The Chris Smith Memorial 5K Challenge was hosted by Cedar Point on Sunday, June 16, 2013 in Sandusky, Ohio. Here is my review of that race event.
A few months ago, a serious runner friend of mine, Frank, contacted me about this race because he knew I was close, liked running (although at about half his pace) and thoroughly enjoy Cedar Point. Due to some scheduling issues, I wasn’t comfortable registering right away. However, with some assistance from Frank, I received answers from the race director’s staff that satisfied my needs. My friend, Daniel, and I registered and planned on making a weekend vacation out of it.
I wondered about the namesake of the race. Christopher Smith was a highly involved teacher, mentor and community philanthropist. Part of the race fees are given to local area schools and community groups in his name to continue with his passion for making the world a better, happier, safer place.
The biggest concern I had was about packet pick up. Due to work, we would not be able to arrive during the official race packet pick up times, which were Friday and Saturday early afternoons at one of the Cedar Point owned hotels. We were assured that we could pick up our packets the morning of the race, as long as we arrived early enough, without issue.
Early registration was $35 (after June 1 was $40) and included:
• Free parking at Cedar Point the day of the race ($14)
• Discounted admission and early entry to the park, starting at 9 a.m. ($9 off gate price)
• A Tech performance T-shirt (guaranteed to all who register by June 1)
• NEW THIS YEAR: A collectible race medal for ALL participants!
• A souvenir photo with Snoopy and his pals
• Race packet and refreshments
• Disposable chip timing system
Cheaper than a runDisney event, but still more expensive than a 5K around town. I felt the perks and swag and medal (of course I want a medal) were worth it. We registered and booked a hotel room, using my travel agent.
Saturday morning I laid out our race clothes. Good thing I did. I decided to forgo my normal Vibram Five Fingers and utilize my runDisney New Balance shoes. I had forgotten to get out my running socks until I double checked my outfit. Running in shoes without socks isn’t enjoyable. Saturday afternoon we made the two and a half hour trek to Sandusky, Ohio. Once checked in at the hotel, I laid out the race clothes on the desk and we decided to see the quaint charm of “Historic Downtown Sandusky”.
I’m not entirely sure why, but we did not practice advice that most people give. Needless to say, we stumbled back to the hotel a little after 2am. The alarm went off at 5:20, but I was already up. There was hail and thunder and lightning outside the window. Grand. Would they cancel the race? What was their policy? I didn’t read one. Ugh. We got dressed and went anyway, half-heartedly hoping it would continue to lightning and they would call the race so we could go back to sleep.
We arrived and picked up our “packets” at 6:02am. They couldn’t find my bib. After a bit of searching, I was assigned a random back up extra bib. Runner 409. They didn’t have any parking passes, either. It wasn’t a huge deal, as the parking gate attendant let us through with our registration and I had my platinum annual pass if that didn’t work, but it was listed as being included with race registration. They looked at Daniel’s bib for his shirt size and asked me what my size was. I had requested a medium, Daniel requested a small. We were both handed mediums. Why ask what size if you only have mediums? Why did you have us request sizes if you weren’t going to have the size we ordered? There were still at least two dozen race participants check-in after we did, so we weren’t the only ones who got a medium, one-size-fits-or-you-don’t-get-a-shirt, tech shirt. The volunteers were friendly and tried to be helpful, but weren’t able to answer many questions and once someone more official came over, she was rather artful at dancing around a specific answer for anything.
The weather was gradually clearing, yet we still decided to return to the car, about 15 feet from the start line to get out of the rain and have our breakfast juice (apple, strawberry, kiwi, pineapple for that day). About 6:50 we made sure to use the facilities, check the race course and walk back to the start.
Without much fanfare (I am sure I am spoiled by runDisney starts), we were off. There were about 165 people in our wave and 180 in the second wave, following us 30 minutes later. Crossing a bright green line of tape put across the roadway while we were drinking our juice. Almost the first mile was in the parking lot. If you’ve run a 5K at Walt Disney World, this will be rather familiar to you. So much so it was a running joke until we entered the park. (Yes, the pun was intended.)
The rest of the course and finish were inside the park. I wish I could tell you it was memorable. We ran past rides, games and attractions. None operating, of course. There was one character on the course. Franklin, from Peanuts, was in the Camp Snoopy area of the park. He had a character attendant, but she was rather aloof and wasn’t receptive enough to use my camera for an on course photo.
There was a Cedar Point employee posted about every 50 yards to ensure the racers were staying on course and that Cedar Point property wouldn’t be defaced. Of all of these people, one—one single woman—cheered. Except for her, nobody smiled or clapped. Nothing. It was like running past East German guards along the Berlin Wall.
Much slower than most folks, we crossed the finish line. The photographer had stopped taking photos. The person handing out medals was about two strides past the finish line; which meant we came to a dead stop right away. Even at the slower pace which we were keeping, we still had momentum and physics to fight in order to stop. Frank was waiting at the finish as well as some other friends from home, which we hadn’t known were going to be racing.
By now the sun was peeking out through the clouds and the puddles were starting to shrink. However, due to the rain and the puddles, we were soaked head to toe. We only found the post-race refreshments because we happened to stumble upon them. Never saw Snoopy for a photo op. Even though our race registration would have gotten us in the park an hour before general opening (9 instead of 10), we decided to go back to the hotel and freshen up to play in the park.
In my opinion, it was a decent event. There were some logistical issues, as is possible with every event. It was a safe and clean course. That being said, I am not sure I would repeat this event. If I had friends running it again, I would join them; but, I wouldn’t do it solo.