Race Recap: 2014 Jack-o-Lantern Jog

Last Saturday I ran the Jack-o-Lantern Jog, a 5K to benefit the Canon-McMillan School District Scholarship Fund. The race was in Washington, PA and also included a one-mile Skeleton Stroll. I knew it was a small race (296 participants this year), and based on the hand-drawn course map and bare-bones website with very little information, I wasn't expecting much. But I actually loved this race and was very impressed with how well-organized it was.

I decided to run some 5Ks for the rest of this year mainly to help me overcome my fear of racing. Because this race was just one week after my half marathon, I planned to run it and not race it. I had only one goal: Have fun!

Because I had no sort of time goal, I felt absolutely no pressure or stress. I didn't even worry about my eating or what time I went to bed the night before. I have to say, races are so much fun when there isn't any pressure and stress!

I picked up my packet the morning of the race at the race location with no trouble. I noticed immediately that there were a lot of kids, the Canon-Mac boys' cross country team (though they were cheering on the course and not racing...unless they finished in 15 minutes and came back, which is possible!), another junior cross country team, and relatively few old folks like me. I assumed that the majority of people were there to simply support their school district. There were only two people dressed in costume--a Tigger and a fried egg. The course was on main roads and roads through a neighborhood.

Here's a view of the start line. We started in the road, and you can see there is no starting mat. When we started running, I waited to start my Garmin until I crossed the starting mat, but I never saw it, so my Garmin registered a short 3.06 miles.
Mile 1: 10:38 pace
Right after the start was a steep downhill, and then the course started climbing a very steep hill that continued for the entire first mile. Shortly after we started up, the majority of people around me started walking. That's when I added a second goal: Do not walk! I kept a moderate pace and made it to the top, where the first water station was (I didn't stop.)

Mile 2: 11:11 pace
After the hill, the course flattened out through a neighborhood street, but not for very far. There were a few residents out cheering us on. I would say there was less than .25 miles of flat road. Then came the hills! Mile 2 was hill after hill, one right after the other. Once again, about 90% of runners near me walked up the hills. It is so hard to keep running when everyone around you is walking! I didn't succumb to the lure of walking and instead kept running. So I would pass everyone on the uphills, and they would pass me on the downhills. Not sure who had the better strategy! At the end of mile 2 was another water stop, and I stopped to have a sip of water because my lungs were screaming from all the hills, even though I wasn't running fast.

Mile 3: 9:38 pace
The start of mile 3 was a steep downhill, and it was delightful! I let my legs open up and really just enjoyed the hill. Most of mile 3 was a downhill, except for the very last .25 mile or so, which was up the same steep hill we initially came down.

Mile .1 (0.06 per my watch): 8:01 pace
Because I hadn't been running fast, I had plenty of energy to sprint to the finish line.

Once I crossed, a kid handed me a medal. I think they do not always have medals, but they had them this year to commemorate the 10th year. I LOVE the medal!!!

Once I was done, I went inside the warehouse of the Central Van & Storage, where the start and finish line were. I went to get a banana and was dazzled by the food spread. There were bagels with cream cheese, bananas, oranges, brownies, Halloween-themed cookies, donuts, and all sorts of fruit juices. It was hard to stick with just a banana!

Then I went into the main section, where all the raffle baskets were set up. I got raffle tickets with my registration but didn't participate in the raffle because I thought you needed to stay for a while after the race to hear who had won, and I didn't plan to stay long. After seeing the raffle baskets, I really wished I would have put my tickets in  because they were really nice, and they already had the winners listed. There were a ton of raffle baskets.

 I then checked out the awards and was so jealous. They were really nice!

I also liked the race t-shirt, even though it's just cotton. I love Halloween so really love the logo.
Even the race goodies were in a Halloween-themed bag.

I'm not sure how they made any money since you got so much (a medal, tons of food, the raffle baskets), but you definitely got your money's worth for this race.

I finished in 32:23, a 10:27 pace. That's obviously much slower than my current 30:06 5K PR, but I wasn't racing it, there were a lot of hills, and I met my two goals to have fun and not walk, so I'm happy!

I would definitely do this race again. It was well organized, and it was just a fun atmosphere. If you are a fast runner and like hills, you should check out this race because the awards are really cool!

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