Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jingle Bell Run—December 10, 2006

I came across the Jingle Bell Run last year like I did the Race for the Cure—by chance. I think I was listening to the car radio (WARM 106.9, all Christmas music, all the time, from Thanksgiving through December 25), and I heard the DJ mention it. So I looked it up on the internet, and there it was—5K, fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation, in the heart of downtown Seattle. Seemed like a festive thing to do!

Because the charity was the Arthritis Foundation, which I felt an affinity for since my grandmother had suffered terribly from arthritis, I made a bit of an effort at fundraising, sending an email to a rather long mailing list of friends far and near. But I think only my mother and I actually contributed—my sister probably meant to, but I don’t think she got around to it. No one else even responded. And I was the one feeling guilty for bothering them! I hate fundraising.

Still, despite my paltry success at raising money, I was inspired to make this a fun event, so I decided I needed a Christmassy running outfit. So off to Target I went. I got lucky, finding a red and white Adidas-style track suit (red jacket and pants with white stripes down the arms and legs), which I felt would give a Santa-like vibe but yet still be appropriate for running. Hat and gloves should have been easy, but in fact I spent quite a bit of time (and an excess of money) on potential red and white/cream possibilities from Target and later Macy’s, before settling on a red polar fleece cap and fluffy cream-colored gloves and scarf. Lorraine from my office was kind enough to make me a pompom to top off the hat in style! (Hopefully I will be able to find everything back for the 2007 run!)

The morning of the race mother and I were in downtown Seattle good and early. Long before any stores were open, and seemingly a bit before many of the runners had arrived, we found a spot in the parking garage and wandered our way into Westlake Center. Once I located the registration and check-in areas, the quiet and solitude dissipated, as I found myself surrounded by runners and walkers, many dressed in red and even a lot of Santa caps, antlers, and elf costumes! I passed the extra time by standing in a very long line for the women’s restroom, and standing in not quite as long a line at Starbucks for a pre-race latte.

The upper levels at Westlake Center offered a nice view of the holiday decorations below, and the cheerful mob of Santa-garbed runners. As race time neared, I made my way into the crowd and toward the start line. I say toward the start line, because I was certainly nowhere near it. I think the top runners got to go to the front, but among the rest of us there was no attempt to separate the runners from the walkers, or divide up the pace categories as in the Race for the Cure. When the starting gun went off, there was a large shuffle in the direction of the start line—I am quite sure that it took five or even ten minutes before I actually crossed the starting line. And even then there was no running—the shuffle turned into a jogging walk, until eventually I was able to develop some kind of a pace.

That is undoubtedly why, even though I felt like I was running quite hard and fairly fast through most of the race, I saw that the time clock was well over 30 minutes before I approached. I knew that this was true, so I disregarded the clock and don’t even know my time anymore.

There were more important things to worry about, anyway. I had decided that this run would be a good opportunity for a fun Christmas photo to make Christmas cards to send to the few people that I send cards to. So I had my mother stationed at the finish line for a photo opportunity. But this was our first real try at race photography (except for the Dog Day Dash, which was a much smaller event), and we completely underestimated the mobs of people that would interfere with the finish line. Not to mention the trickiness of a digital camera which takes several seconds to record a picture—seconds in which a runner can enter and leave the picture frame before the photo is captured! I don’t think my mother even manage to see me at the finish line, let alone photograph me. Then, after crossing the finish line, there was an extremely frustrating period of trying to find her in the mobs, as we had not adequately designated a meeting point.

After meeting up and exchanging angry words and recriminations, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) decided that there was nothing to do but re-stage the finish and take the pictures we had missed. I determined then—which has served us well in future races—that the best place to take pictures is prior to the finish gates, where there are less bystanders to interfere with the shots. So I stationed my mother on the side of the street, walked another block back into the course, and ran it again. And again. And again…. Until we had several possible shots, at least one of which I deemed acceptable for a Christmas card photo. (The caption for my Christmas card was “I hear there’s a One-Day Sale at Macy’s!”)

By that time the race finishers had dwindled—even the walkers were finishing—and it was time to leave. The nice thing about most races is that they start fairly early in the morning, and so it’s still early when you are done. Still early enough for—breakfast! We escaped downtown and headed back to Wedgwood to the Sunflour Café, calling Gretchen along the way and inviting her to meet us there.

Another nice thing about races is that you feel like you have earned yourself a good breakfast. So I tucked into a smoked salmon omelet and a side of delicious thick-cut bacon with gusto and only a little guilt.

Later, before I took off my Santa suit, I posed with Nissa on the deck… we tried to get her to wear a set of reindeer antlers, but she didn’t want to!

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