Race #63 – Santa Scramble – Concord, NC – 11/21/09
I won’t say I told you so, but I did tell you: this is the fastest 5k race in the area. I of course was relying on my old fogged-up memory of running it last year but that was the way I remembered it. Today as our GPS system took us right down the course I was able to get a new look at it, and it wasn’t quite as downhill as I remembered although the trend was definitely more down than up. Actually there are quite a few flat areas along the way for the first two miles, with some gentle downhill and just a couple of tiny uphill areas, with the last mile being a huge downhill nearly to the finish line, with just a little bit of uphill over the last 200 yards or so.
It’s still a fast one, and of all the races I’ve run I’m convinced it’s the fastest. Most of the races I’ve run over the past couple months have been longer ones, but my times have steadily gotten better anytime I’ve run a 5k. Last year when I ran this race I cut about a minute and a half off my previous Personal Record, finishing at a time of 24:05, which was my PR for four months before I was able to beat it. My last 5k was the Runway 5k, which is almost completely flat, and there I set a new PR of 20:27. With the Santa Scramble coming up I felt like this might be my opportunity to finish under 20 minutes for the first time. Ever since I began running last year breaking the 20-minute barrier has been one of my main goals and one I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to achieve. I knew I needed a pace of 6:26 or faster per mile, which is a bit faster than I ordinarily run, but not a complete pipedream, and with the help of God, Mother Nature, and the Law of Gravity I thought I might be able to pull it off. With the winter months ahead, there are fewer races to choose from and the ones I’ll be running probably won’t be as nearly as easy for me to set a sub-20 PR.
If you’re not familiar with the Santa Scramble, it’s the first entry of the Concord Christmas parade, which makes it unique among this area’s road races, and thousands of spectators line the road for the first two miles.
As the race was about to begin I made sure I was close to the front so I wouldn’t have to dodge slower runners. As soon as the gun went off I took off way faster than my legs wanted to go. I had done a little bit of a warmup run but it was probably 20 or 30 minutes before the race started and probably didn’t help a lot. I had that feeling you get in the first mile on a day when you would rather not be running, but I managed to keep plugging away. At the end of the first mile there was someone calling out the mile split time. I heard him say 6:32 as I passed and I knew my pace was a little too slow and I would need to pick it up even more if I wanted to crack 20 minutes. I had loosened up a bit though and had started feeling pretty good. The warm weather (about 63 degrees at the start of the race) had brought out a huge crowd (at least 20,000 easily) and I was hearing quite a bit of encouragement as I ran, which pumped me up even more. I hit the 2-mile mark in 12-something (I didn’t catch the seconds but I knew I had picked up the pace some). Somewhere along the third mile the race turned off and the crowds were gone, but the big downhill finish was a welcome replacement and allowed me to pick up some extra seconds. As we rounded the final turn going towards the race finish I could see the clock up ahead, which read: 19:40. I wasn’t sure how many seconds away I was but I definitely threw it into overdrive to be sure I hit the finish line in time to beat 20 minutes. I’m still not positive of the exact time (the race director said it might not be posted online until Monday) but I reached the clock at about 19:50 — a new PR for me, of course, and one I might have for a while. It was also the first time I won the Overall Grand Master Male award and won a trophy so big it wouldn’t fit in my trophy case. No problem though — it looks great on top and it’s now starting to look like an actual trophy case.
This race is definitely one of my favorites — maybe even my very favorite — and one that I’ll plan on running every year. With the combination of the fast course and nice trophies along with thousands of spectators, it’s too good to pass up. There are a few minor negatives: there was no chip timing this year (although that didn’t seem to cause any problems), the food’s not great (but it’s okay), and the bus ride to the starting point could be a bit of a problem if you need to get something out of your car, which is 3.1 miles from the starting line.
The T-shirts were a lot nicer this year than last, but when we registered at about 12:30 p.m. (about 30 minutes before the registration cut-off) they only had large shirts left. Having a lifetime supply of T-shirts already, I don’t mind not getting another one, and they happily knocked the price of the T-shirt off our registration fee so we only had to pay $15 to register. I wish everybody would give do that. More than once we’ve registered for a race that had run out of shirts and they wouldn’t budge on giving a discount, so kudos to the Santa Scramble race directors for that.
I’m including a photo gallery of photos I took of the race and also some that Bill Weimer shared of the parade (thanks Bill!)…
8 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.) 8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) 8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10) 5 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) 7 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No) 0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No) 4 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No) 3 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No) 10 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups) 5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided) 4 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities 10 -10 Other — Crowd Support… 20,000+ spectators!