On Saturday November 26th, 603 runners and walkers completed the Medford Jingle Bell Run. This year the race was based at The American Legion Hall on Winthrop Street. The three previous races took place at Medford City Hall with post race activities taking place outside.
With a warm hall to gather in, runners enjoyed sandwiches, pizza, chips and fruit. A large crowd stayed for the awards ceremony, the raffles and to enjoy time with family and friends.
Running the Medford Jingle Bell Run
I have participated in this race since it began in 2013. I live in Medford and the race was close to my house.
In 2014, I became a sponsor of the race through the My First 5K medal and did not run. This year and last year I sponsored and ran the race.
It is beginning to feel like Fall in Medford and we have had some light rain in recent days. There was some concern about weather on race day, but we were fortunate and had near perfect conditions.
603 runners and walkers is yet another record turn out for the Medford Jingle Bell Run.
As a sponsor, I was busy up to the last minute selling My First 5K medals to runners and their parents. Many people purchased medals with their registration but we more than doubled sales during Friday night pickup and on race day. So, I was busy.
Race time was 8:30. Around 8:12 Jay Lonergan asked if we should shut things down and get everyone outside. He said the timing company wanted everyone out side by 8:15. I suggested he make an announcement at 8:15 for everyone to head to the start.
Jay made the announcement and I started to pack up. While I was taking off my sweats and putting my shoes back on, a few more folks asked for medals.
I quickly took down their information and gave them their bib stickers. One of the high school student volunteers helped me take my gear to my car. As soon as I cleared my gear, other volunteers layed out trays of sandwiches. It was like clock work.
After my gear was stowed, I headed down the driveway to the start. It was packed and everyone was talking loudly.
The Medford Jingle Bell Run used chip timing, like always, so I wasn’t worried about lining up in back. I even considered waiting until everyone had taken off before starting. With chip timing they use your net time to calculate your finish place.
I saw my running buddy Jim Gallant but could not get his attention. A few minutes later, I realized we were in the middle of The National Anthem. I never heard a word. I started my watch and waited for the start.
Somebody said something and the crowd surged ahead a few feet and stopped. It was just the call to the line. A few minutes later we were off. I had managed to get about 100 people from the front, so I was quickly across the start.
And They’re Off!
I didn’t hear the start so much as experience the wave of humanity surging forward. We jogged slowly over the timing mats and for the first 100 yards or so. We were packed in and no one could really move.
As we hit the first rise just after Lawrence Road I started to move through the crowd. This took a bit of weaving and timing to get around and between people. I could see that the lead group was already way ahead of us.
As we continued out Winthrop Street I began to hit my stride. I glanced at my watch and my average pace was 7:44. At the first mile my time and pace were 7:50. Pretty good for not being in great shape and starting back in the pack.
After the first mile I began to pass more people. I was pushing as hard as I could and reaching my limits.
Relying on experience I ran a steady pace and kept picking off runners. I could hear people breathing hard and rapidly. When I focused on my own breathing it almost seemed like I wasn’t breathing.
I was taking nice deep breathes and my breathing was probably around 98% of capacity. It didn’t make sense to push beyond that. The lead group was way out front and I was doing pretty good.
Around The Rotary
At the water stop I grabbed a drink. Someone donated a few cases of 250ml bottles to the race and that is what they gave us. I prefer a paper cup, but the bottle worked. I took two big gulps and sheepishly tossed the bottle in the road.
As we approached Winchester I began to look for the turn. At previous races on this course we usually turned a few hundred yards before the Main Street rotary in Winchester.
Approaching the turn, I knew that getting the water was a good idea. I felt strong and ready to tackle the uphill as we left Winchester. As the runners came around the rotary and headed back I counted them. There were 38 runners ahead of me.
I knew there were plenty of young runners behind me who could whip past me at any time. As we made the slight ascent, I kept pushing and picked off a few guys. Then a young lady passed me, and she looked strong.
We hit mile 2 just after Highland Ave and my watch said 8:01 for that mile, but my pace was still 7:50. I was still in a good position to do a 24 minute 5K.
Most of the next mile was flat. After Lawrence Road we had a nice descent and I picked up some speed. I had managed to pick off one more runner in the third mile but everyone else was holding pretty steady.
As we approached the finish line I could feel the rise in the road in my legs. I could hear one or two runners close behind me. I picked up my pace and held one off until the last 100 yards and then another got me right at the finish line. I was old enough to be either one’s father so it didn’t really bother me. It’s kind of what I expected to happen.
My official time was 26:03, but the course was 3.36 miles. Doing a little calculating I figure I was just over 24 minutes for a 3.1 mile distance.
After I caught my breathe, I congratulated a father who ran with his young son. We battled it out for the first mile and a half or so. Eventually I pulled ahead, but they finished close behind me. The boy had to be younger than 10 and I was impressed that the boy had the determination to do it and that his father was able to keep him going. I never heard a word of complaint, from either of them!
I didn’t spend much time at the finish line. I had to get back to my car and get everyone’s medals ready. When someone purchased a medal I placed a medal into the awards bag. Things got so busy, I was concerned I may have lost count.
I carefully reviewed my list and counted the medals in the bag. The count was 37! 60% more than 2015! Wow.
At most races I do, people want to buy medals after the race. They may have forgotten or thought they got one automatically by registering. Some people buy them after they them, or their kids see them.
I had carefully ironed the ribbons of additional medals the night before, so I was prepared. I had 40 medals ready to go and draped a few un-ironed medals around my neck.
Jay and Judy Lonergan were doing the awards with plenty of assistance. It seemed like a lot of the runners were not there. Eventually they had a crew of kids with medals standing around waiting for people to take their pictures.
As I stood to the side and watched their faces I wondered if the next Shalane Flanagan or Ryan Hall was standing there. I wondered if doing well in this race meant anything to them or if it was just another event over the holiday weekend.
Each of them received a medal for running a top three time in their age group. That is significant. I imagine that there were other young runners who wanted one of those medals but were not able to make it.
Then it was my turn at the microphone. I wasn’t familiar with the equipment nor certain that anyone could hear me.
It was a little bit chaotic as I called out names, put medals over necks that held smiling faces and kept track of who actually showed up to get their medal. I know I missed a few people.
I sold a bunch of medals at the podium and while waiting to call the kids up. I’m I sure I missed a few people.
The highlight of my time doing all of this was making the award of that medal feel like a special time for that young person.
It wasn’t close to an Olympic medals ceremony, but I tried to make the moment special. I was stuck behind the podium and the room was loud, so it was a challenge.
Many times, after I put the medal around their neck, they would hold it in their hand and look at it. I saw some smiles and that look of pride in their eyes.
That is what this is all about.
All totaled, 43 young runners received a My First 5K medal. A more than 100% increase over last year. I hope they will all join us next year and run the 5th Annual Medford Jingle Bell Run!
Run well my Friends!