Today I ran the Santa Stampede 5K with my 8 year old son Logan. He has shown interest in running races after I started training for my first marathon. Today was his second 5K run – we ran the Highlands Ranch Turkey Day 5K just a few weeks ago and he did really well. Last Sunday I asked him if he wanted to run another race and he was all for it. So, I signed us up for the Santa Stampede 5K and today was the day.
We drove up to Littleton and arrived at Hudson Gardens at around 8.30 AM – half an hour before the race would start. It was crowded and we had to park at the overflow parking across the street. We walked up to the Start area where they had setup a small Expo with local vendors as well as where they were going to provide post-race fuel and drink. Technically you do not have to refuel after a 5K, but I guess it comes with the entire experience that people expect to be fed even after the shortest distance.
At 8.45 AM they had a small kids fun run – a quarter mile race for the little ones and I would say that about 20 kids participated. Next up was a kids cheer-leading group and then the national anthem was played. From there all 5K runners had to walk to the Start Line which was about 250 yards away. The race would lead along the South Platte River which is a really nice area that has trails from the Southern Metro area all the way up to Downtown Denver (and beyond). I did not bring my GPS watch and so we would run this race completely by feel.
The start area was crowded and I could already tell it would be a mess. People did not line up correctly and so when the race started it was a stream of people coming from all different directions to make it across the finish line. Fortunately there was no pushing and so Logan was safe. We slowly moved across the start line, but I am sure we lost about a minute of actual race time just to merge into the traffic on that small trail. In my opinion this definitely should call for a wave start next time around, but it is a small town race and so I doubt this will actually happen.
It took about a mile for things to spread out a little bit and Logan and I slowly worked out way through the mix of runners and walkers. By mile 1.5 there was finally enough room to run next to each other without being in the way of other people. The trail is maybe 5 feet wide and to accommodate hundreds of runners at the same time is a bit of a challenge. I made sure that Logan kept motivated during the race and once we reached the 2 mile marker he told me that he is trying to run the entire race without walking. I was so proud of him when I heard that. I had set an initial goal of being 1 minute faster compared to the Turkey Trot run 3 weeks ago, but I was impressed when had brought up his own goal.
We ran and passed a lot more people – including kids that had passed us early on running way too fast and now they were paying the price. Later on in the car on the way back Logan would tell me that my advice of starting at a slower pace and to become faster towards the end is something he would remember now (see the results that prove the point). I asked him if he would up for a fast finish, but he started getting tired and so I kept his mind busy by pointing out things that I saw and he forgot a bit that he was tired. We reached the last quarter mile to go and he did not slow down. We passed a few more people, but then had only one lady ahead of us. She started getting a bit faster for a strong finish and I asked Logan if he would be up to catching and passing here. He actually was. We increased our speed and I really kept him motivated. People along the side of the trail started cheering him on and that helped a lot. We passed the lady and finished strong. I high-fived him and gave him a big hug. He was stoked and totally excited.
This race required to turn in the race time-tracking chips and we had the volunteers cut them off our shoes. Then we moved into the Expo area and I made sure Logan picked up some goodies. We ate a cookie and then from there decided to leave. Traffic was a bit crazy and it looked like a major challenge to make it out of the parking lot, so I took a back road I knew about.
It was a great run today. I was very happy for my son that he finished the race without walking and that he finished strong. From the display time at the finish line it looks like we also hit the goal of being 1 minute faster compared to the last time.
Update: I just got the official results. Logan came in as #339 out of 1400+. He was #16 in his age group – but at the Turkey Day Run the age group included kids up to 10 years – here it included kids up to 14 years and 9 of the kids in front of him were 11 years or older. His chip time was 32:59 and that means he was almost a minute faster than at his last race – that combined with the very slow start situation translates into an improvement of at least one minute.