As a proud lifelong Clevelander, I know that the following statement may be heresy, but…

I’ve never seen A Christmas Story from start to finish in one sitting.

In my defense, I’ve seen the entire movie through bits and pieces of various viewings over the years. I’ve also seen the play (and I missed a Browns game to see it too!).

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Of course, the game I missed happened to be the one in which we actually beat the Steelers in 2009. I still haven’t seen this game in its entirety!

Nevertheless, when I first heard about the A Christmas Story 5K\10K, I wasn’t too excited. Perhaps that was because I’ve never had a proper viewing of the movie? In September, my stepmom forwarded me an email with a Groupon for the race and I didn’t sign up. At the time, we were looking for houses pretty regularly. I thought for sure that we would be moved to a new home in another part of the city by December, and I figured that paying to run in an area in which I have run regularly for almost two years now was a waste of money.

Fast forward to November, when it became obvious that we weren’t going to be homeowners by December, let alone moved into a new home by December. (I haven’t discussed our search for a new home much on here because the entire experience deserves a blog of its own, but rest assured that I will summarize the whole story once we’re moved into our new home!) I started to want to do one more race before the year was over, but our Thanksgiving plans were in flux until the week of the holiday and I couldn’t sign up for a Turkey Trot since I wasn’t sure where we were going to be. Around the same time, our housing search accelerated almost overnight. Since moving out of Tremont within the next few months quickly appeared to become a real possibility, I thought that running the A Christmas Story 10K would be a great way to bid adieu to our great neighborhood.

As time went on, I realized the true popularity of this movie and this race. I thought that A Christmas Story was just a “Cleveland thing” along the same lines of Ghoulardi or Bernie Kosar; something that Clevelanders love and cherish but that isn’t exactly popular outside of Cleveland. Evidently, I was quite wrong about that! People came in from other states for this race and I also knew several people who participated in the “virtual” 5K\10K. Once I realized that this was a very “Major Event”, I started to get really excited.

Packet pickup at the A Christmas Story House went well. I had heard rumors that they had run out of shirts, but there were plenty of them when I stopped by on Thursday. I stopped and took a picture of the house after I picked up my packet.

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I really liked the bib! I have never run in a race in which my name was printed on the bib, so the fun design was a nice change from the norm.

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Heading into the race, I told myself that I wasn’t going to set any time goals and that my only goals for the race were to have fun, celebrate being a runner in Cleveland, cherish all of the memories that I had made on the roads that comprised the course, and to finish injury-free. Because of that, I didn’t take my GPS watch with me on race day.

The fact that I wasn’t locked in and focused meant that I was a bit scatterbrained during race prep. You may notice that there’s no RunGard on the table, and I almost forgot to apply it on race morning. Given the cold, I’m sure that this morning’s run would have been beyond painful if I hadn’t remembered to apply it!

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My fellow 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Bloggers and I intended to assemble at 8:30AM by the start for a picture, but the omnipresent ice outside of my house meant that I had to tiptoe around slowly whenever I went outside and I wound up getting there 10 minutes late. The place was packed and I figured that finding them would have been tough.

I spent some time in the Tower City atrium getting stretching and getting ready. I’ll be honest; when I woke up on Saturday feeling a bit under the weather and saw the cold and ice, I didn’t really want to do this race anymore. Once I got to Tower City, though, I began to get really excited!

As I stretched, I began to think about what this race meant to the city. I thought about the 1950s when a trip to downtown Cleveland was something that folks around northeast Ohio thought was a treat and not something about which they should be concerned because of safety reasons. I thought about Higbee’s and how folks used to come downtown to do their holiday shopping and to enjoy a special meal at the Silver Grille and began to hope that a day will once again come in Cleveland when families bring their kids downtown on a regular basis for things other than sporting events.

Eventually, race time rolled around and I began to make the trek towards the starting line. I knew a lot of people were doing this race—practically every runner that I knew in Cleveland had said they were going to be there—but I was still shocked by the huge throngs of people.

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I think they were showing the movie later in the day on the big screen. Would have been fun to enjoy it in such a communal setting if it wasn’t so cold outside!

I figured that there would be a sizable portion of walkers in this race, but I didn’t want to start too close to the front because I wasn’t sure about how much ice was on the streets and I didn’t want to wind up slipping and falling. To my surprise, there were pacers mixed in amongst the runners. I found the 10:00 min\mile pacer and blended into the pack.

We were pretty far back from the starting line, and I think that I heard a countdown when the race started. Eventually, we all started moving. It took me two minutes to get to the starting line, and I later found out that some folks had to wait seven minutes to start the race. Crazy for a 5K!

lots of people

The first mile was actually more congested than the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon’s first mile. There were a lot of folks walking, and to make matters worse, some of the groups of walkers were walking three and four abreast. I have no problem with folks walking the entire thing or using the Jeff Galloway run\walk method; in fact, Sheila was talking about using it next year and someone who used it at the Northern Ohio Marathon beat me! Ordinarily, I’ll just run around the walkers without a second thought. However, I wasn’t too crazy about weaving around because I didn’t want to encounter ice, so I bided my time and kept reminding myself that I was doing this for fun.

The pack thinned out a bit once we hit the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and headed towards Tremont. As we ran across the bridge, I thought about my first-ever 8 mile training run for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and about how proud I felt when I ran back across this bridge towards my home in Tremont. Although this bridge doesn’t look like much of an incline to the naked eye, the bridge is actually more challenging than it looks when one is running westward, and I felt it in my legs.

After the bridge ended, we had to deal with a relatively long span of slick surfaces. The street between the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and the Abbey Road Bridge was pretty slick. I slowed down considerably here in order to avoid an injury. Previous runs had taught me that the Abbey Road Bridge tends to stay icy for awhile, and I wasn’t about to take any chances.

Once we reached West 14th Street and began running south through Tremont, a thousand thoughts started running through my head. Forgive me for saying this for the 1,000th time, but Tremont is where I’ve lived for the past three years and the neighborhood in which I first started running back in June 2012. As this race was a “goodbye” of sorts to the neighborhood, I knew it would be pretty emotional. While I ran down West 14th Street in the bitter cold, I thought about when I ran a mile for the first time in over a decade and how each and every step down West 14th Street in the blazing hot sun of July 2012 felt absolutely brutal, and I began to feel very thankful for how far I’ve come as a runner.

My house is actually located on the race course itself, and passing my house during the race was a pretty surreal feeling. There weren’t many portapotties on the course, and I thought about popping in to use the bathroom. However, I figured that doing so would take a lot of time, so I pressed onward.

The 10K turnaround was located at the Christmas Story house itself, and there were already a lot of people there when I reached it. I didn’t even think to look at the race time as I passed through the area and began the trek back towards downtown Cleveland.

One of my former students who had the misfortune of having me for two classes was running the 5K, and I hadn’t seen her in over a year. As previously mentioned, I had given up hope of saying hello to her or anyone else when I saw the large numbers of people at the starting line. I thought that I might have a chance of seeing her and her family on the return loop of the 10K, and sure enough, I saw her running in the opposite direction! I was glad to have the chance to say hello.

As I ran north on West 14th Street, I thought about the many, many training runs that I had done over the years that began with me bounding optimistically across the bridge across I-490, sprinting past Bac and looking to see if my friend was working as a hostess at that time (I always wanted to ask her if she would be willing to set up a glass of water outside the restaurant for my return trip home…), and eventually finding my pace as I ran past Lincoln Park. Although I am very excited to move to our new neighborhood, I have many great memories of living in Tremont. I’ll never forget running down the final stretch of the Tremont Steeplechase 5K—the first 5K in which I ran from start to finish—sucking air, feeling like I had nothing left, but still telling myself that I had trained so hard for so long and that a goal that I had thought was unattainable for years was just a few steps away.

The return trip back through Tremont and across the Abbey Road Bridge went relatively well except for the part where a large truck somehow snuck onto the course and forced us onto the icy sidewalk. I almost wiped out!

As we turned onto the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, we were told that all runners needed to head to the sidewalk. I had a bad feeling about this and so did everyone else who was running in my general vicinity. A few steps on the sidewalk made it obvious that the sidewalk was quite icy, so we decided to collectively take our chances in the street. By now, the sun had come out a bit and the road itself was relatively ice-free.

As I ran along the bridge, the individual with the 10:00 pace sign came into view. As I said before, I headed into the race with no time goal and at that point I honestly had no idea how I was doing time-wise. When I saw the pacer, though, my competitive juices kicked in and I told myself that there was no way that I was going to finish this 10K in over an hour. Because I wanted to savor and soak in the sights and sounds of the race, I hadn’t run with music up to this point. However, I decided that I wanted to go out with a bang, so I put on some epic tracks from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Soundtrack and I broke into a full-on sprint!

When we reached Ontario Street, we were directed to again run on the sidewalk for a short time due to traffic. We had no choice this time around, so we did, but we quickly encountered ice. I decided to run on the grass.

Once we reached the street itself, we had a straight shot to the finish line. I still had no idea about my time, but I told myself that I needed to end my 2013 race season on a high note. I led out a scream and once again broke out into a full-on sprint!

The finish line quickly came into view, and I saw that I had a great chance to finish in under an hour, so I powered right on through! I heard the announcer calling out runners’ names, but I’m not sure if my name was called. I have never run in a race in which an announcer has called out my name, but I’d like to do so someday. I guess I’ll save that for 2014!

I meandered through the finish area, collected my medal, and gulped down a few glasses of water before joining everyone else in the line for bagels, probiotic smoothie bottles, chocolate milk, and bananas.

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Closeup shot of our medal

As time went on, I started to get pretty cold, so I headed into Tower City for yet another unsuccessful attempt at locating my friends. I don’t get down to Tower City very much, so I walked around a bit and took some pictures.

race awards

Before I headed out, I wanted to get a picture of myself in Tower City with my medal. I found someone to take my picture and I was pretty pleased with it. When I shared it with my friends in The Sub-30 Club on Facebook (it’s a group for folks who have run a 5K in less than 30 minutes or who are attempting to do so), someone thought that the tree and soldiers were actually a hat on my head! At the time the picture was taken, I didn’t think much about it, but I guess they’re right. Funny!

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I took a few pictures in the Tower City parking lot before heading out.

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When I got home, I checked my time and saw that I had run the 10K in 59:04. Not bad!

Interesting signs with fun facts about the race were posted on the course, and I saw that they were still up when I got home. I wanted to get some pictures of them, so I took my own Bumpus Hound on a walk so he could get some exercise.

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Unfortunately, by the time we got out there, they had taken them away. Darn!

All in all, I was pretty pleased with this race. Despite the ice, the race was a lot of fun and it was nice to be able to spend the run enjoying the sights rather than being obsessed with my time. Seeing so many people come out for a race in the dead of winter was pretty cool. I’m hopeful that some of them enjoyed the experience, got bit by the running bug, and are preparing to check out a race or two in 2014!

As for me, I’m going to spend the next few weeks healing up, losing some weight, maintaining my base, and deciding whether I’ll do the half marathon or the full marathon at the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. This 10K was a great end to my 2013 race season, and I’m definitely excited to see what lies ahead across the miles in 2014!

Did you run the A Christmas Story 5K\10K? What did you think?