Most of my weekend running friends usually run this race.
I never have joined them because it’s always hot, the race is crowded and I’d prefer to head up to the lake early.
For some reason, when I went to Fleet Feet to pick up new shoes, they offered a $5 discount for the race and $5 coupon for the store.
I’m a sucker for discounts and I signed up!! I also have not run in Saratoga in a while and I’ve always enjoyed running there.
I was hoping that some of my running friends would sign up too but if not, I knew there would be many others there who I knew.
Then I had to break it to my hubby as it would interfere with our lake plans.
It wasn’t exactly boating weather so he was cool with me racing.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
It was fun to plan a patriotic race outfit (and hope it stayed warm and dry.)
To save time on race day, I picked up my race packet at Fleet Feet on Thursday before my evening trail run.
The weather during week preceding the race was crazy – oppressive heat and humidity and then rain rain rain rain. Who knew what race day would bring? The forecast was for cool and rainy….
It was weird to run on a Sunday instead of a Saturday and to not do a weekend long run.
The only constant was pizza the night before the race lol.
My last race was also a 4 miler (I won my AG and had a PR).
But this race was going to be more crowded, more competitive, and hillier. I was only planning to enjoy running with others and the excitement of a live in-person race. No finish time and award goals at all!!
I ate my usual oatmeal and coffee breakfast. Thankfully, the heat wave had ended (and hopefully all the rain).
I planned to leave early because I had no idea where to park. But my friend Heidi offered to meet me and drive us. She wanted to leave from Leah’s Cakery (4 exits before the race) at 8:10 am. Of course, if you know me, I like to get to races early. I was planning on being at the race by 7:45!! But I agreed and hoped that we would not be sprinting to the start line.
It was raining lightly on my way to meet Heidi. But she was right. We easily found parking on the street and arrived in plenty of time for the 9 am race.
We walked toward the start…
We passed the finish line and made plans to meet there after the race.
Then of course, we took our obligatory pre-race photo.
And then we mozied on down to the start area. It was cool to see how creatively everyone was dressed for this July 4th holiday race.
Although the race director had hoped to get at least 3000 runners, there were only about 2000. Still it was my largest post pandemic race. And the first one without anyone wearing a mask or social distancing rules enforced. There was not even a staggered start.
Everyone just lined up together. There was so much excitement in the air. Live racing rocks!!
Heidi headed toward the back since she was recovering form an injury and running slower. I stayed toward the front and chatted with some runners that I knew.
As I mentioned, I had NEVER run this race so I was planning on going with the flow. The only thing I remembered hearing was that there was a BIG hill during mile 4.
As I mentioned, this was a crowded race. The bottleneck at the beginning slowed me down which was probably a good thing as I always start out too fast.
We began running down Broadway which was a slight downhill but eventually we did hit a hill before we turned left and ran past Congress Park.
It seemed like everyone was passing me by but when I glanced at my watch, it showed that my pace was under 9 minutes!!
I was surrounded by runners the whole race. Several times I bumped into runners or they bumped into me. Maybe I forgot what it was like to run a big race.
As we ran through neighborhoods, spectators enthusiastically cheered us on. One group sprayed us with a hose. I wasn’t super hot but it was humid and so it felt good.
There was a water stop and I did stop at it. They gave you a bottle of water. I and most runners, drank a little and then threw the bottle away. Volunteers had to spill out the water from each bottle. Such a waste but hey at least we didn’t have to carry our own water.
We ran into a few rolling hills during this mile but none too bad. There were many different groups playing music. That was a nice distraction.
Saratoga is such a pretty town. I enjoyed running through its streets.
I was surprised that there was a second water stop since the race was only 4 miles. I did appreciate it and I took a bottle of water again. This time I walked longer. I felt a little dizzy and so I took a Gu (not for hunger but for the electrolytes.)
I was warned about the steep hill in the last mile. And it did not disappoint. I was wishfully thinking that I could run up the whole thing.
Nope! I had to walk at least twice.
The best part was the ice pops that were handed out. I ate one as I continued to run up the hill very slowly.
Finally I spotted that big American flag which meant we were approaching the finish line.
I sprinted as fast as I could at this point. I saw 36:xx on the clock as I crossed the finish line and was pleasantly surprised.
I immediately went to grab a bottle of water. The only refreshments were bananas and so I grabbed one and ate it while I was waiting for Heidi to finish.
I really enjoyed watching so many of the runners finish, especially those that I knew. I also got to admire all the patriotic outfits.
I chatted with a Holly, a runner that I used to race with all the time. (She ran the race but is suffering from a congenital blood disorder 😦 )
Eventually Heidi did arrive and she did much better than she hoped as well.
I checked the website to see if I won an age group award. Nope. 4th. Not disappointed at all. In fact I beat Carolyn for the first time EVER in a race.
It was now starting to rain so we headed toward the car.
We decided to have brunch back at Leah’s where I left my car. But it was closed for the 4th. Plan B was Lakeside Farms and a scrumptious lunch!!
On the way home I was feeling a little energetic or so I thought. I stopped at the Zim Smith bike path to see how many more miles my legs could still go.
The sun came out and my legs protested so I quit.
Additional Race Reflections:
I didn’t expect to enjoy this race as much as I did. I also didn’t think I could run as well as I did.
I felt that I could have done better if I didn’t walk as much(but I always say that AFTER the race.)
But probably the most important factor was the weather. Not much sun, a misty rain on and off and temps in the 60s. Pretty perfect for running on a July 4th.
- Ample parking (parking garage and street parking)
- Well marked course.
- Lots of familiar faces.
- Interesting course.
- Friendly volunteers.
- Music entertainment along the course.
- Volunteers calling out times at each mile.
- Enthusiastic spectators (sprinklers and ice pops)
- Easy and organized packet pick-up on Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun.
- Real restrooms before and after and ample number of port-potties
- Two water stops for a 4 mile race.
- Free photos.
- Awards (3 deep) for 5 year age group awards
- Weather (not as hot as earlier in the week and fairly dry)
- A real race.
- Bottled water at the water stops (COVD safe but most was wasted)
- Post-race refreshments (again COVID safe – but just bananas)
- Steep hill at mile 4
Would I recommend this race?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I loved it. I hope that I can make it work and run it again another year.
It was a 12 second PR!!!!!!!!! And the course was longer and hillier than the Rabbit Ramble.
As you can see below, I’m still the Queen of the Positive Splits.
At least my pace was more consistent than the last race.
A new 5k on July 25,
then another new 5k on August 8,
and a 10k on August 14.
I’m also linking up here:
Happy Running! Did you race on July 4th? Did you run or race this past weekend? Any in-person races on your schedule yet? Please share.