Some people might call me a snob for admitting this but I do not normally sign up for races that are shorter than a half marathon because they are usually just too short for one of my weekend long runs. But sometimes, those shorter races fit perfectly into my schedule…this weekend was one of those perfect times.
I have just started training for the Chicago Marathon in October and this weekend I was scheduled to do a four mile run followed by my longer run on Sunday. I couldn’t help but sign up for the Freedom 4 Miler in Forest Park on the morning of July 4th!!! Some holidays just call for you to run and 4th of July is definitely one of those holidays.
Leading up to the weekend I made plans to head to my brothers house in the Illinois suburbs on Friday night and head over to the race on Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day back at my brother’s with the rest of the family. As the race day approached Bride said that she wanted to race it too!!! I love racing a good race, but one thing I admit I love more is racing a good race along with Bride so my day could not have started off any better.
Bride and I left early that morning and there was actually a little chill to the air. The temp was only in the 60s, although it would eventually reach the high 80s, and the humidity had broken. I knew it would be one of the best racing mornings possible for a 4th of July in St. Louis. We got there with plenty of time to sit down and relax before the race and enjoy the beautiful forest park.
My goal for the race was 30 minutes although I knew that my legs were tired from the training and that goal was definitely going to be hard to meet. I compromised with myself by saying that I wasn’t going to look at my watch the whole race and was going to just run as fast as I felt like I could and see what time my body was going to give me. The start of the race was my worst nightmare. The largest, and only, hill on the course was within the first half mile. I don’t mind running a good hill but I always feel like I run them better when my legs have a few miles in them first. This hill wasn’t tough when I was running it, but my legs felt it a lot later on in the race.
Mile 2 was when I really got into my zone and just focused on keeping up the pace and pushing though the miles. I did try to enjoy the scenery a little through the beautiful forest park. The 3rd mile left forest park and went west along Lindell Blvd where I saw 3/4 of a mile full of beautiful homes (and some much needed shade). Entering the park again began the 4th mile where we curved our way until the finish line.
I felt strong when I crossed although my time on the clock was approaching 32 minutes I knew that my total time was going to be just a little below 32 which I was proud of. Sadly, in the hassle I forgot to stop my watch (a rookie mistake!). I went home and checked my time and I got 31:50 for the race. Not the best that I have ever ran, but I am happy with the time and know that I can use that and grow from it.
Race Organization: 16/20
This is a good size race for a 4 miler. There were a total of 880 finishers, including Bride who finished in 50:32! They had multiple locations where you could pick up your bib and shirt the day before, including one in Illinois where Bride and I went, as well as having race morning registration and packet pickup. They had a bag check available for a fee, but biggest of all, they successfully communicated to everyone the night before the race that because of all the rain in St. Louis that week the parking location was moving from a field in the park to the parking lot of the zoo. This problem could has wreak havoc on race morning but I felt like they handled it well and had plenty of signage around the park pointing everyone where to go.
There was no expo for this race in the regular sense. But that is completely understandable. It was a holiday small mileage race and there was no need for an expo. I gave it this ranking because the pre-race festivities were well run and there were booths there set up by the sponsors as well as one great display by Schuncks Grocery Stores, the presenting sponsor, that will never be forgotten by Bride or myself.
Race Experience: 18/20
As written above, even though I did not get the time I wanted, I really enjoyed the race. I felt that I raced well, the course was in a great location, set up in a challenging way and provided a great test to see how fast I could go that day. I was impressed that they had water stations at every mile, but I was disappointed at how badly the Power Ade was mixed. The portions were not right and it did not taste good at all. I know that the 4th of July is a prime day for running in America and I am sure to do future races on this day as well but it will be tough to get a better race experience than this one.
Post Race: 16/20
After I finished the race I got my initial recovery snacks including a banana, a protein bar and plenty of water. I watched the runners come in behind me and cheered them all on, including an Army group running in cadence. The atmosphere was great including an announcer who tried to mention as many people’s names as he could (he even pronounced Mitra correctly!). There was always music playing and always a good crowd cheering on the finishers. It was a great time.
This race is never going to be the one with the best swag, the best perks or the largest field but that doesn’t mean it can’t have something extra to give to a runner. First, I must admit how much fun it was getting to run through Forest Park. We ran by the 1904 bird cage at the zoo, the Muny as well as the Missouri History museum in the park. Also, this race, which only cost $30, included a free beer and a pretty nice t-shirt, which is about as much as you can ask for with that price. Once again, they did a great job with what they had.
MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 82/100
You can’t compare this to the major marathons I have gotten to run but for what this race is, it doesn’t get much better. If you are looking for a race that has sights, sounds and hills this is it. Starting off my day with the race and finishing it with fireworks are two characteristics that, by themselves, mean a great day. I am looking forward to not only doing this race again, but hopefully participating in more races in St. Louis in the near future.