Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Esprit de She 5k Recap

Towards the end of July, I ran the Esprit de She 5k. It has taken me a little while to finally write up a review of the race because I had very mixed feelings about it. Basically, I felt that the race itself was very well organized, but I was not a fan of some of my fellow racers.

I registered early, so the race cost me $35. My registration fee included the official race shirt, as well as a "gift bag filled with goodies". The shirt was a cotton tank top with the logo on the front and "finisher 2014" on the back. I've worn it a couple of times and it is very comfortable. As for the "goodies" there was a coupon for 20% off one item at Athleta, a mini Luna bar, and complimentary food and drink on race day.

The official race shirt - image from the event website.
Even before race day arrived, things seemed to be pretty well run. There were periodic email reminders about the race and packet pick up. Packet pick up was nice and easy. I always try to do early pick up if possible. Early pick up was held at the Athleta store on Southport, which is right next to the Southport brown line stop, so it was super easy to get to for little old non driving, CTA taking me.

I was greeted promptly upon entering the store and was asked if I was there for packet pick up. I was directed to the back of the store, where they had tables set up. I was reminded that I needed to know my bib number (which I had received in an email earlier that week), but that if I didn't have it, then I could check it on one of the computers set up at the first table.  I told my bib number to the young woman at the packet table, and she confirmed my name, found my bib, and gave me the run down of what I needed to know - I needed to make sure to wear the bib, don't bend or fold it (the timing chip was attached to the bib, so I didn't want to damage it), any items I checked at gear check had to be in the clear bag they provided or I couldn't check them, etc. Next, I made my way over to the shirt table to grab my event shirt.

Once I had everything I needed, I decided to do a little shopping. I was at Athleta, after all, and they did give everyone a coupon. I found a great new pair of capris, which may or may not be my favorite bottoms to wear on runs. For the record, I don't work for or get paid by Athleta. I just really like these bottoms. In addition to being amazingly comfortable, they have pockets. I'm kind of a sucker for pockets. Anyway...moving on.

Race day arrived with beautiful weather. It was sunny and clear, but not too hot. The race was held in the evening on a week night, so I had to head straight to the race from work.

Me getting ready in the bathroom at work.
I had nervously packed a bag with everything I would need the night before to make sure that a.) I wasn't late for work that morning and b.) I would have everything I needed for the race that night. I had made sure that I could fit everything I would need in the provided gear check bag. It was a little tricky because that bag was really small. I ended up having to leave a few things at work.

After work, I hopped train and headed to the race. It was my first race in a row that was held over by Montrose Beach, so I knew where I was going. I somehow got lucky and arrived early enough to walk around a bit. I love the area over by the beach. It is lovely.

I was quick to locate the bathroom area because I've learned the hard way to always pee before the race starts, even short races like the 5k races I run. You know it is a women's race when there are tables of tampons and pads right in front of the port-o-potties.

There were complimentary lady products in case anyone needed them.
I then made my way over to gear check. I decided to hold off on checking out the various tents, because I knew that nothing else would fit in my gear check bag and I didn't want to eat right before running (there were snacks - there are always snacks). I did, however, get my wristband showing I was over 21 because I knew I would want a drink after the race.

That's right. I'm old enough to drink. Also, I never realized until now just how hairy my arms are, so I guess I have something new to be self conscious about. Weeeeeeeee!

As we got closer and closer to race time, more and more people arrived. There were going to be a lot of women running that night. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed. I noticed that most folks were in pairs or groups. There weren't very many people there alone. What can I say? I don't have any friends who like to run, so I'm usually at the events by myself.  

There were a lot of people enjoying the pre-race festivities.
When it was time, everyone started to make their way over to the starting line.

So many people! 
Before we actually started, there was a group warm up led by a couple of incredibly happy ladies. They got everyone moving and grooving and ready to run. 

Warming up!
Everyone was ready to go! We waited for the officially start to be called, and then we were off!

The view at the starting line.
The course itself was great and included some wonderful views of the park, the beach, and the lake.

The 5k course.
The course was well marked and had lots of volunteers along the way calling out encouragement and handing out water. The volunteers were really great! The course was easy to follow, and the turn off for the 10k (there was a 5k and a 10k - I was there for the 5k) was clearly marked to make sure that no one ended up running the wrong race by accident.

I enjoyed most of the run and only had to walk a couple of times. I've been having a lot of health problems during the last few months, and this was my first run when I accepted that I couldn't and shouldn't push myself the way I really want to. Instead of beating myself up for having to walk, I reminded myself that I was there for the experience, not for a specific finish time.

After the race, it was time to enjoy the "Night Market". There was music, food, and all sorts of vendors.

The entrance to the post race activities.
I went ahead and grabbed my bag from gear check, then I helped myself to a plate of food. It was delicious!

Tasty nibbles.
The wine wasn't bad, either. As long as you were 21 or older, then you got two complimentary glasses of wine. The wine tickets were attached to the bibs. The folks behind the wine tables were very generous with their pours, which was very much appreciated.

White or red?
I also perused the vendor tents. There were lots of people selling things, but I had no extra money to spend that night. There were also a few free things - a stage with musicians and a tent offering complimentary hair braiding, mini manicures, and massages. The line for the massages, manicures, and hair braiding was a little ridiculous both before and after the race, so I ended up not partaking of this aspect of the event, though it was a nice perk being offered.

One of many tents in the Night Market.
The event itself was lovely, but, as I mentioned before, I wasn't a fan of some of my fellow runners. Esprit de She bills itself as "a community of active women connected by a shared desire to celebrate fitness and fun, sisterhood and strength." I definitely got that feeling from the organizers and volunteers, but someone should have clued in some of the other racers. I encountered so many rude and unhappy people during the pre and post race events as well as during the race.

I had numerous people cut in line in front of me while waiting for gear check and the bathrooms. I was actually pushed by someone who wanted to get in front of me at the starting line, before the race had even begun. One woman even yelled at me to get my "fat ass" out of her way during the race. I know I'm fat. I also know I'm a slow runner, which is why I position myself at the back of the pack. I didn't appreciate being yelled at or called fat by a stranger. After the race, I had my first plate of food actually taken out of my hands by another participant who walked away eating it. Then, when I was finally enjoying a snack and a drink at one of the small tables they had set up around the event, and I had a group of women tell me that I needed to get out and let other people who actually had friends use the tables.

I left the event fairly early and walked away feeling really terrible about myself. I thought that the race would be a fun event full of women supporting each other, but that wasn't what I experienced. Even though I was running with a crowd of other people, I felt alone.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my negative feelings weren't the result of the event itself, but were rather brought on by some negative interactions with some of my fellow runners. There were a lot of runners participating in the race, and I only remember a handful of people being mean and unpleasant. I may be new to running, but I believe that common courtesy doesn't disappear when you pin a race number to your shirt.

In the end, I would run this race again next year if I could find people to participate with me (come on, co-workers, surely some of you want to run). I don't think I would run this race alone again, however. I think the purpose and the mission of the event is great. I just wish that more of the event's participants would embrace that mission.

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