DISCLAIMER: I received my entry into the A Christmas Story Virtual 5k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!"
Growing up as a kid, I always watched the movie A Christmas Story. Like most of us, we have favorite scenes that we mimic even to this day. Despite being solely focused on training for 100 milers, I decided to sign up for this race. I thought it would be fun to run harder and faster for a little bit, while also not putting pressure and major expectations on myself. Knowing that I only had about a month to train and that this would definitely be my slowest 5k ever, I set out to give it my best shot and have fun.
The first week of training was brutal. Going from casually running 10 minute miles to pushing for 8 minute miles was not easy. My legs weren't used to the lactic acid build-up as quickly and my lungs were screaming for mercy. Every day on my lunch break I would head out with the goal of finishing within my allowed 30 minute time for lunch. Each day got a little easier and I found myself tweaking my strategy with each run, in hopes of knocking time off.
I started to notice big chunks of improvement with each run as my body adapted. As the breathing felt more controlled and the legs felt stronger, I was able to try different techniques. On some runs I went all out from the start to see how long I could push at 90 to 100% effort. During those runs, when I finally was forced to walk, I would finish the runs with as many sprints at full effort and walk breaks in between to catch my breath that it took. On other runs I would keep the effort around 85 to 90% to see how much time I could knock off from the total. I started to notice that both techniques were basically keeping me around the same overall time and one wasn't much better than the other.
I originally set out to run it on Christmas day but decided otherwise as the day was quickly approaching and I knew I wouldn't knock much more time off by then. At that point I had gone from finishing in around 30 minutes to 28. I originally had hopes of anything 25 minutes or less but kept my expectations realistic with all things considered. Also, as much as I was enjoying the speed, and feeling like I looked cool again, I missed the fun of the longer and slower ultra-marathon training runs. December 9th, while getting ready to go for my lunch run, I decided to just turn it into "race day". I felt good and decided mentally this was probably the best day to go for it.
The first mile was fun and brutal at the same time. I actually felt good at first but slowly noticed the windy conditions affecting my ability to stay in a rhythm. The first mile ended up at 8:02 and I just knew a walk break was coming soon. I made it another minute and finally had to take a walk break. I was a bit disappointed but didn't allow myself to dwell on it. I power walked for a couple seconds and started my sprint until I couldn't run anymore. I kept this up for the rest of the race. I was happy to see the second mile end up at 8:34. I knew there was a shot to hit 25 minutes though I was now facing a strong headwind the rest of the way and my body was quickly falling apart from this unusual effort.
As I approached my street where I would have one u-turn and a finish at my house, I knew I had enough in me to push as hard as I could without taking any more walk breaks. As I approached 2.95 miles and passed my house, I heard "look who it is, there's daddy!" For the first time ever my wife and son were going to be outside to not only see me finish a run, but a race. This was not intentional as I didn't even tell my wife what I was doing. I felt another level of excitement about that and found a little extra kick. Mile three popped up on the watch at 8:39 and although I knew 25 minutes was missed, I was still about to run the fastest since I started training and by a couple of minutes. I made the u-turn and sprinted home as my wife and son stood watching and my son yelled in baby talk. I finished in 26:06 and wanted to die!
I picked up my son with the little energy I had in me while telling my wife that I couldn't believe I used to run 20 minute 5k's pretty easily. A couple of weeks later the swag arrived and I absolutely loved it! The medal is pretty cool, and although that's usually what us runners sign up for, this time, I was looking forward to the hoodie and beanie, despite living in South Florida. It's too bad we couldn't also get that cool leg lamp from the movie or a Red Ryder BB gun, though I'd be afraid of shooting my eye out. HA!
As I look back on the race and training, in some way's I miss it, and it other's I don't. It was definitely fun to switch things up, and one day I may chase a 5k personal best, but for now, this fun virtual 5k was enough for this Christmas season. I was also reminded that the movie is only 6 months and 12 days older than me, though that might offend some of you older folks. I definitely enjoyed the experience, the swag, the opportunity, and being able to #RunWithRalphie.