This is going to be a long post. Sorry about that, but there is a lot to cover with this race. As I mentioned in my last post, the 2014 Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k was a bit of a mixed bag. The course itself was amazing, but the management seemed to be incredibly disorganized.
I woke up early on Saturday, October 4 and went online for what has become one of my race day traditions - checking the weather forecast. The morning was cold and rainy, but according to the weather forecast, the rain was supposed to end in the early afternoon, so the race that night would be chilly but rain free. I was super excited to kick off the Halloween season with a 5k through a graveyard at night, and I spent the entire day eagerly awaiting the race.
As the evening approached, I started to gather my things and prepare for the race. I made sure I had everything I needed: bib number, safety pins, drink ticket, running gear, tissues, id, cash, etc. I also made sure that my head lamp was fully charged. I had considered not bringing it, but I had read some reviews of the race from previous years, and they all talked about how dark the course was. I also packed a hat and gloves, because I figured it would be better to be safe than sorry. It was chilly, after all. Finally, I packed my race shirt, because I wanted to exchange it for a different size.
I got dressed for the race, taking into account the chilly temps (it had been hovering in the high 30s/low 40s all day). Although I covered up a bit more than usual, I didn't break out my actual cold weather gear because I didn't want to overheat during the race. Running tights and a long sleeve shirt were enough to keep me warm pre-race, but not too warm once I started running. At the last minute, I decided to also throw my running skeleton shirt on top of everything - it is reflective and seemed like the right choice for a cemetery race.
|The bib numbers were lime green, so I dressed to match.|
I did one final check to make sure I had everything I needed and then set off for the race. I wanted to be there early, so I left the house at about 5pm because it would take me about an hour to walk there. It was a perfect fall evening, and as I got closer to the race site, I started seeing a few other runners.
|Chicago, you're so pretty.|
I arrived at the race site just before 6pm. There weren't many people there, yet. I saw a few folks being dropped off and a lot of people clearly driving around searching for parking.
|The starting line was just outside the cemetery's main gates. Once through the gates, the course was entirely in the cemetery.|
|Race day packet pick-up.|
|Hello, free coffee!|
|Weeeeee! Spooky cemetery race! A great way to kick off October!|
|Pre-race selfie - a time honored tradition.|
I was still a good way back from the starting line, so I knew it would take a minute or two for me to actually cross the starting line once the race began. Soon, we were getting updates about the starting time. People were clearly excited to be participating in the race, and as each announcement was made, the excitement grew. There were only 5 more minutes until 7pm, now 2 more minutes, now 1 more minute....and the race had started!
|Everyone lining up and getting ready to run.|
I was still stuck walking behind this big group of walkers who had spread out, and I was not alone. I notice several other runners struggling to push past them. I tried saying "excuse me" and "pardon me", but I finally just belted out "coming through!" and pushed my way through the group. Sorry about that, guys. I'm glad you were all there and having fun, but next time start at the back or make sure there is room to pass you if you plan on walking at a leisurely pace the whole time.
Even once I had left the group of walkers behind me, things were still tight for the first chunk of the race. There were lots of faster runners clearly frustrated about being behind slower runners and walkers. I was elbowed out of the way several times, and I found myself having to push through clumps of folks even slower than me. The crowd eventually thinned out and it became much more comfortable to run without fear of folks hitting you as they passed or being elbowed by those running a little too close to you for comfort. There was finally room to breathe!
The course was marked with small artificial tea lights lining the path and the random lighted arrow signs marking the turns. Even with these in place, it would have been easy to make a wrong turn or get lost, as there were a few places where the signs weren't very obvious, and I only knew to turn because I could see people turning in front of me.
I was incredibly happy to have my head lamp. Although the moon provided some light, there were some sections of the course that were pitch black. I saw one person ahead of me fall, and during the final mile, I heard someone else behind me fall. Both people were thankfully okay and got right back up and continued running.
