Hale to the Bird 5k

Thanksgiving morning arrived crisp, slightly breezy and with a hint of sunshine. A nice, late fall Minnesota morning perfect for running.

Nate, Kiddo and I loaded into the car and headed to the Hale to the Bird 5k in Cottage Grove, MN. While running a Thanksgiving morning race has become a tradition three years strong, this is the first year we chose a race other than Gobble Gait (Hastings, MN) to get our holiday season started.

Up until a few weeks before race morning, Kiddo and I fully intended to run the Gobble Gait 8k, but when I read about Hale to the Bird I couldn’t resist. Not only did they offer the 5k distance that Nate prefers, but they also offered youth shirt sizes. It bothered me that last year Kiddo did not receive a shirt for running the 8k because only adult shirts were offered, nor did he receive any ribbon (which the 2k offers). Basically, kids ambitious enough to run the 8k got the short end of the stick if you ask me. Also, this race is considerably cheaper when you’re registering a family!

Anyway, we arrived at Hamlet Park early enough to sign in, get our shirts and bibs, stay warm in the car and then use the restrooms before the race began. We even grabbed a picture of Kiddo with Fatty Bird, the race’s mascot.

At 8:45 am, the city’s mayor pardoned Fatty Bird before racers lined up. Shortly after that, we started the race right around 9:00 am.

The course was a loop around the bike path which circles Hamlet Park, which means it’s relatively flat with the exception of just a few very small inclines. Along the way, they had every mile marked (accurately, might I add!) and even had Fatty Bird standing near Mile 2 to hand out high-fives to the racers. Since this was a smaller race with just shy of 500 participants, the course was only crowded for approximately the first half mile; we started about half way back in the pack at the start.

After the race, there were bakery cookies, bottled water and Cheez-Its for calorie replenishment. They had enough food that they even told participants to come back up for seconds and thirds, which rarely happens at races!

Overall, I thought this race was extremely well-run, very community oriented and family friendly. The number of kids running this race with their families was a nice sight to see! However, because this is a fun run focused on the community and family, I wouldn’t recommend it for the super serious runner – there was some stroller and dog dodging! One other downside was that I heard some other participants discussing how they were disappointed there weren’t any water stops. I personally carried water with me for Kiddo, so this wasn’t a problem for us in particular.

So, you might be wondering how we did. If not, I’m going to tell you because I need to brag a moment!

Kiddo went into the race wanting to PR. I figured we would get a 1-2 minute PR, so we set out hoping to do just that. He was raring to go at the start and needed a reminder to conserve energy for later in the race. As we clicked the miles off, he kept speeding up, so I just kept encouraging him and coaching him. We took a total of four short walk/water breaks along the way, mostly because he was pushing a harder pace than he had ever done in a race before. He did manage to save enough for a sprint to the finish, passing several people in the last few blocks.

By mile 2, I knew he’d have his PR. What I didn’t expect was that he would PR by FOUR minutes over his last 5k! I’m pretty darn proud of that kid. Our finishing time was 35:11; pretty respectable for a 9-year-old boy with short legs and no training. I’m sure it won’t be long and he will be surpassing my fastest 5k time and either leaving me in the dust or coaching me 🙂

What about Nate, you ask? Well, he also brought in a THREE minute PR! He was just a few minutes behind Kiddo and I, which is awesome for a guy who only runs about 12 miles per year. I’m pretty proud of him, too!

Did you race on Thanksgiving?


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