On December 4, 2015, at the far too young age of 3 years and 11 months, Sweet Ryan lost his battle with neuroblastoma. (from the race website: https://raceroster.com/events/2015/6937/ryans-reindeer-raceI don't know Ryan, but my neighbor, Lisa, is friends with his aunt, who lives in Lawrenceville, too. Back in November (as best as I can tell), friends planned a 5K race and 1K fun run for December 19 in order to raise money for the family and to find a cure. Sadly Ryan did not live long enough to see the love and support, but his family was there on December 19.
Ryan's Reindeer Race was held in Lakewood at the Blue Claws Stadium. We ran through the deserted parking lots of the stadium and ended at home plate.
For a first time race, it was fairly well organized. A week before the race they had fifty people sign up for it. We, along with about 70 other people, signed up on the day of the race. As the race organizer/announcer said "people in New Jersey sign up last minute" for events like this. They had bibs on hand for the first 100 registrants. As numbers 121 and 122, Lisa and I got handwritten bibs. You can kind of see it in the picture of us with Santa.
Don't let that pretty blue sky fool you -- it was cold! At the end of the race (when we dared to look) it was 37 degrees, but felt like 29. The wind was 15 PM, but had gusts up to 26 MPH. BRR!!! We were in the middle of the 60+ degree weather a few days earlier and the anticipated 70 degree weather on Christmas Eve.
Prior to the race he played "You're a Grand Old Flag" on the bagpipes. That's a new one for me. For once the bagpipe tune did not sound like all the other bagpipe tunes.
Those of us running had troubles finding the start line. Yes, this was a pretty bare bones race. With the handwritten bibs, it was also a chip-free race. They did have a clock at the finish line.
The big downside for me is they started 12 minutes late. We were set to start on time, but first they wanted to talk about why we were there (which I do get), and to sing the National Anthem (which I do get), and to have a moment of silence for Ryan and someone else who died the day before from the disease (which I do get), but we should have been rounded up sooner so they could start at 9. It was too cold to be standing outside! Or wait until the post-race indoor reception. It seemed most people were hanging out because they either knew Ryan or knew the organizers in some way.
There were a handful of enthusiastic cheerers and volunteers along the race. They even had a hidden water station around the halfway point. What was lacking were mile markers and someone to tell us how to get into the stadium for the grand finish. I'm so slow I did not see the person in front of us turn into the stadium. Lisa told me "I'm so slow, I'm only running about 10 minutes a mile." I thought I would die at her speedy pace since I'm happy with a sub-11 minute mile these days.
There is Lisa excited because she made it to the finish! All she had to do was run around the warning track to the finish line. The finish reminded me of the Trenton Half Marathon, as did the delayed start.
I had my best 5K time by far (31:39-ish) but mostly because my GPS watched showed I went 2.89 miles instead of 3.1, probably because I cut some distance off trying to find the correct entrance to the stadium.
With all of my complaining about what went wrong, you are probably wondering why I think it went well at all.
There was some crowd support on the cold day. Parking was easy! Registration was a breeze. The organizers took the problems (such as running out of bibs) and figured out solutions on the spot. There was food before and after the race -- INSIDE the clubhouse where we could keep warm. Santa was there. People wore costumes (I saw two "snowmen" -- white sweatshirts with black pompoms on them, plus a white tutu and black leggings). You could tell their hearts were in the right place.
May they plan for even more runners next year, and may the weather be a little bit warmer, or at least less windy.