Sunday, March 4, 2012

Perfect Combination: Holidays + Running Events

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 12/19/11)
Holidays and running events share a common trait:  They both involve groups of people with happy, positive energy.  Combine a holiday with a running event, and you have a perfect recipe for an exciting gathering of friendly folks.  That’s why there are so many “jingle jog” style races held around the Christmas season.  In the Tucson area, the Vail Jingle Trail 5k cross-country race has gained a reputation as a really fun way to prepare for the coming days of Christmas.
The race is hosted by Tagg Running Events and is held on the campus of Cienega High School, in the suburb of Vail.  The race has a unique entry fee – in addition to a reasonable registration fee, runners are asked to bring an unwrapped toy.  The donated toys are donated to the race’s beneficiary, The Shyann Kindness Project (a non-profit charity that helps children in need).  Here’s a picture of some of the donated toys:
Runners in the Vail Jingle Trail receive a very high-quality long sleeve T-shirt, and a pair of jingle bells.  I attached one bell to each of my shoes:
It was a fairly cold morning, and rather windy.  That didn’t stop these Christmas Carolers from serenading us with some cheerful song!
The course started and ended on the high school’s track, with the remainder meandering through the school campus.  I felt pretty good and wanted to run a fast 5k, but the wind and long grass on the course presented some challenges.  One nice thing about the twisting course was that at various points it was possible to see other runners – I was able to cheer for some of my friends as we ran.
I managed to finish the race in 19:08, which earned me 3rd place overall (behind a couple of high school runners).  I was happy with that time, which was more than a minute faster than my time last year in this race.  After I finished, I quickly grabbed my camera and took a bunch of photos of other runners as they came towards the finish along the track.  Here’s a photo of my son, Jason, who once again set a new 5k PR:
I think there were about 350 runners (some ran a 1-mile race), and quite a few of my friends were running.  Here’s a photo of my friend Phillip, a.k.a. GruveB on the RW Loop, kicking it in to a fantastic new PR and 10th place finish:
Seems like maybe the wind brought out some superhero strength in some of the runners, because a lot of them were blazing their way once they reached the track. Here’s a picture of my friend Bruce, a.k.a. Tucson Strider on the RW Loop, who was looking strong despite having just run a PR time a week earlier in the half-marathon (Bruce’s wife Terri also did the same!):
We hung around for a while and enjoyed socializing and analyzing the race with friends.  The cold weather eventually required some bundling up but it was fun.  At the awards ceremony, I received a Christmas Tree and handmade ornament for 1st place Master’s!
This was the Sixth Annual Vail Jingle Trail, and it’s already become a local tradition.  Thanks to Race Director Steve Taggert for continuing to put on this excellent event!
This was my final race of 2011 (unless one pops up before New Year’s Eve!)  It’s been a great running and racing year, and I’m hoping to write a blog or two over the next couple of weeks summarizing some of the things I’ve learned this year.  Meanwhile, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!  

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