Name of the race: Jingle Bell Run 5K
Where: The Outlet Connection Jersey Gardens Mall, Elizabeth, NJ
Date: Dec 8, 2013
Time: 8:30 am (actual start time 8:44 am)
Distance: 3.11 miles
Terrain: Mostly flat road race with some gentle inclines around the nondescript roads around the mall
Entry fee: $35
Swag: Long sleeve technical t-shirt, medium-sized tote bag filled with various coupons, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, shoe horn, two different nail polishes, baseball cap, luggage tag, G by Guess headphones, water bottle, and key necklace holder.
Post-race Food: Bagles, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and coffee from IHOP
Time: 23:32 (PR)
Performance:Overall 27/201; Gender 4/109; Age (F 30-39) 2/20
Weather: 30 degrees, light winds, and 55% humidity
A cacophony of jangling bells rang in my ears for the first half mile as I threaded my way through the Jingle Bell Run 5K course. Earlier in the week, Nell sent out an email to our running group to see if anyone was interested in racing a 5K. Nell PR’ed in a big way at the Philly Marathon and now having recovered, she was curious to see how fast she was. After dithering for a few days (weather reports were forecasting a snow storm and after my disastrous Channukah Chalf, I was shying away from running in inclement weather), I eventually decided to join. Although Ben didn’t feel like racing, he came along with us and another runner from our running group bright (actually overcast and gray) and early Sunday morning.
Out of all the races that I’ve done, the Jingle Bell Run 5K in Elizabeth, NJ is definitely the most *unscenic* course. It was essentially 3.11 miles around the parking lot of a mall with a little out and back on one of the streets. The race, however, does have some really wonderful pluses. The proceeds go to support Children’s Specialized Hospital, which helps children with special needs, such as autism and traumatic brain injury. I was very happy to support this institution because I know how crucial good medical care is and what long lasting impact it has on a child’s outcome in adulthood. It also has a really nice swag bag for all the participants, which is especially impressive considering that this is a 5K. There were very generous awards given to the top three male and female winners (1st place was a $250 gift certificate to Ikea), plus several other great raffle prizes (a running watch, Sketcher shoes, restaurant Because the start and finish were right by a mall entrance, we were able to wait in a comfortable indoor environment (and use regular restrooms). Lastly this race has the most impressive post-race food that I’ve seen — a full breakfast of pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs, thanks to IHOP. Plus they gave away bells for you to wear. I decided to tie one on my right shoe. Nell debated whether she should too and decided not to because she didn’t want anything to get in the way of getting a PR.
The race started about 15 minutes late. Since there was no timing mat on the start line, we lined up in the second row. I desperately wanted to PR and break 24 min. I knew I had it in me for a while (actually I was sure I had a 23:30 in me), but for one reason or another achieving this goal eluded me. Part of the reason why I agreed to this last minute race was because Nell was there to unofficially pace me. She’s a faster runner than me, but not a whole lot more so. I could run behind and keep her in my sight. As long as I didn’t let her let too far ahead of me, I could use her much better pacing ability to my own advantage.
We started off together for the first few hundred feet, but I let her get in front me. She looked over in concern, but I waved her ahead. If I kept up with her in the first mile, I knew I would crash sometime in Mile 2. The noise from all the jingling bells on the other runners was deafening, but before the half mile was completed, the crowd thinned out and the jangling lessened. After a mile I could only hear own bell. I was really glad that I tied on a bell to my running shoe because it prevented my shoelace from unraveling. I think the cold air made the laces stiffer or something because runners’ laces were untying left and right. Sometime during the first mile, I noticed that Nell’s shoelace became untied. She told me that another runner had her laces untied as well. My left shoelace (the one without the bell) became untied about halfway through the race. I debated whether I should stop and retie, but I decided to just soldier on (no matter how annoying it was) because I didn’t want to risk not getting a PR. I think if I hadn’t tied on a bell on my right shoe, then I would have had both laces unraveled. I ignored the stinging flap of the laces against my ankle that came with each step.
As usual I was tempted to slow down in the middle, but I noticed that Nell was getting too far ahead of me, so I turned up my effort. We ran out of the mall parking lot, and back into, around, and through the parking lot. I hadn’t looked at the course map, so I had no idea what was going to happen. It’s not a flat course. There are enough gentle inclines to qualify this as having light hills. Ben and I discussed my racing strategy before the start of the race. He told me to run between 7:30 and 7:40. I knew I was running closer to a 7:30 pace, so I knew the PR was coming. Finally I saw the finish line. Normally I start out too fast and I slow down a lot (relative to the first half of the pace) in the final stretch. I’ve been working on developing a kick. I strained to run even faster. I kept my eye on the clock even though I knew the PR was at hand.
- 7:25 (.11)
Total time: 23:32
Yes! At long last, after chasing this darn goal for a year, I finally broke through the 24-min barrier. I didn’t just break it, I smashed it. I ran a 5K that reflected what I was capable of doing.
Nell ran a great race too. She was really excited to run a sub-23 (22:49), which was good enough to get her 2nd place overall. She won a great gift bag, which included a $50 gift certificate to Neiman Marcus Last Call and $25 gift certificate to another store in the mall. In other words, she made money on this race. It was fun cheering for her when she went up to accept the award. I think we were the loudest group.
They didn’t give out any age group awards. If they had, I would have came in first (Nell was in my age group, but she would have been excluded because she got an overall award). We stuck around for a little bit longer to see if any one of us would get a raffle prize. Unfortunately not, but it was funny hearing our groans of disappointment as a couple times the number called was close to our bib number, and we hung on with bated breath.
The race was a lot of fun because we got to hang out with our friends on a cold Sunday morning. I have one last race this Sunday (Hot Chocolate 10K on Roosevelt Island) that I’m doing with my friends. It’s the last race for me this year and I’m looking forward to closing out my 2013 racing season on a good note.