year...and maybe drag a few Renegades along with us, too!