This year, NJ’s best amusement park, Six Flags Great Adventure, decided to extend the season and have an event called Holiday in the Park, where over a million holiday lights, displays, plus some thrill rides were out in full force to entertain guests.
If you’re a runner and you hear about an inaugural event for anything taking place anywhere, what do you do? Create a race to go with it, of course! And so the Santa Run 5k was born, a brand new 5k with a course than ran right through the park and even the safari.
A little background… As a kid, Great Adventure was my all time favorite place to spend a day in the otherwise lackluster state of NJ. It was the home to my first upside down roller coaster and too many family outings to count.
As an adult, I previously made one attempt to go back and try to relive some of the fun I had as a kid, but instead was met with 4 hour lines for rides an a ridiculous amount of overcrowding, which wasn’t the fun experience I remembered…
It took a well priced inaugural 5k event to get me back into the park. The description of the race read more like a fun run, and given the fact that I’ve only been running 8-10 miles a week since my hip injury, I thought it would be a great change of pace to do my 3.1 mile run in the park and then spend the rest of the day walking around enjoying the holiday attractions (park admission was included in the race entry fee.)
I had no expectations for the event or for my 5k time, and somehow every single part of the day exceeded expectations. It was about 48 degrees race morning, which is ideal running weather for the most part, if not a little chilly while we waited to start the event. My cousin Marlena came as a spectator - and there were special spectator tickets for the event as well.Parking was free, which is awesome since it usually costs about $25-$30 just to park there!
|Race Swag - a hand towel, which was a nice touch|
There were about 250ish runners, which is the smallest 5k I have done to date. We lined up right on the main street area right inside the park gates, and before we knew it, it was race time.
Right out of the gate, a bunch of people sprinted across the starting line at full speed. For a minute I started to worry.. Being a small race, would I actually be last?
It wasn’t long before people slowed down and I started casually passing people, and the crowd thinned out to the point where I was basically running alone for portions of the race. It was a bit strange to run through the nearly empty park when I was so used to seeing it overcrowded.
The miles ticked by quickly - mile 1 clocked in at 8:57, which is fast based on my training runs lately, yet I felt good. Mile 2 - 9:05 - wait a minute, am I actually running a evenly paced race?? Usually I blow out way too fast and start dying midway through mile 2, so this never happens.
We pass the safari and some holiday decorations, and about midway through mile 3 I started doubting my pace and slowed slightly. Near the finish line someone shouted that there was only 200 meters left, so I sprinted to the finish.
Brian had finished well before me with a time of 23:34.
My time… ready for it?? 28:34
Somehow running way less than usual equals a faster race time than I have seen recently… Maybe it was the nostalgia of being in the park again? I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I was happy with that time.
|Brian and I after the race|
Brian went to check out the results, and realized that I had finished 3rd in my age group. At first I figured there was some sort of a mistake since I NEVER place. Then I immediately assumed there must only be 3 people total in the 30-34 age group.
But nope, there were actually 19 people in my age group, so while there were a small amount of competitors, I actually did beat 16 people out to place.
Brian 23:34 , overall place 29, Male 22/101, Age Group 4/15
Me 28:34, overall place 70, Female 26/150, Age Group 3/19
Not bad for a 5k we registered for on a whim!
They had an awards ceremony where I won this Christmas Ornament, which is a perfect way to remember the day. Afterwards we changed and then had a nearly empty park to ourselves since many of the people seem to come at night to see the full effects of the Christmas lights.
|The Christmas Ornament I won, not bad!|
Marlena and I managed to ride the front row of every open coaster, something we had never been able to accomplish as children. They had firepits, hot chocolate, S’mores, egg nog, a few Christmas shows, and lights everywhere.
Then we were treated to this ridiculously beautiful sunset.
I can honestly say this was a pretty perfect day, one of the few where everything just seems to go right.
Of course, posting a semi decent race time is now reigniting that fire to train hard and see what I can do when I’m actually running consistently…..
Are you running any Holiday races this season?