Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Carrera de los Muertos 5k Recap

After eating my weight in candy on Halloween, I woke up super early on November 1 to make it to the Carrera de lost Muertos 5k in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. I wasn't excited about waking up at 5am, but I was excited to run what sounded like an awesome race and start off the month of November on the right foot.

I had assembled my bag for gear check and laid out my clothes and shoes the night before, so it was easy to get ready. Half a bagel with pumpkin cream cheese, a banana, and a cup of coffee served as breakfast as I got dressed, fed Hannah (kitty was not happy about the early start to the day, either), and did a final check that I had everything I needed before heading to the train.

It was easy enough to reach the race. I simply took the brown line to the loop and transferred to the pink line. After exiting the train at the 18th Street stop, I simply walked around the corner and there was the race!

Race of the Dead! Let's do this!
I quickly made the rounds to check out the area and figure out where everything was. It was all contained in a tight area, which made it easy to find everything, albeit a bit crowded. Bathrooms, gear check, corrals, food tents, stage...everything was well labeled and easy to find. I was happy that I had picked up my packet in advance, as the line for the race day pick up was very long and moving somewhat slowly.

Gear check was underneath the train tracks. A bit strange...but it worked.
I have to say, this was easily the most colorful and joyous race I have participated in! I loved all the decorations and the displays.

Part of the altar display.
In addition to decorations, there was also music and people in costumes.

Love it! These folks were along the race route and at the after party.
It was cold out, but I was happy and having a good time and knew that I would warm up as soon as I was running. The only real problem I encounter pre-race was when I made my way to the bathrooms to discover that not even one of the port-o-potties had toilet paper! None of them! 30 minutes to race time and everyone was hopping from toilet to toilet in search of TP. Luckily, word got to the race organizers, and rolls of toilet paper were soon being placed in each port-o-potty. Crisis averted. Note to self - always remember to bring a pack of tissues to a race.

Anyone want to take their picture?
I took off my coat and scarf and shoved them into my bag and handed it over to one of the volunteers at gear check. I liked having different gear check tables based on bib number - it kept things moving quickly and helped make it easier for them to find people's bags after the race. Gear check was under the train viaduct, so it was a little odd and dark, but it was also sheltered from the wind, which was blowing cold and strong.

These papier mache skulls were amazing, but I don't know how they managed to run in them.
I made my way over to the corrals and got into my assigned one - corral C. Now that I didn't have my coat and scarf, I was freezing. I was ready to start running for the sole reason of becoming warm again.

Hello, happy skeleton.
More and more people started getting into place for the start of the race.

That's the starting line way up there. People were ready to get moving.
Everyone was there to have fun and a lot of people were there to show their support for their neighborhood and schools, but that meant that this was the first race for a lot of folks. It was good that so many people were out there to do something healthy and have fun, but I had to do a lot of weaving once the race started, as there were many people who did not adhere to their corral assignments and jumped into corral B even though they were there to walk the course and had been assigned corral D.

Prerequisite pre-race selfie.
The race started, with corrals being released one at a time. This was great, because the course never felt too crowded. The route was easy to follow and pretty wide, so it was easy to weave around people who were slower than me, and each mile had a very clear mile marker, which helped you know exactly how far you had to go. The volunteers and spectators along the route cheering everyone on were great, as was the music. The mariachi band was my favorite. Yes, there was a mariachi band playing at one point on the race course, and they were fantastic!

I knew I was running slower than usual, and I had to walk for a bit around mile two, but I was having a lot of fun.

When I saw the finish line, I picked up the pace a bit. It was super crowded immediately after the finish line, as folks slowed down or stopped to  grab water, so there were clumps of people blocking the street and making it hard to navigate back to the parking lot that served as home base for the pre and post race events. I ended up having to push my way through groups of people in order to get a drink and make my way out into a less crowded area.

All the beverages shall be mine!
As soon as I stopped running, I started to get cold. I quickly made my way to gear check to grab my bag so I could get my coat back on. The festivities continued after the race. There was music and dancing and food and fun. I loved watching the dancers on stage.

The dancers were great, and I loved their outfits.
If you were hungry, then there was plenty of food to purchase. You could trade in cash for food tickets that could be redeemed for the various offerings: tamales and soup and tacos and all sorts of delicious items. Beer was also available for purchase with cash. Everything smelled amazing, but I had forgotten to bring any cash with me, so I couldn't partake. This is a mistake that I will never repeat again.

There was a costume contest, and then the awards were announced. The winners in each age group got hand painted skulls instead of medals, which was awesome. They all seemed excited about their prizes.

Those skulls are sooooooo much better than a medal.
As things started winding down, I was freezing and ready to head home for some food and a warm bath. 

I had a blast at this race!
I made my way back to the pink line station to wait for the train. There were quite a few other race participants crowding together under the warming lamps on the train platform.

Even the el stop was festive.
I had a blast at this race. It seemed well organized, the course was great, and the festive atmosphere was contagious. This was a wonderful neighborhood race that really seemed to honor the neighborhood's heritage. I can't wait to run this race again next year!

My advise for anyone interested in running with me next year:

1.) Bring cash for food. I still regret not having money for some tamales and a beer.
2.) Bring a pack of tissues in case there is no toilet paper. This is really a good idea for any race.
3.) Pick up your packets in advance, if possible.
4.) Know that this is a neighborhood race, so there are a lot of non-runners and/or runners for whom this is their first race. Not everyone will know to line up at the back if they are walking. Not everyone will know to move to the side of the course if they are slowing down or stopping. And please don't bring people down by disparaging other participants for any reason.

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