Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Screaming Pumpkin - a marathon ANYONE can win!

Not that I won it. But last year, at the inaugural running of this unique race, my super-awesome relay team (Team Scream) did win! This year... not so much with the winning. But it didn't really matter because this race is all about having fun.

The Screaming Pumpkin is a predication marathon (and marathon relay). Runners (and relay teams) must gauge how long it will take them to run the 26.2 miles and then select an appropriate starting time that will allow them to finish as close to midnight as possible without going over. Whoever does this wins the race. The catch is that runners are not allowed to wear a watch, Garmin, or any other timing device while they run. They must run "blind". Add to that a very hilly and difficult course through a cemetery in the dark of night, and you can see how challenging this becomes. It's not about being fast. It's about knowing how to pace yourself.

Our 4-person relay team was comprised of me, my husband Matt, and fellow FASTies Niki and Julie. The marathon course consists of 4 identical loops through Springdale Cemetery. Yep, this is the same cemetery in which FAST often trains. Hill of Destruction, Hill of Devastation, etc... they're all in the cemetery (the Hill of Death is not, but it's close to the cemetery). So that should give you a little taste of what the course is like. That is to say, it tastes like pain. Unless, of course, you run it slowly, which is exactly what my team opted to do.

The Screaming Pumpkin is not just a race, though. It's also a Halloween party. Runners come decked out in costumes (and there's a costume contest), there's a live band (O-Face!), and lots of tasty homemade food and hot chocolate.

Costumes that must speak for themselves because there just aren't any words to describe them...

I didn't wear a costume in the traditional sense, but I donned my Flying Pig tutu and a pair of wings.. so I was a fairy? Sure!

Julie was to run the first leg, followed by me, Matt and finally Niki. Julie took off at about 6:30pm, giving our team 5.5 hours to finish. Pleeeeenty of time, right? The rest of us stood around and chatted it up, enjoying the live entertainment.

Julie gets ready to start the first leg while Niki and Matt look on

We planned on Julie taking about 1:25 to run her leg. But she surprised us all when she finished her loop about 20 minutes faster than expected! I was glad I had just taken a port-a-potty break a few minutes earlier. I took off for my leg of the race and knowing that we were ahead of schedule, I ran my loop as slow as I could manage. I trotted along at a leisurely pace, I walked up the steep hills, I stopped at the water stop and chatted with the volunteers - anything to slow myself down. I even stopped to pet a cat at one point (a very friendly little fellow who, since he was mostly black, made the experience that much more Halloweeny).

As I was winding through the very dark cemetery, I noticed that I never felt scared or spooked. I was alone for a lot of the run, occasionally being passed by other faster runners, but it was never an uncomfortable solitude. If anything, it was rather peaceful. The wind would rustle the trees, and I would hear owls hooting, or small animals scurrying away in the leaves. I even saw an owl at one point, with big glowing eyes staring at me from a tall tree. I looked for ghosts, but disappointingly, I didn't see any. I paid my respects to the many dead who reside in Springdale, thanking them for being so welcoming to all the runners who tread these paths. And before I knew it, I was making my way out of the cemetery onto the well-lit path back to the start/finish area. Matt took off for the third leg of the run.

Since I was done running, I could finally enjoy the free food and drinks. At last year's Screaming Pumpkin, the free food was decidedly non-vegetarian-friendly. I believe I ended up having a bag of potato chips and a cup of hot chocolate. I had mentioned it to the nice women who were serving the food and they said they would try to have more veggie-friendly food the next year. And boy did they ever!!! This time they had veggie chili, and homemade mac-n-cheese in addition to everything else. It was outstanding. Thank you, Screaming Pumpkin coordinators for listening and responding to runners' requests - it's very much appreciated!

Local band, O-Face, plays 80's and 90's rock hits for the runners

It was starting to get pretty chilly as I was standing around after running (temperatures were in the mid-40's at the start and were falling into the upper 30's by midnight), so I decided to go out to my car and get my warm sweats to put on. As I was walking back from my car, imagine my surprise when I saw this parked near the race start area:

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener...

That's right folks, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! I have no idea why it decided to show up at the Screaming Pumpkin, but there it was in all its wiener-y glory. The nice man who drives this vehicular work of art was telling us that there are only 6 of these in existence, and they are on the road 365 days a year. He gave us all very special glow-in-the-dark wiener whistles, which naturally became the foundation for a bunch of jokes about blowing on wieners. *snicker snicker*

Matt returned from his leg of the run and then it was Niki's turn to go. The person Niki was supposed to run with wasn't ready to go, so Matt offered to run with her instead. So off they went for the final leg of the run. Matt hadn't planned on running a half-marathon that night, but that was exactly what he was going to do. Overachiever!

I stayed in the food tent, enjoying the toasty warmth of the standing heaters, chatting with fellow FASTies and Stashies. Before we knew it, midnight was drawing near. I wandered out of the tent to watch for incoming runners. 11:54pm... a few runners start to come in. 11:56...a handful more runners... 11:57... a huge onslaught of runners... 11:59... a couple more, but where are Matt and Niki? 12:00... drat, we missed the midnight cutoff. 12:02... I start to get worried. Matt and Niki are two of the most injury-prone people I know - I was imagining them both lying on the ground in the cemetery, clutching their knees in pain. 12:04... there they are! They cross the finish at 12:05 and our team is awarded with the post-midnight consolation prize of pumpkins. Well, I guess you can't win them all!

Now, usually I finish up a race report with a nice graph and map from my Garmin, but I can't do that for this race and believe me, it's killing me. I HATE not having data from a run. All I know about this run is that it was 6.55 miles and it took me 1:25 (I told you I was trying to go slow!). Uh, so, here's a graph. And a map. The accuracy of either cannot be guaranteed.

Man, I am GOOD at keeping an even pace!

A highlighter and some hand-drawn arrows - the next best thing to GPS mapping

I'm not entirely sure that the map is correct, since I was running in the dark and really not completely aware of where exactly I was going, but I think it's at least close to the actual route. So how did I know where to go? Well, thankfully, they had the path lined with glow sticks. All one had to do was follow the glow sticks to one's right. That sure beat trying to read that map with a headlamp in the dark and having to ask ghosts for directions.

So will we be back next year to reclaim our title? It's quite likely. This is definitely an event to return to as it seems to get better every year. Maybe next year I'll finally see some ghosts! *cue spooky music*

Peace. Love. Train.

No comments:

Post a Comment