Fifty years (and running) says a lot about an event's longevity.
Throw in some crazy weather, though, with an unplanned merging of two races (as well as a delayed start time), and you have the makings of a potential catastrophe.
...or the entire evening could just surprise you, for the better.
But let's start at the beginning...
My experience with the Midnight Madness festivities began in 2016 (recap), and it didn't go well. Let's just say this particular event, in that particular year, holds my one and only DNF to date. I returned in 2018 (recap) and redeemed myself with a third place AG in the 10K. The momentum continued in 2019 (recap), where I set two new course PR's (for the 5K and 10K) and brought home AG hardware for both.
|with Cy, the Iowa State mascot "policeman" in 2019
The 2020 event had to assume a virtual format (due to Covid), and was postponed until September. Since I was entertaining a stress fracture at the time, I had to take a pass on participating.
To say I was eager to return, this year, would be a drastic understatement. As mentioned, 2021 was the 50th year of the Midnight Madness races. This year's event was under the leadership of a new race director, and also was moved to a new location within the city of Ames.
Another change was the format. In previous years, the 5K started at 7:20 (following the kids' race), and the 10K was an hour later...giving the runners the opportunity to run both races (which is what I'd done in 2018 and 2019). This year, the 5K and 10K were both starting at 8:00, with the 10K runners running two laps of the 5K course...alas, it was one race or the other, so I was all set for the 10K.
All week, the forecast had shown rain for race day, with thunderstorms in the evening. UGH. As the weekend approached, though, it was looking like "just" rain, but plenty of it. An email was sent out, Friday evening, alerting us that the race committee was watching the weather and would make a formal announcement (Saturday afternoon) on the fate of the evening's races.
We had to leave town earlier than usual (for a quick stop along the way). It wasn't until we were already en route that we learned the 10K had been canceled, and all those runners would be running the 5K instead (thus not running the second lap for the 10K distance). This would allow for a possible later start, if need be, due to the (still) inclement weather. Did I mention we'd already been driving in rain? A short while later, it was announced the race would, indeed, be delayed to 8:30.
It was still raining when we arrived, around 7:30 (we'd taken our time getting there since things were delayed). We grabbed our packets, and made ourselves comfortable inside the Ames Fitness Center.
As luck would have it (thank you, Momma N!), the rain let up and the clouds began clearing around 8:00! The temps had dropped, and the wind had picked up, but the rain had completely moved on as we walked to the start line a short while later.
We lined up on University Boulevard, and we were off! The route headed north across the start line. It wasn't long and the route turned onto Collaboration Place, blessing us with a strong headwind (and a crazy downhill) for the greater part of the first 1/2-mile. It almost was a little scary and overwhelming how fast everyone seemed to be going! Once we turned left (heading north again, this time on South Riverside Drive) was I able to (sort of) ease up and catch my breath. When the Garmin beeped, at the 1-mile mark, I gasped to see that I'd run that first mile in 8:04 ((gulp)), Big oops.
A little later, the route went left (west, onto Airport Road) for a short ways, and then another left (this time onto South Loop). I was really struggling with keeping up with the crowd, but also trying to slow my pace a bit. (that 8:04 mile split, form Mile-1 had me a little scared!). When I saw the water stand, at the approximate halfway point, I pulled over and grabbed a cup and paused for a few seconds to drink a few sips.
|map from MidnightMadnes site
We then merged left, this time on a cement trail through what looked like a park. The path had a few slight inclines, and some easy curves. By now, my pace was feeling more steady and I was able to pass a few other runners (who were probably on the verge of crashing, from going out too fast as well). I was relieved to see 8:24 on the Garmin, when it beeped at the 2-mile mark.
The third mile took us on a winding path, with a few more easy inclines, before getting back on University for the last stretch to the finish line. Now, headed south, we had a bit of a downhill for maybe a 1/4-mile before we turned east and had to fight the headwind again. Fortunately, it wasn't too long and the route took us back around the fitness center's parking lot and then the final jaunt to the finish line. Our friend, Chuck, was there calling my name as I approached the finish chute.
Whew! It always feels good to be done, but this felt especially sweet when I saw my finish time.
Barb had finished a short ways ahead of me, and the hubby was just a few minutes behind me. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I grabbed a bottle of water and was instantly cold. The temps were about 25-degrees colder than in years past and that wind was chilly!
|The hubby, myself, Barb and Chuck
|(L-R) 2018 10K, 2019 5K and 10K, 2021 5K