Event: The Inaugural Christmas Story 10k
Event Date: December 2013
Event Location: Cleveland, Ohio
You’ll shoot your eye out!
It is Christmas time, which means soon all of your Casual Running friends will be quoting scenes from the great, all-time seasonal classic movie, A Christmas Story, if they haven’t already done so. So we decided this would be a great time to go back and look at the inaugural race that celebrated this film.
Why I decided to run this race.
Who does not love watching the timeless tales of Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun? In case you did not know, the scenes of the family’s house and many of the outdoor scenes from the movie were filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. It has been restored to all of its Christmas Story glory as a museum, and when my friends told me that they were staging a 5k and 10k to benefit the museum, of course I was going to be there.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
Online registration could not have been easier, and I even bought my brother his entry as his birthday present. I would also be running it with my friends Ryan, and Emilie, and the family decided to make a Christmas outing of the event.
You had to make 2 decisions: Do you run the 5k or the 10k? Do you do the race in-person or do you do it as a virtual race, which are growing increasingly popular race options. I opted for the 10k distance, and would run it in-person. As I was training for the Walt Disney World Marathon, this would be a nice excuse to force myself outdoors during the cold Ohio winter (can anyone say “polar vortex”?).
The race Expo
There was no expo for this race, but the pre-race activities were the very definition of festive. More on those below.
The swag was limited, but still quite good. The event shirts were cotton (not my favorite), but made up for that with the design. A line of the iconic leg lamps adorned the sleeves and it was well-branded for the event. All participants also received free admission to tour the museum and see where Ralphie defended his family from Black Bart (please tell me you’ve seen the movie).
Did I mention that I would be running a race…in Ohio…in December? As you can imagine, this was going to be a cold one. A very cold one. An ice storm passed through the region the night before. My kit consisted of Reebok running pants and a pair of Reebok shorts (to cut down on the wind exposure in certain important regions, sorry, forgot the TMI alert), an UnderArmour long sleeved cold gear mock turtle, The North Face gloves, and a SweatVac winter head band. I also had my Iphone 5S and Yurbud Triathlon Series headphones.
The organizers of this event really knew how to throw a party. All of the pre-race activities were centered around Tower City, which is a shopping complex in downtown Cleveland (and was featured in the movie). This afforded plenty of WARM pre-race space for runners to gather, but organizers also had plenty of festive entertainment, including music and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, which my nephews just loved. The branding and entertainment continued outside to the starting area, which almost made us forget just how cold it was…almost! All in all, I was very impressed with how great of a job the organizers did with the pre-race festivities, especially considering that this was an inaugural event.
Along the course
In all fairness, I have to remind myself that this was a combined 5k and 10k event, and not a larger race such as a full or half marathon. As such, while I do not like mass starts, I really should not be surprised that this is what the race utilized. However, the aforementioned ice storm meant that the roads were going to be slick, and the start of the race, with people bunched up, meant that we had to be very careful.
Starting out at Tower City, we headed out past the homes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians, and turned onto the historic Carnegie Bridge, which offers gorgeous views of the city, but on this day, they were very cold gorgeous views. We made our way towards Ohio City and turned left to head to the Christmas Story House. The 5k and 10k shared the same course, with the 5k ending at the House and the 10k making a return along the same out-and-back course. When I grabbed a cup of water at the water station, I was amused to find it…yup, frozen! I had to break through the top layer of ice to get at what still liquid water was underneath.
While I do not “costume-up” for races, I love seeing other runners do so. And while I was not expecting this to be a costumed race, many runners and fans of the movie impressed on that day. I can’t tell you how many runners I saw dressed in bunny slipper sleeper pajamas and even dressed as leg lamps. There were two particularly impressive costumes. The first was a runner dressed as school boy from the film carrying a…wait for it..flag pole! Yup, even ran most of the race with his tongue “stuck” to it.
But the gold medal for costuming went to the runner carrying an inflatable holiday turkey on a platter. It did not stop there, as she was being chased along the course by a pack of runners dressed as dogs. That’s right, they pulled off the group costume of the Bumpuses’ dogs. Very well-played indeed.
The biggest problem with the course itself was a question of safety. At two points, cars entered into the lanes that were designated for runners, and we actually had to run around the cars that were stopped at traffic lights. This suggests that the control of traffic needed to be better. Hopefully this will be improved upon for future events. Another issue, which was not the organizer’s fault, was that the city did not get the snow and ice cleared in time, and there were several treacherous parts as I saw several runners slip and fall. However, one should be warned, when you run a race in the north in the winter, you accept the risk of such conditions and have to be prepared for them.
However, the best thing the organizers did was to line the course with signs containing movie facts and trivia. This was AWESOME. They had some great nuggets of wisdom and many of the signs had us runners laughing. More events should consider adding such signs to their courses. It is a cheap and effective form of entertainment that enhances the overall experience for all runners.
The same medal was awarded to finishers of the 5k, 10k, and virtual races. The design is awesome as it features the leg lamp and the line “it’s a major award!” The quality of the medal is not the best and the ribbon is a generic one. When a volunteer went to hand me my medal, she dropped it on the sidewalk and it actually broke in half. I am not sure if that was due to the quality of the medal or the cold weather, but I did request that she give me a different one, which she did, though I am not sure that she appreciated my joke about it being Italian because it is “Fra-Gi-Le” (again, you have to see the movie). That being said, I really do like the design of the medal itself.
The post-race experience
The post-race was more of the same quality, seasonal entertainment from before the race. And again, props for picking a location that had plenty of (heated) indoor space and access to coffee shops and food locations. We opted to hop across the river to Ohio City, which was having an outdoor holiday festival. All I can say about this was that we celebrated our race finishes by toasting with Great Lakes Christmas Ale that had been flash boiled with a glowing hot poker and garnished with a cinnamon stick. I have no idea who came up with this, but it was pretty darn spectacular.
The movie itself does not have a particularly noteworthy soundtrack, so I opted instead for a playlist that was very heavy on The Trans-Siberian Orchestra and their Christmas albums. If you have not run to Christmas Even in Sarajevo yet, do it! Preferably while running by impressive downtown Christmas decorations, such as those in Public Square in Cleveland.
Looking back now
I enjoyed this race in spite of the less than optimal weather, which says a lot about the efforts of the organizers. I am not unconcerned by the safety issues posed by cars entering an active race course, but am hopeful that the organizers will improve upon that for future races.
Will I run this again? I would like to, however, I am currently recovering from the foot injury I sustained during the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, and have to remain focused on being healthy for the Dopey Challenge in January, so I may be sitting this one out. But for those of you who do decide to run this race, please, do not shoot your eye out!
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