February 15, 2012

Mercedes Kids Marathon February 11, 2012

My go-to word for this race is "easy." Everything from registration to packet pick-up to race day was easy. I know that a lot of organizers, volunteers and teachers put in hard work to make this happen, which makes it seriously easy for the parents.

We signed up at the end of 2011, and the kids did all of their running and logging miles at school. They had to run 25.2 miles before the day of the race so that they could run the final mile on race day and receive their medal for completing a marathon. The school also picked up the race packets/goody bags for us and sent them home with the kids. Nice! No extra car trips necessary.

The morning of the race, we got there about ten minutes before the fifth grade started running at 10 am. We found an easy parking spot in a lot just northeast (I think) of Linn Park. The remaining grades cycled through the starting chute every ten minutes. I wasn't really paying attention to time, so I'm not sure if they stayed on that schedule. The event felt like it was moving along quickly, maybe because we had two kids for whom to juggle the cheers and picture takings. It was very crowded on the park side of the fence, especially at the start and finish, so we didn't get a ton of pictures. Next time, I will try getting to the other side, but that morning I couldn't find a good path.

Freezing before our start time.

Our third grader ran first, and after we herded her into the starting chute, she quickly found some friends with whom to run. They used ropes to corral kids within their age groups so that everyone wasn't trying to start at once and run over each other. So within the ten minutes of each grade starting, there were lots of little starts as they let each roped group out. I was nervous that our daughter would feel lost in the shuffle, but she managed to start with one set of friends and end the race with a whole other set of friends. A lot of kids from school and church were doing the race, so even though it was really crowded, there were familiar faces.

Third grade start.

Some kids were hauling it.

First grade start.

Parents could run with their first graders and kindergartners, so I ran with our first grader. At one point I realized that he had worn his baby brother's socks, so basically he had on toe covers, and he was wearing slip on shoes that kept slipping off. After about three yards in, he asked if he could stop running. I said "no" because we were also running with a classmate whose mom wasn't able to run with her, and I didn't want her to feel like she had to stop. So we kept going. They were adorable and working so hard to get to the finish line. They kept bumping into their classmates and getting really giddy every time they saw someone they knew. At one point, about six kids from their class were lined up running. I tried to take a picture of them, but instead got a nice close-up of my face. Really need to work on my picture-taking-while-running skills.

The whole time, I was yelling at them how awesome they were and how great they were doing, so when we rounded the last corner, I was prodding them to the finish with more cheers. That's when I heard my son start talking to himself in the third person, "You can do this, Enoch. Don's stop, Enoch." Seriously, that was the highlight of my day. At some point, all runners talk to themselves, right? And talking to yourself out loud? Done that. And wanted to do it more times than I actually have. You know, with running in the gym and all, it's not as conducive to my preferred psychotic behavior.

"No stopping. There's no 'i' in team. You can do this. Stay strong. Get on it!"

Going through the finish chute, we saw my son's teacher and his P.E. teacher. I'm not sure if they make sure to be there when their grade is coming through, but the kids loved seeing their sweet teachers.

Bella (pink jacket) crossing the finish line.

I liked how they organized the kids at the end too. Each child goes to a fenced-in area based on the last digit of their race bib number. Parents have to bring a corresponding tag number to pick up their child, and they had security guards stationed at each fenced area to check for matching tag numbers. It was a little chaotic because some kids didn't seem to know what to do, but I didn't see any kids exit who weren't supposed to exit.

Enoch being in love with his medal when he thinks no one is watching.

Another medal lover.

The kids got a Powerade and a thick, heavy Mercedes medal at the end, and we jetted out very quickly afterwards because the twins had been screaming the entire time we were out there. It was freezing our faces off just standing around, and none of us were used to that kind of weather. There was a cold snap the day before, so we went from t-shirt weather to freezing overnight.

Cold and unhappy

We also received coupons, attached to their bib, for a free kid's meal from a local barbecue joint, Jim 'N Nick's, so we went to the nearest one immediately after the race. The coupon was only good for race day, but we weren't into taking everyone into the restaurant. I was very happy that they let us get the free meals to go. That was a nice bonus. We saw a lot of other race families in the restaurant while we were there.

For finish times, they don't give any prizes for winners. They just list your time by your bib number online. Our third grader finished in 10:15, and our first grader finished in 10:54. Neither one of them seemed interested in competing for a certain time or to beat anyone. They mostly just wanted to get inside by a fire to get their frozen bums warmed up, and running that mile was going to put them one step closer to that.

We will definitely run this next year and hope for some more sun!

I am obsessed with these ribbons. See the tiny Vulcan at the top.