The Casual Runner

Milltown 5k & Nerd Herd Virtual Race

Event: 2015 Hills of Milltown 5K Challenge and Nerd Herd “The Nerd Awakens” Virtual 5K
Event Date: May 24, 2015
Event Location: Ellicott City, Maryland

Why I Decided to Run This Race

My husband and I decided to run the Nerd Herd virtual race series again and we needed to find a 5K event sometime during the week of May 18th-24th.  Since that week included Memorial Day there was no shortage of races to choose from, but we knew we wanted to run in costume and that would not have been appropriate for a number of the races dedicated in memory of fallen troops.


The swag bag from the 5k.

Instead we found this race in historic Ellicott City.  The race was a fundraiser for the local town beautification fund, so even though the race is not really designed to be a costume run it also would not be inappropriate to run in costume.  Historic Ellicott City is an adorable town with buildings that date back to the Civil War, and the start to the race was the parking lot of my favorite wine shop (which was one of the race sponsors and therefore open early that morning!).  This all added up to the makings of a potentially perfect race.

Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race

As the name of the race suggests, this was going to be a hilly course.  I should have taken this as a sign that I needed to increase my hill training.  Alas, I did not.

The Race Expo

This is a small local race.  One of the local running shops hosted packet pick-up the night before at their store, but we did not go to it.  Instead, we picked up our bibs the morning of the race.


Jennifer showing off her race costume.

We arrived at the race about 45 minutes before the start, went over to the little table they set up in the parking lot, gave them our names, and got our bibs and shirts.  We did get a few odd looks since we were in costume and everyone else around us was dressed as “normal” runners, but when has that ever stopped us?

Swag Review

I’ve found that our local races tend to give eclectic swag bags.  In addition to the cotton t-shirts, we got a bunch of brochures for local businesses and the historic society (my favorite was for the ghost walks!), gift certificates for several local restaurants (2 wine bars!), a granola bar, and a coin purse converted into a basic first-aid kit.  For me, this was a pretty useful swag bag.

The Gear

The theme of the virtual race was Star Wars and although we had already done 2 other Star Wars-themed races, we wanted new costumes for this one.  I chose Princess Leia and my husband chose Admiral Piett.  I had never run in a skirt as long as the one on my Princess Leia dress or with long bell sleeves, so I was a little worried that they would get in the way (flashback anyone to Mike’s encounter with a Princess Leia costumed runner who struggled during the 2013 runDisney Princess Half Marathon?).  But it was “only” a 5K and I figured I could power through any costuming problems over that distance.


Jake (and a photobombing puppy) showing off his Star Wars-inspired race outfit.

Since I took the easy way out and just purchased a Princess Leia costume, this was a pretty simple outfit to put together.  I wore: Secret Wishes Star Wars Sexy Princess Leia costume (don’t judge…it had a high slit that would give me full movement to run in), white Lysse shaping leggings, white Adidas sports bra, white Nike tank top, white Bondi Band headband, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and Amphipod hydration belt.

The Pre-Race

After picking up our bibs we went back to the car to keep warm since it was just a little too chilly to be standing around waiting for the race to start.  About 15 minutes before the start we walked a few laps around the parking lot to warm up our muscles and hit the potties.  About 3 minutes before the start they called us all over to the starting line…there were about 100 of us, so we were all in place within about 30 seconds.  Then the race organizer got on his bullhorn and told us to “GO!”  This was the least fanfare I’ve ever experienced, but it was kinda part of the charm.

Along the Course

It was obvious right from the start that most of the runners in this race were serious runners.  As they sprinted up the first hill (which started immediately after we exited the parking lot and lasted the first half mile), my husband and I fell in with the dozen or so others who were run/walking and the one lady pushing a stroller.  But it was perfect weather for a run, the scenery was beautiful, and we had no goals other than to finish and enjoy the time together, so it didn’t matter if we were the back of the pack.

The hills in Ellicott City are no joke, and this course did not avoid them.  The first half mile was up a steep hill, we got a bit of a reprieve with some gentle downhill for about a quarter to half mile.  Then we hit another steep uphill for the next half mile up to the ruins of the old Patapsco Female Institute.  Coming down from there we had ups and downs through the historic town on Church Street and Court Street (which, conveniently enough. had us pass an old church and the courthouse).  Finally we looped back to retrace the first mile in reverse: taking us back up the hill and then sprinting half mile downhill to the finish.


Jennifer & Jake showing off finishing their second Nerd Herd Virtual Race.

Although it was a small race, they still had pretty good course support.  Water stops were small but effective—a guy handing out bottles of water from the back of his pickup truck.  Volunteers enthusiastically directed runners in the right direction and cheered us up the hills.  Potties were available a few places on the course, but I think at least a few were permanent ones that we just happened to run by.

We crossed the finish line to a handful of people clapping.  And that was it.  It was over.  We did not run the race particularly fast, but the time seemed to just fly by.  Maybe it is because most of my recent races and training runs have been longer distances so this one was comparatively short.  But I believe it was more likely because it was fun: I could not have asked for more perfect weather and I like running past old buildings with hundreds of years of history.

The SMOpinion

There was no SMO for the Ellicott City race.  But we will eventually get one for the virtual race, and will make sure to post it to our Facebook SMO Gallery when we do.

The Post-Race Experience

Across the street from the finish line a couple of local businesses hosted a post-race celebration.  Since we were some of the last people to finish, we were surprised to see that things were not really ready yet by the time we got there.


The post-race celebration under a beautiful blue sky – with fresh Belgian Waffles!

When I read the race website later, it was pretty clear that the post-race celebration was not scheduled to start until the race was completely finished…so they were actually right on schedule.  In any case, as we stood around puzzled about what was going on, a woman walked out and handed me a huge fresh-made Belgian waffle.  She was giving them out free to the first 20 racers at the after-party.  Delicious post-race fuel!

Playlist Peak

No music for this race.  Just the sounds of a town waking up on an early Saturday morning.

Looking Back Now

I quite enjoyed this race.  I would like to do more hill training over the next year and try it again.  Maybe I won’t be quite as far in the back of the pack next time.  But then again, is it really a bad thing to be out a little longer on a course under a clear blue sky with beautiful historic buildings around you?

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