On Saturday, I ran my first holiday race of the Christmas season, the Reindeer Run 5K in Downtown Charleston. It was my first time running this 5K, the largest 5K I’ve ever run, and I had a big PR, so I’m pretty excited to write about it.
About the Reindeer Run 5K
In its 25th year, the Reindeer Run 5K is one of the longest-running and most competitive 5Ks in the Charleston area. The race gives cash prizes and normally draws a speedy crowd. Many years, it draws sub-elites from surrounding states or the upstate, vying for the $500 first place prize. I’m sure the flat and fast course, as well as the beauty and warm temperatures of the Lowcountry, also draw them to the race.
Most of us are far from elite, and the Reindeer Run also draws age groupers like myself, first-time 5Kers (it would be a good “graduation” race for Couch to 5K), walkers, families, those with pets, and people who like to run in costumes. No matter who you are and what running goals bring you joy, you can’t beat a holiday race.
The race is held in Downtown Charleston and includes some beautiful views such as The Battery, Charleston Harbor, and the iconic Rainbow Row. Like most of Charleston, it’s completely flat, but since it is downtown, you need to arrive early and park.
The Reindeer Run 5K is typically held in the first weekend of December, but the City of Charleston made the race change the date to December 12 due to cruise ships. This date conflicted with the Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, so local runners had to choose. I’m glad the Reindeer Run still went on, and since I like holiday races and short distance, I signed up a few weeks before and mentally prepared to ride the 5K Pain Train.
My Race Experience
On Friday, I took a vacation day from work to do some Christmas shopping, eat lunch with Clay, and pick up mine and Melissa’s race packets. Melissa’s kids were sick last week, so I wanted to grab her packet just in case they were sick Saturday morning and she had to miss the race (it’s a pricey race and I wanted her to at least get the shirt if she didn’t get to run).
I saw the Charleston Running Club president, Ray, at packet pick up. He was running as a Pacer pushing a special needs child, and he wished me good luck and advised me to line up near the front due to crowds. I also got my bib number- 2158, and I hoped to at least beat my bib number!
The packet pick up went smoothly, although the packets didn’t have reindeer antlers like I thought they would. The race had a prize for the first person wearing the antlers to cross the finish, and someone won it, so some runners got antlers- maybe they picked up their packets the day of?
I left the house super early to get to the race early and secure a close parking spot in a garage. I had to leave right after the race to go to a family barbeque two hours away, so I didn’t want to be stuck downtown. I arrived at the garage and found an attendant who announced that parking was $5 cash. Our garages normally take credit cards, and I never carry cash. I went to Harris Teeter and bought a $1 granola bar to get cash for the garage.
My friend Pat owns Marion’s in the French Quarter, an event and party venue a few feet from the finish line, and he opened it up to hang out before the race. Hanging out in Marion’s, I felt like an elite! We got to use real bathrooms instead of porta potties, and we stashed our bags, sweats, phones, and keys behind the bar. It was very warm out, but the warm building would be an added benefit on a cold day. Emily and Jen got there pretty soon after I did.
Melissa met me at Marion’s for her packet. We did a 2 mile warmup and took a picture with our fellow Summerville runner Kendall. Kendall ran as Snoopy and won the costume contest.
I also saw my neighbor and friend, Liz, who is training for the Charleston Half Marathon and used this 5K as a training run.
The race started promptly at 9 AM, and I made sure to line up just after the sub-20 minute 5Kers. I knew I wouldn’t be close to 20, but I wanted to be close to the front but out of the way of the speedsters. It was a good decision, as I never really encountered many crowds. We took off running down East Bay Street and turned onto Broad Street, then Meeting. Since the roads were closed, we had some crowd support and the radio station vans were out playing Christmas music on the course.
On South Battery, I hit the first mile in 6:34, only 1 second slower than my first mile of the Florence Turkey Trot. I knew I went out too fast, but at least I didn’t PR the first mile of a 5K! By then, it was a little late for strategic pacing, so I just tried to hold on. Run fast, take chances. We turned onto Murray Blvd, where the race had a water stop at around mile 1.5. It was on a curb and a little crowded (there was another water stop at around the 2.5 mile mark).
My second mile was a 6:42, so I didn’t slow down quite as much. The sun was out on Murray Blvd, which is right on the water, but fortunately we didn’t have any wind. A few runners I knew passed me at this point, along with a girl I’d been running close to who was in high school and probably thought I was in her age group. We ran by Rainbow Row and a huge Charleston Strong banner in memory of the Emanuel AME Church victims. My legs didn’t feel Charleston Strong, and I rode the Pain Train to the finish. I never look at my watch for Mile 3, since it’s so close to the finish, but my Garmin clocked that at 7:08.
Running down East Bay Street, I saw the finish line ahead and struggled to have any “kick” but noticed the low 21 time from far away. I knew I would PR, but didn’t know how much.
I finished with a 21:22 and a 25-second PR, beating my 21:47 from the Florence Turkey Trot.
The results were live right away and you could enter your bib number to check them, which I liked. The computers displayed if you won an age group award- also great if you weren’t sure and needed to leave. I needed to leave to go to my family barbeque, but I had enough time to stay for awards, which was good because I placed 2nd in my 30-34 age group. The computer removed the top/overall females, so I was #15 or #16 overall, not #10. I’m glad to be in 30-34 now because 25-29 females are super competitive.
Emily, Melissa, and I all set new PRs and won awards.
The race finish was pretty nice. We skipped the refreshments because the line was all the way down the steps of Southend Brewery, and I didn’t know what kind of refreshments were even up there (it was chicken strips, so I’m glad I didn’t go). I also skipped the post-race drinks since I had a 2 hour drive.
Melissa, Emily and I headed out for a cooldown on the course to see the costumed runners and throughout downtown to get some miles in, then headed back for awards. The costume contest awards were first, followed by overall winners and kids. Emily was 2nd overall and won cash, but then we had to wait forever for the kids awards. The kids age groups are 2 years, which is great because more kids can win, but takes forever with awards. The kids got trophies with a reindeer on top, and the adults received plaques.
The costume contest winners received gift cards for the local running store, Fleet Feet. Since Kendall (Snoopy) won the costume contest, he clearly got the best award.
All of us had a good time at the race, and I would run it again (despite the organizational issue with parking and lack of antlers). If my family gathering next year isn’t on the same day, I plan to hang out longer and enjoy the refreshments and beer garden.
Race Name: Reindeer Run 5K
Location: Charleston, SC
Date and Time: December 12, 2015, 9 AM
Entry fee: $35-40, family discount for 4 or more family members
Course: Closed course, completely paved in Downtown Charleston. Beautiful course with views of Charleston Harbor and Rainbow Row. USATF Certified.
Swag: Short sleeved white cotton t-shirt, blue drawstring bag
Post-race Food: Krispy Kreme donuts, water, gatorade, granola bars, appetizers from Southend Brewery (I didn’t get anything- the line was crazy long)
Weather: 64 degrees, 83% humidity, sunny and warm