This weekend was the first Portage Winter Blast event. A half marathon and 5K race along the trails around Portage in Kalamazoo. I was one of the lucky 500 people who got a half marathon place but had to give it up as I have been too sick to train and there was no way I could complete 13.1 miles. So I joined in with the 5K.
We got the kids out of bed just before 7am and headed to the start line. On the way we saw the temperature reading in the car drop to -4oF which is about -20oC! The sun was due to come up around 8am and we were all hoping that the sunshine would help us out!
I waited inside with my friends until the last minute and then headed outside to the start line. Boy it was cold! We got to the line just as they blasted the start horn and we were off! The city had done such a good job of clearing the ice and snow off the roads and trails. It was the best running conditions I have seen in ages.
But very quickly I realised just how cold it was. It was hard to breathe and feel like I was getting a proper lung full of air. And then I noticed people running past with frost in their hair. I sometimes wear gloves but usually my hands get too hot. Not this morning, even my gloves weren't enough to keep my hands warm!
The 3 miles went relatively quickly and I knew Jeremy and the kids would be cheering me on near the finish. I ran up the last hill and there they were! Shouting and waving at me. I got quite emotional seeing them cheering me on. When I need some inspiration to keep going on a long run, I think about how proud my family are of me. I think about how the kids run round the house saying they are running like Mummy. So to have them there, actually seeing me run was a special moment. They even ran a little way to the finish line with me. It was too icy for them to keep up with me but they weren't far behind!
Jeremy was laughing at me because my hair and gloves were all frosty.
We soon got inside to grab a hot chocolate and a dunkin donut to warm up. As I walked into the building, my eyes started watering and my nose started burning. I don't think I realised just how cold it was until the warm air hit me.
We headed back outside to cheer my friends on who were brave enough to do the half marathon. One friend ran past and I could barely see her face for all of the frost - even her eye lashes were covered in frost! It was quite a sight!
I did 3.2 miles in 36 minutes and came 12th in my age group of females so it wasn't my fastest run but I was pleased to take part in the first race in my city and just to be out and about and exercising again!
Here is what the Kalamazoo Gazette had to say about the day:
PORTAGE, MI – More than 800 runners braved single-digit temperatures Sunday morning to participate in the first PortageWinter Blast Half Marathon and 5K race.
How cold was it? Runners’ faces were coated with icicles, steam poured from their heads and frosty breaths billowed as 553 half marathoners pounded the 13-mile pavement along Portage park trails and roads and nearly 300 5K runners got things started.
“It’s 2 degrees on my phone,” said Portage Mayor Pete Strazdas as he counted down 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 before starting both races in honor of the Winter Blast event that also kicked off Portage’s 50th anniversary celebration all year long.
Zachary Baker, 31, of Portage, won the half marathon with a time of 1:24.20, and said it was so cold “I heard my beard crack. It was a fun race. The course was really awesome. I thought because it was so cold the salt wouldn’t melt the ice and snow, but it did.”
Michael Waterman, 43, of Marcellus, was second and Ryan Geers, 32, of Kalamazoo, came in third.
Lauren MacVicar, 31, of Kalamazoo, was the top female half-marathon runner, turning in a time of 1:27.46.
“I’ve raced a few half marathons but this was my first time in winter,” she said. “It was cold, but the city of Portage did a great job keeping the roads clear. It was a lot of fun.”
In the 5K race, Michael Nasuta, 26, of Portage, finished first with a time of 17.54 followed by Alec Sullivan, 17, of Portage, and Marc Westra, 16, of Portage.
“I grew up in Maryland and they run all winter long,” Nasuta said. “The course was great. The only issue was at the end when I almost slipped. And my lips are numb.”
The top 5K female runner was Katie Sorensen, 17, a Portage Northern High School senior who did not train for the run but plays soccer.
“The hardest part was the cold on my face,” Sorensen, wiping some of the ice crystals from around her mouth.
Bonnie Sexton, Kalamazoo Area Runners vice president and co-organizer of the Winter Blast, called the inaugural event a big success, as more than 175 volunteers, the co-sponsor city of Portage and a host of sponsors all contributed.
“I think it went really well,” Sexton said in between keeping track of the races outside and all the festivities, signups and race postings inside Portage Central High School where the event was hosted and both races began and ended.
The Kalamazoo Area Runners, the state’s largest running organization with nearly 1,000 members, was looking for a winter run and teamed with Portage that was looking for a big event to launch its 50th anniversary celebration.
Strazdas reminded the crowd of the significance of the Winter Blast.
“It was 50 years ago on Feb. 18, 1963 that Portage Township voters voted to become the city of Portage,” Strazdas said. “It’s a big deal for the city of Portage. This is just the start of our 50th birthday celebrations.”
Many of the volunteers, who provided everything from medals for all half-marathon runners to water for all runners, braved the elements along with the athletes and spectators in the parking lot at Portage Central High.
“It’s cold,” said a shivering Jamie Clark, who wore a purple spike hat to keep warm as he volunteered to man the water and Gatorade table beginning at 7 a.m., often having to break the ice forming in the frozen cups.
His wife, Amy Clark, the volunteer coordinator for the Winter Blast, said she was pleased with the number of volunteers who checked in runners, handed out awards, provided refreshments and directions and lined the various race courses to marshal runners along the right routes.
“I think it’s going really well for an inaugural event,” Amy Clark said.