So, I said I had some wicked crazy New Year’s plans, right?
And here they are: This event – produced by The Active Joe and held in Allen, Texas – offers a two races: one on New Year’s Eve and one on New Year’s Day. Runners can choose to run either one or both races and furthermore, they can choose which distances to run for each race.
I absolutely loved this event.
And no, I am not being dramatic. It is my favorite of all of the events that I have ever run and that includes Disney Princess and Wine and Dine and Rock’N’Roll Dallas and a plenty of other smaller races. So there.
1. The Very Idea: Close out 2013 with a run and welcome 2014 in the same fashion. What runner wouldn’t love the opportunity to celebrate running on both sides of midnight? For me, I can say that I ended 2013 doing what I love to do and started 2014 the same way.
2. Top-Notch Communication: I signed up for the New Years Double on whim (as I do for almost every race) and I was immediately impressed with the level of communication that the race crew puts out about the event. All I had to do was “like” the event on Facebook and visit the website and there they were: answers to any question that I might have had from packet pick-up to parking to rules and regulations. It’s hard for any race to strike a balance between over-communication and under-communication. This event gets it right.
3. The Options: The options! At my level, I could have opted into double half-marathons or perhaps double 5Ks if I wanted a challenge plate (more on that later…you will want one too!). Had I not cared about the plate, I could have done a 5K one day and a half marathon the other (either making a 5K as my pre-half-marathon shakeout run or making the 5K a recovery run from my half-marathon).
Marathoners could elect to do a double marathons or a full-marathon followed by a half-marathon or vice-versa. And there was even the opportunity to run a 5K on either or both days before the longer distance races if one wanted. The level of challenge is really up to the runner and there’s a way for just about anyone to participate at any level.
4. Refunds and Transfers: Signing up for a race can be risky – especially with races that are very popular and/or have a limited field of participants. Runners are consumers, too. We always want to ensure that we get the races that we want at the best registration fee around, so the tendency is to sign up early and hope for the best. If you’re like me, you are probably registered for several races – some local and others that require travel…which means that there are not only training schedules to work with, but travel schedules and work and family schedules, too.
Sometimes, things just don’t work out…and when that happens, runners are usually out of luck. Not here. This race allows refunds on registration and bib transfers up to a certain point before the race. I absolutely love a race that gets it, don’t you?
5. The Small Field: The New Years Double is a small, intimate race and I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for this at all. The night before the New Years Eve race, I holed myself up in a hotel in Allen. Start time was 8:40 and I figured that I would have to be at the race site by 6:50 at the very latest to drop my bag (there’s no bag check – you label your bag and drop it in an unattended tent…no worries, it’s fine), run to the restroom, and get in my corral. I live about a little over an hour from Allen and with workday traffic, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the site on time.
Well. I stand corrected.
It took me approximately 13 minutes to go from my car to drop my bag and get to the restroom and then to the hill near the start. To get into my corral, I waited on the hill until the emcee called my corral letter and then I lined up and took off. I have never had such a fast transition from arrival to starting line. Seriously, I barely even remembered to set my watch because I didn’t believe that we were really moving as quickly as we were.
6. The Course: The course is a loop course – 2 loops for a half-marathon and 4 for the full. The course is fast and flat with lots of beautiful views of Celebration Park. Loop courses for me can be tricky because when I run a longer distance on a loop, I tend to get bored and impatient because I know what’s coming up ahead. This course, however, is quite pleasant. The scenery changes quite a bit and there are enough turns to make things interesting.
7. The Fans: Along the course, there are various clubs and organizations that are manning aid and water stations. These wonderful people don’t just hand out water and Gatorade, but they also dole out the encouragement in spades. All of the runners have our names on our bibs and volunteers and spectators would call me by name as I went by.
A lot of the posts and write-ups about this race specifically mention the on-course encouragement, and it is definitely a part of this race’s culture.
In addition to the volunteer/spectator encouragement is the encouragement from runner to runner on the course. Because of the looped nature of the course and the two-day nature of the races, runners can’t help but become familiar with other runners as they pass through the out-and-back portions of the course. In this race, I saw lots of passing high-fives and encouragement as runners passed each other.
8. The Shirts: These are fabulous! High-quality and really gorgeous. The bright orange is my training shirt (purchased from the event) and the other two are the shirts that were included in the registration cost.
9. The Bling: Wow! Have you ever seen something so cool? I love this. Each gear is a finisher medal from each race (below is my New Years Eve medal):
Together they fit into the challenge plate by magnetic fasteners. The ribbons from both races hold the plate around the runner’s neck.
10. My Experience: The New Years Double really brought out the best for me from the worst running situation.
Around mile 6 of the New Year’s Eve race, I started to feel unusually hot (and it was about 35 degrees or so outside…perfect Ali running weather). As miles 9 and 10 went by, I started to feel a pounding in my head and by the time I finished, I felt absolutely miserable. Needless to say, I slowed my pace at mile 9 and continued a slowish roll until I was done.
Diligently, I skipped all of the NYE festivities and stayed home with my Tylenol. I got my fever down a little bit, but I absolutely felt terrible when I woke up New Year’s Day morning at 5. You don’t need the details, but there was definitely throwing up and a complete inability to keep any pre-race nutrition down (no Uncrustable! ACK!). Mind you, I don’t usually get sick but when I do, it’s on. And yes, my friends, it was ON.
Thankful for the fast transition, I stumbled to the starting line and took off in my corral. I made it to mile 6 and stopped in the drop-bag tent to drop my gloves with my bag. I was warm, so I debated changing my shirt, but I would have had to re-pin my bib because of the timing chip and I didn’t have that in me. I made it one more mile before my vision started to get a little fuzzy and I had that pre-faint feeling that only comes (for me) with a bad virus of some sort.
So, I walked…and the volunteers and spectators cheered me on anyway. Thank goodness for all the on-course love and encouragement and the on-iPhone love (thank you, friends and coaches for all of the encouragement and pictures*) because I managed to stumble through and finish the course regardless of my ills.
If this had been any other race, I might have given up.
I have lots of cool medals, but my New Years Double takes the prize. It’s especially valuable to me because it reminds me of this experience which was two of the worst races that I have ever had in terms of time and performance, but two of the best races in terms of feeling the love of the running community.
I will be back next year – healthy – ready to close out 2014 and welcome 2015! Thank you, New Years Double!
*Here’s a hilarious example of the motivation that graced my phone when part of the Kitchenpants! Tasting Committee got their first workout of 2014 as I stumbled through the latter half of the New Years Day race: