6th Annual Taras Jingle Jog 5K took place December 5th in Estero, Fla.
All proceeds from Taras Jingle Jog 5K benefit The Passion Foundation, a local non-profit, whose mission is to keep our children shaded and safe from the sun’s harmful rays while at school.
They have provided shade at 5 playgrounds and plan to have a sixth playground shaded soon.
This is an officially timed cross-country race. This is an event for the whole family! Radio remotes, food, bounce houses, and even a special visit from Santa himself. The 5K is a TRUE cross-country course, including grass and a hill. – The Passion Foundation
I spoke with one of the people in charge before the race. He is the coach of the local high school’s cross-country team. Southwest Florida doesn’t have many hills so when Lee County built the recreation facility, the coach had them build a hill for the team to train on.
It’s probably about 20 feet high and is fairly steep on the front side. He said it gives the team an advantage over other teams. All of us runners from New England understand how that works. Hills are your friend. We just take them for granite where I come from!
I spoke with a lot of people while waiting for the race to start. There were lots of kids and parents and some serious looking runners. I think some of them were from the cross- country team. I could see some serious warm ups going on.
Taras Jingle Jog 5K
The race was listed as an 8am event, so around 10 of I headed for the start. Then the announcer came on and told us to head to the stage where the local cross fit group was going to lead us in some warm up exercises!
Around 8:05 they started doing squats and jumping jacks! Many of us stood there and watched, a few of us grumbled that this was no way to warm up for a 5k. Why blow out your quads on squats when there’s a perfectly good hill we had to run up twice! Lots of people followed along. Some of us headed for the starting line.
I lined up near the front with a lot of kids. I’ve seen how 10 year olds run and most of them have never run a 5K. I knew that by the time we got to the hill, about 200 yards away, I’d be clear. I just had to be careful for the first 100-200 yards.
Surprisingly, they did not play the National Anthem. I thought The South was more patriotic than us Yankees. The XC coach told us a little about the course and then we were off.
Running Taras Jingle Jog
Many people sprinted towards the hill. The field was nice and flat but it was over 70º, mostly sunny and 95% humidity. By the time we got to the hill the crowd had thinned and some of those kids were walking. We took the hill from the left side and ran the crest and down the other side.
My parents had come to the race and had a great parking spot near the walkway we were now running on. I waved as I ran by and could see them waving back.
We soon left the walkway and were out on the grass. It looked like it may have been a soccer field. We ran along the raised side line in thicker grass. I knew the ground may be uneven or have holes so I had to be careful. When we got to the end of the field we were on a path.
In Florida, paths are typically not gravel and dirt. Often they are crushed and packed down sea shells. This sea shell path had the same divets and middle of the road crest as a New England cross-country trail would have. On this packed surface where I could see where to step I was able to pick it up a bit.
Then we got back onto a paved walkway and I was able to get into cruise mode. Mile 1 came in around 7:48. Not real fast, but for a trail run in this heat I felt pretty good.
We did a double loop of the park which included another run by the soccer field, time of the sea shell path and on what looked like the high school training paths. Some of the roots had partially worn off orange paint on them.
Around mile 1.5, I started looking for a water stop. I had hydrated properly, but I was definitely not acclimated for these conditions. If there was a water stop, I missed it. I was a bit surprised by this since the XC coach was involved and most of the runners were not experienced.
Mile 2 clocked in around 8:09 as the heat took its toll on me. My average pace was 7:56 and it was my goal to keep it from slipping to 8 minutes or more.
We looped around the fields and trails and I had never run this course before. The 5K Challenge runners were doing an obstacle course but also running on the same 5k route. It got confusing sometimes when there seemed to be runners and walkers going in several directions at some turns.
I tried to keep the two runners in front of me in view but they managed to put some distance between us. Fortunately there were more course marshals the second time around and I managed to stay on course. The first time around a few of us missed the tape and cones and got off course a bit.
I like to run as true a race as I can. What good is a PR or really good race result if it isn’t a true result? It’s just embarrassing is all it is. While I saw others cut across some fields, I tried to run close to the line of cones or tape that the race officials laid out for us.
When I was at mile 2.55 I heard the first finishers announced. Dean Gamblin, all of 15 years old, crossed the mats at 19:20 for a 6:14 pace. A nice run for a young guy in that heat. Justin Wheeler, 32, came in 2nd at 21:23 for a 6:54 pace.
We were still chugging along when Brianne Matarazzo, 23, finished at 21:42 as the first female and 3rd place finisher over all.
As we ran down the walkway the turn onto the field came into view. This was well marked on the grass and I could see the finish line arch about a mile down the field. Well, 150 yards maybe. At least one guy with some gray in his hair was way ahead of me and I figured there were probably others that I last saw when they said “Go!”
Finishing Taras Jingle Jog 5K
I could see the clock had 24 on it. I oscillated between disappointment at a 24+ minute finish and happiness that I was finishing an XC race in heat and humidity. I don’t run XC and haven’t run in this type of heat and humidity in months.
I held off stopping my watch as I crossed the mats, hoping for a good finishing photo. My watch said 25:02 which isn’t great for a 5K. I was roasting and had to walk over to the water table.
I saw my Dad and walked over to him as I sucked down a bottle of water. He got some pictures on our second loop. I told him I had to do some walking, he said okay and headed back to the air-conditioned car.
I grabbed another water bottle and a few orange slices that a local bank was giving out too runners. They were so good! I talked to some more runners and the lady and son who I spoke with before the race. They did okay and were happy.
They put up the first sheet of results and I was 11th! Not what I was expecting. Then I looked across the sheet and saw I was first in to M50-54 group. Again, not what I was expecting. I went back to my parent’s van for a few minutes and told them that I had to wait for the awards ceremony.
The race started at 8:26, which I was told is Florida time for 8am! LOL. They had awards 2 deep in all age groups and had a nice medal with a lasered plate on the back with the race info and my 1st place age group finish. Very nice for such a small race I thought.
We ended up heading for breakfast around 9:45. I was glad my parents got to see me run even if they couldn’t be out on the course or at the finish. They were there and we got to share the moment.
Run well my friends!
© 2015 Andrew nagelin