Snow must have scared me from becoming a regular Rudolph Rambler--that whole December, snow, cold weather bit. Judging from Sunday, it certainly couldn't have been the race atmosphere, which was fun and festive. I learned after the fact that Santa, his reindeer and the elves were new this year, but a lot can change when you don't run a race in nine years.
- Was it really nine years? Can I go with the time flies when you're having fun running excuse? Until I flipped through the result archives, I swore I last ran this race in 2005. Turns out it was 2003. I guess that's what I get for not wearing my race T-shirt in a while and burying it in my dresser.
- It's a lot easier to run in December without snow. I think part of the reason I haven't run the Rudolph Ramble since 2003 was that it snowed the night before the race that year. A few inches of snow on the race course aren't enough to cancel a race, and I'm not exactly the most coordinated person when it comes to running especially when you add snow and ice to the mix (I can point out all my sports scars and joke that I've perfected the trip and roll). And now I have a few more snowy runs under my belt.
- It's a different course. I swear this race followed a different route through Lincoln Park, one involving the south portion of the Park's trails before ending near the Peggy Notebaert museum. But the more I think about it--knowing that we drove to the start because of the snow and that we typically only drive to races at Montrose--the more I realize that I really have no idea.
- You're faster. I probably had a 38-minute 8K in me nine years ago when I was younger, lighter, less stressed and less sleep-deprived. Except lately I seem to be holding steady at a faster 7:20ish per mile pace. My last three 8K finish times are all within seconds of each other. No complaints especially when you learn that an award will be arriving in your mailbox sometime before the holiday.
- You're more festive. It could be that I don't remember anything but the snow, but it's more likely that I had my running blinders on and didn't pay attention to any of the race's holiday cheer. That wasn't the case this year, though that doesn't mean I ran in a costume (it was too cold and wet to wear my red-white-and-green striped socks, the extent of my Christmas clothes collection). But I was the big kid who had her picture taken with the reindeer and almost waited in line for a picture with Santa.
- You notice more costumes. I saw the father dressed as a Santa hat-wearing brown bear (his swim parka-like costume looked so warm), the runner dressed in a get-up that could have walked right off the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, the runner whose holiday garb needed to be at an Ugly Christmas Sweater run, and the kid dressed as Santa (the race photographer must have loved him too because he's highlighted in the Facebook album).
- It's harder to wake up. I swore off being a morning person after I didn't have to be at swim practice at 6 a.m. But it must have taken five snoozes on the alarm to finally get me out of bed Sunday morning. And then I barely made it to the start line before the runners took off. Thank goodness I found the gap in the fencing so I could slide into a group of similar-speed runners.
- You learn how to dress to run in cold weather...without sweating your butt off. It only took countless runs--races and training workouts--to finally figure out what I need to wear for chillier races. As long as there's a nearby gear check where I can stash a coat, I'm good with tights, my go-to mock turtleneck, and the vest portion of my running jacket. I had the gloves and ear warmers but it turns out I liked the slightly cold fingers.
- Cookies need to be at every race finish line. It was only one per runner, but the gingerbread cookie I grabbed after running was an instant sugar rush. I could have used a piece of fruit too, and not the chocolate covered variety that became available when I tracked past the food a second time, but I had plenty 15 minutes later when I was back at home. Can all races--not just the holiday ones--have cookies instead of bagels?