Many of my weekend running friends used to run this race every year.
I had never joined them because it was always hot, the race is crowded and I’d prefer to head up to the lake early.
Then last year, I decided to do the race. And I loved it
So I signed up again.
I was hoping that some of my running friends would sign up too but if not, I knew there would be many others there whom I knew.
Then I had to break it to my hubby as it would interfere with our lake plans.
But we went up on the lake on Sunday (the day before) so he was cool with me racing. (Plus our boat was on the DL.)
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
To save time on race day, my friend, Deirdre, picked up my race packet at Fleet Feet on Friday.
Since the race was on a Monday, I was still able to get my long run done on Saturday.
As I mentioned above, Sunday was a rest day with lots of sun and relaxing on the lake.
The weather for race day seemed great – not as cool as the year before but also not as warm as it could have been this time of year.
As I’ve said in most of race recaps, my goal in racing these days is to do my best but more importantly, have fun and not get injured.
I ate my usual oatmeal and coffee breakfast and wore a tank and skirt (while trying to look as patriotic as possible)
Last year, I carpooled with Heidi and she knew exactly where to park. I was thrilled when she again offered to meet me, Deirdre, Denise and drive us. We all met at Leah’s Cakery at 8am (which was only a few miles from the race.)
We easily found parking on the street and 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 photos.
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.
I was happy to see so many people racing… many more than last year (although I think they still offered a virtual option.)
No more staggered starts. Everyone just lined up together. There was so much excitement in the air. Live racing rocks!!
There was a flag from Ground Zero and a color guard in addition to the national anthem.
Heidi, Deirdre and Denise (who was walking) headed toward the back. I stayed toward the front and chatted with some runners whom I knew.
Though I had run this race the year before, the only thing I remembered 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. I already felt the need to walk… I started thinking that this wasn’t going to be a good race…
And it seemed like everyone was passing me by but when I glanced at my watch, it showed that my pace was under 9 minutes!! WTH?
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. There were musicians or bands throughout out. I think almost 20 (quite a few for a 4 mile race.)
The best part was that there were many folks spraying the runners with water as well as sprinklers set up. I made sure that I ran through each one. It was very sunny and felt much warmer than I thought it would be.
There was a water stop during this mile. I did stop and I was happy that they had cups of water. (Last year due to Covid, they gave out bottles)
I did feel a little stronger during this mile (but that was short-lived.)
We ran into a few rolling hills during this mile but none too bad. As I mentioned above, there were many different groups playing music. That was a nice distraction.
Saratoga is such a pretty town. I enjoyed running through its streets.
But I started tiring and decided to just walk if I need to.
I was surprised that there was a second water stop since the race was only 4 miles. I did appreciate it and I stopped again.
In addition to the official water stops, there seemed to be many spectators giving out bottles of water. I did not stop at any of those since I didn’t want to carry a bottle of water or waste it.
I was expecting 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 many times.
The best part was the ice pop that was handed out. I ate one as I continued to run/walk 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 knew I was running slower and walked more than the previous year but my time was not as slow as I thought.
I immediately went to grab a bottle of water. The only refreshments were bananas and so I grabbed one. I also spotted a Ben n Jerry’s stand and got a cup of ice cream (Oops it was for parents and kids who had run the kids race…).
I really enjoyed watching so many of the runners finish, especially those that I knew. I also got to admire all the patriotic outfits.
Eventually all my friends finished and they did great.
I checked the website to see if I won an age group award. Last year, I came in 4th. I was surprised that I came in 2nd (even with a slower time this year.)
So we all hung around longer so I could get my award.
We decided to stay in Saratoga to have brunch. We had hoped that at this point, all the runners would have left and the restaurants wouldn’t be so crowded.
Nope, they were all full and we had to put our name on a waiting list in two places before we found a table in a third outdoor restaurant.
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 running the race with friends and the feeling of normalcy on this national holiday!
- Ample parking (parking garage and street parking)
- Well marked course.
- Lots of familiar faces.
- Interesting course.
- Friendly volunteers.
- Music entertainment along the course.
- Enthusiastic spectators (sprinklers and ice pops)
- Easy and organized packet pick-up on Fri. and race day.
- Real restrooms before and after and ample number of port-potties
- Two water stops for a 4 mile race.
- Additional unofficial water tables.
- Awards (3 deep) for 5 year age group awards
- Photo Booth
- Post-race refreshments (just bananas)
- Steep hill at mile 4
- No race photos
Would I recommend this race?
Yes. I loved it. I hope that I can make it work and run it again next year.
Last year’s race was a big PR for me – 36:26.
As you can see below, I’m still the Queen of the Positive Splits.
Possibly another July 5k and definitely a 5k in August before the THREE fall half marathons arrive.
I’m also linking up here:
Happy Running! Did you race on July 4th? Any summer races on your schedule? Please share.