Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I run these corn fields?

On Saturday I ran my 4th race in the Playmakers Race Series - the Race for Ele's Place in Okemos, Michigan. Okemos is a Lansing suburb about 15 minutes east of Lansing. The race is hailed as a local favorite, so I was excited to run it.

Ele's Place is an organization offering support for grieving children. It's a great community benefit assisting children who have lost a loved one. That's been one of the best things about the Playmakers Race Series - getting to do races that benefit such wonderful causes.

While the cause was wonderful, I found the race to be not so great. Let me start by telling you a little about Okemos - "Okemos" itself doesn't exist. The postal address is Okemos, but the actual locality is Meridian Township. Meridian Township is a pretty typical, mid-20th century suburb marked by quiet subdivisions and big box stores. One of the best assets of Meridian Township, however, is its recreational trails. When my husband and I first started dating he lived in Meridian Township, and I have logged many miles on those trails. They're fantastic.

Ele's Race didn't showcase anything about Meridian Township or those great recreational trails. The race begins and ends at the headquarters for Jackson National Life. Jackson National is a huge insurance company based in Okemos. It's a good corporate citizen, and it's very generous to the overall Lansing community. It has a large campus just south of the freeway off the Okemos exit. The colossal building is flanked by acres upon acres of parking lot. I imagine (without knowing for sure) it's one of those all-inclusive workplaces with a coffee shop, cafeteria, and everything you need inside. I work in a vibrant downtown where I can walk out and interact with the world, so the idea of this sort of campus environment makes my skin crawl. I'd like to pick up those employees and put them in a building in a downtown somewhere.

As we were navigating the congestion into the parking lot around 8 a.m. (the race started at 9), there were signs that said the parking lot was closed until 10:50 a.m. Considering that I run a 5k in 27ish minutes on average, I wasn't thrilled with the possibility of being stuck at Jackson National until 11 a.m. and fighting the traffic to get out. It was a 5k, not a Justin Bieber concert.

Packet pick-up and other pre-race organization was great, and everything started efficiently. The course was an out and back. It was flat and fast, but very rural. I did discover a miniature pony farm right near Jackson National (who knew?), and there was a band on the course. There were lots of runners and walkers, and the course was easy. I like easy, but I don't really like boring. I was running by corn fields with a few volunteers scattered around. 

Michigan State's mascot, Sparty, leads off the race

All smiles at the start
This race had a number of kids running and a several people running with strollers. I love it when kids run races, and I hope when we have kids they'll want to run like mom. But here's my beef with it - kids tend to run really fast to start off and then just dead stop right in the middle of the course when they feel like it. If you're going to let your kid run, please tell him/her to move to the side if they want to stop particularly when it's a crowded course.  I almost ran over at least three kids who stopped in front of me. I was not amused.

There were a significant number of people running with strollers, and many of them were faster than me. I think it's inspiring, but just because you chose to run with a stroller doesn't mean you get to jostle and bully other runners out of the way. The out and back led to the faster runners running towards us in the other traffic lane.  At one point a guy with a double stroller was passing slower runners by running into the fast runners in the other lane with no regard. It was very irritating. It's race etiquette people. Running with a stroller automatically means you yield to other people. I feel the same way about dogs, and we all know how much I love dogs.

It was a humid morning, and I felt sluggish. I finished in 27:19 - a decent time for me but still way short of my PR. I need to do some speed work. After downing two bottles of water and some chocolate milk, we headed back to the car. 

On the race website it had indicated the parking lot would be closed off and on throughout the morning, but in reality it was closed all morning. I talked to a volunteer who agreed to let us leaving the parking lot and head out a back entrance. We ended up getting stuck in a line of cars on a dirt road LITERALLY in a corn field waiting for walkers to clear the course so we could leave. I'm not the kind of person who hangs out after a race. I'm ready to head home, take a shower and move on with my day. It took nearly half an hour to leave the parking lot/corn field.

I'm glad I ran Ele's Race, and I'm happy to support the cause. It is not, however, a race I plan on doing ever again. I run these TOWNS, not these parking lots/corn fields.    

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