Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gray Ghost 5K

Here is how, last week at dance class, my brother convinced me to run the Anoka Halloween Gray Ghost 5k with him:

Brother: Hey, want to run the Gray Ghost 5k next weekend?
Me: No, I'm still too slow from the marathon.
Me: Okay, that sounds fun after all.

Halloween in Anoka, a suburb close to where I grew up, is a Very Big Deal.  Anoka calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World because - per Wikipedia - it hosted one of the first Halloween parades in 1920, with the goal of distracting Anoka youth from pranks and hijinks.  This parade is huge.  When I was in middle school, my middle school orchestra marched in the parade.  (More on that later.  No, just kidding.  I won't ever mention that again.)  Kids wear their costumes, and when we arrived for the race more than an hour before the parade's start time, the streets were already lined with families who had staked out the best seats.  Mayhem.

Earlier in the week, I decided that I wanted to try being Jessie from the movie Toy Story. But I definitely wanted a costume that wouldn't impede me too much, so Jessie's chaps were out.  I saw a picture online of a runner who tried knee socks to represent the cow print.  I went to the fabric shop, got some cow fabric and bought a boy's yellow t-shirt at Target that I could cut up.  I also bought red sequin thread and my first hot glue gun.

And then I dug out an old white button-up shirt that I haven't worn in ages, and the hard work began.

I was wary, to say the least, of how the final product would look, but I started to really have fun and enjoy the project when the red sequin thread came out.  I almost bought a red glitter pen instead of the thread.  It wouldn't have been the same.  A special thanks goes out to the hot glue gun, which made this whole project much easier than I expected.

Here's Jessie: 
And here's my Jessie!

My brother and I drove to Anoka, got our race bibs, and found a less-crazy section of the road for our warm-up jog.  This moment marks one of my favorite parts of the day.  From about 200 yards away, I heard someone yell, "JESSIE??!"  (Just like that, too: doubt and excitement.)  I wondered: could he be talking to me?  I looked back and saw two adult men dressed as Buzz and Woody, the other two main characters from Toy Story, waving enthusiastically at me.  I screamed and waved back.  My friends.

The race got underway.  The first mile or so runs along the parade route, so there's a guaranteed great spectator crowd.  I had picked Jessie partly because it was a kid-friendly costume, but I never could have anticipated the crowd reaction.  During that first mile, with practically every step I took, kids were yelling, "It's Jessie!" "Mom, look at Jessie!" "There's Jessie!"  It was So Much Fun.  I was laughing and waving and getting an unbelievable boost from everybody yelling "my" name.  My mom took a photo of me about five minutes into the race, and this probably mirrored my behavior for about the first half of it. 

I haven't actually raced a 5K in ages.  Because most of my races are half-marathons or longer, I have zero sense of how to pace a 5K.  (I vow to improve this by the spring.)  To me, it seems so short that I should run as hard as I can at the start! 

That's not a good recipe for success! Between that mentality and the Jessie-related encouragement, I started out absurdly too fast and faded on a couple of hills toward the end.  Oops!  I was treating this race as my first hard effort since the marathon, since it usually takes four weeks or so for me to feel really recovered after 26.2.  It was good to get a baseline for my winter and spring training - my goal is to work on shorter races - but setting a personal best is not on the agenda yet.

Oh, Reader, if this experience sounds remotely appealing to you, I so highly recommend dressing up as a kid's movie character for a Halloween race sometime in your life.  I don't think I've ever smiled or laughed so much in a race.  Something like 2,000 people run this race every year, and an enormous amount of runners dressed up - maybe 80 percent?  90 percent?  It was so much fun to see.  Some people went all out, like one group dressed as the Peanuts characters.  The course involved some corners and out-and-back sections, so once in awhile, I could hear their house rolling down the street.

My sister and her boyfriend dressed as zombies and ran with his mom.  I liked her look:

And my brother had a great, super-fast race!  My mom cheered all of us on.  Afterward, she grabbed a photo of the three of us.

I will be back for this one in 2012.  I'm going to have to start brainstorming soon, though - it's going to be tough to improve on this year's run, and I am not talking about pace!


  1. This looks like SO much fun. I'm so sad that I couldn't run with you guys. Hopefully next year!

  2. Okay, I LOVE the image of Buzz and Woody yelling "JESSIE?!" AMAZING!! Sounds fun. I want to do it with you next year. -sj