I notice several other people with headlamps, and there were also quite a few people running with flash lights. I use the Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp (I got it on sale, so shop around). It is rechargeable, the brightness is adjustable, the back light can be switched off if desired, and it is just really comfortable and light weight. It is the only headlamp I've ever used, and it works well for me. There are a ton of headlamps available on the market, and many are specifically made and marketed for runners. If you ever run in the dark, then I highly recommend investing in a headlamp.
There were several crypts that had been lit up with various colored lights. I wish that I had stopped for some pictures, but I was making decent time (for me, anyway) and wanted to keep running. During one turn, I must have stepped wrong because I felt a sudden twinge of pain in my knee. I had to slow to a walk several times during the second half of the race because of this, but I still tried to continue running as much as I could. Some ice and ibuprofen after the race helped my knee, though it is still a little sore, so I'll be taking it easy for the next few days.
The run itself was great! It was dark and chilly and a little spooky. It was easy to imagine zombies or ghost running after you. The darkness and the surroundings made for a really memorable run, and the moon peeking out from behind the clouds gave for some fantastic views.
I grabbed a bottle of water, a banana (runners love bananas - we have to, they are handed out at almost every event), and a bag of popcorn. The popcorn may be my favorite post run treat ever. It was a delicious Chicago mix - cheddar and caramel.
|This was delicious. More races should pass this stuff out.|
Even with the free for all at the snack tables, the finishing area was pretty much a party. There was music playing, faster racers cheering on the slow pokes, and general merriment. There were also lots of people grabbing photo ops at some of the monuments and crypts.
I made my way out of the cemetery to grab my things from gear check and trade in my shirt. There was one problem. All of the tables/tents that were not gear check had already been taken down and put away. I asked the volunteer who got my bag for me where to exchange my shirt, and he explained that it was too late to do that and everything had already been packed up and taken away and I should have exchanged it before the race. So...yeah...it looks like the people who told me to wait until AFTER the race to exchange my shirt had been wrong. Bummer. I guess I can wear my awesome race shirt if I lose about 20 pounds (that's never going to happen - I love eating too much).
I decided to console my lack of properly sized shirt despair with my free beer. I made one last pit stop at the port o potties (my headlamp came in handy here, too - it was pitch black inside!), had a short wait at the id check line to get my "over 21" wrist band (there was a long line, but it moved pretty quickly), and made my way to the after party, which was hosted right next door at Fireside Tavern & Grill.
|People starting to make their way to the after party.|
I got my drink and waited for things to really start. The band was warming up and more folks were filing in, but it was getting late and I was getting hungry. I finished my drink, enjoyed some music (the band was awesome), but then I started the long walk home. I was getting cold and was ready for some dinner.
|The band was The Late Night Lunatics. They were a lot of fun.|
The Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k has a lot going for it, mainly the location and time of the event.
However, there is also a lot going against it. It just felt incredibly poorly managed: packet pickup was long and unnecessarily disorganized, there was miscommunication regarding the shirts' sizing and then additional miscommunication regarding exchanging shirts, the race distance was off, the race course was poorly marked, and the official times were not correct.
Would I run the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k again? Yes, yes I would. Although I was not a fan of the way this race was managed (that's a bit of an understatement), running through the cemetery was great.
Next year, I'll know what to expect. I'll give myself extra time for packet pickup, I won't trust the website regarding shirt sizes and will double check with the organizers about sizing before I order, and, most importantly, I won't pay extra for chip timing (non chipped timed participants paid $5 less at registration than those of us who were being times) now that I know the race distance isn't necessarily as advertised and the timing is taken off of the actual start time instead of when the individual runner actually crosses the starting line. Maybe next year I can get a group together to run the race with me, and I'll take my time and really enjoy my run. I'll step off the course to take pictures and hang out in the cemetery after the race.
Next year, I'll look at this race for what it really is - a cool, gimmicky, fun run that is done just for kicks. After all, I had a lot of fun at this race, despite the various frustrations.