Race Report: Runners 4 Wellness Christmas in July 6 Hour Run

The Runners 4 Wellness Christmas in July races took place over the weekend in Lisle, IL.  They have a number of race options to choose from (5k, 10k, or 6, 12, 24 hour ultras).  Although my training has been lacking, I decided to run the 6 hour race. The timed races take place on a one mile paved loop through a small park adjacent to the Lisle High School.

Because the race was starting at midnight, I got home from work Friday evening, ate a quick dinner and tried, unsuccessfully, to take a quick nap.  I had a two hour drive to get to Lisle, so I decided to leave around 8:00 pm.  My wife and daughter wished me well and I headed out.

The drive was largely uneventful.  There was a nice lightning storm, and a brief period of heavy rains.  My weather app was confident there would be no rain in Lisle that night (wrong!), so I spent most of the drive telling myself to enjoy the experience and not to focus on my lack of preparations.

I pulled into the parking lot about an hour before the race was to begin, checked in with ease, and looked through the goody bag.  The 12 and 24 hour races were already underway, so I tried to relax by watching the runners winding through the park.  My anticipation was definitely getting the better of me and I spent a majority of the hour leading up the race pacing from my car back to the starting area.

Midnight finally arrived and I lined up with the other 70 or so other runners.  I didn’t hear a single thing the race director had to say, but it didn’t matter.  With a few jubilant shouts we were off.

The course, as I mentioned, was approximately a one mile loop (.97329 to be exact).  It started with a quick jaunt out of the parking lot, making a quick left turn onto a sidewalk.  After about a tenth of a mile on the sidewalk there was another left into the darkness of the park and onto a blacktop trail.  While I didn’t run with a headlamp, there were a lot of people who chose to run with lighting.  I didn’t find it necessary, but you won’t be alone if you decide to use something to help light the way.

As we meandered through the park, we eventually made our way to a little bridge and turned right at the base of a small hill.  We then traversed the hill, about 150 meters in length before heading back down hill and looping to the left.  As you re-entered the starting area there was a great aid station with water, Gatorade, and an assortment of fruits and snacks.

Let me take this time to say the race organizers did an amazing job with this race.  It was very well organized and the volunteers were great.  There was never a shortage of anything at the aid station.  Best of all, we were always met with a smile and a kind work to keep us going.

As far as the running is concerned, I could have done better.  My longest run over the past two months was 8 miles, so definitely not the base necessary to reach the mileage I should have been able to reach in the available time.  We were also dealing with extreme humidity, even in the middle of the night, along with over an hour of steady rains.  Overall, it was a really great experience and one I plan on doing again next year.

This was my first “timed” race, and here are a few of the reasons I think it’s a great starter race:

It’s only a mile loop:  I was concerned about this going into the race, but to be honest, it was a really good distance, and I never got bored.  There was enough variation throughout the course to keep me interested and focused throughout the night.  After the first few laps it was nice to know what to expect, and I fell into an enjoyable rhythm.  It was also nice to know we were never more than a mile away from the aid station.

It’s only 6 hours:  Granted, six hours is a long time to run, but there others who running the 12 and 24 hour races and would be running a lot longer than me.  Through the mid-day heat and humidity, no less.  Since the race was done on a mile loop, you could choose to stop at any time.  There were a number of runners who had a mileage goal in mind and simply stopped when they reached it.

Night running:  I have never run through the night before and it was a great experience.  There was something peaceful about the darkness and knowing that everyone was facing their own issues and demons as we slogged through the miles. We also had an amazing sunrise, which was such a gift after the long night of endless loops.

Great spectators and volunteers:  I was surprised by the number of spectators that hung around throughout the night. There was an impressive turnout, and many had tents and chairs, and cheered non-stop.  I mentioned the race organizers and volunteers earlier, but they deserve another shout out.  I have been to a lot of smaller races that weren’t as well done as this one.  They definitely get an A+ all the way around.

The runners:  There were some really great runners that showed up at this event.  There were also a lot of beginners and those who chose to walk the entire time.  And there were mediocre runners, me included.  The point is, this race had every level of runner.  Don’t let the fact that you’re a beginner, or have never done a race like this, intimidate you from taking part in a fantastic event.  Trust me, you’ll have fun and won’t regret your decision.

All in all, this was a wonderful experience.  I didn’t reach my personal goals, but that will give me something to try for next year.  If you’re looking for a great race in the Midwest, I urge you to put this one on your calendar for next year.  You won’t be disappointed.

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