I had a BLAST last night! All week I've been looking forward to the Third Thursday Adventure Run put on by Road Runner Sports in Tempe. I was not disappointed in the experience one bit! I can't wait until next month to do the run again.
This is a really neat event because there are so many different layers involved. Daniel and I had no idea what to expect when we showed up. I am a Facebook fan and get the email newsletter from our local shoe store. When I saw a flyer for a free group run that involved prizes and beer, I was instantly curious. Free prizes and I don't even have to win the race? I'm IN! We didn't even know how long the run would be, but we registered anyway. It was an Adventure Run, after all. There should be some sense of adventure involved.
Here's the funny thing: Daniel and I are not usually the adventurous type. We are both fairly shy when it comes to social situations, and we play it pretty safe usually. Since joining the gym last April, though, we have really spread our wings. We've tried a few different types of events, starting with the Spin for Diabetes last year. I don't know what has changed, except we have finally found something worth taking the risk for. Running and other exercise events are somewhat solitary while enjoying a group atmosphere. We are on our own while still in a crowd of people. I must say, though, that runners are some of the most friendly and accepting people I have hung around with. Striking up a conversation at a running event is not difficult at all.
When we arrived at the Adventure Run I was instantly glad we had gotten there almost an hour early. I will plan on arriving at the beginning of check in every month. There was a line of four booths set up, and each tent had something for runners to try. If we tried the product we got a raffle ticket. We still didn't know what the raffle ticket was for, but I wanted to collect as many as I could just in case the prize was something irresistible. It really helped that each of the vendors had an item I truly did want to experience.
First I got hooked up with a water belt. The hydration system I brought with me is hand-held and can get quite annoying to carry. The belt seemed like a perfect solution. I got the belt situated, and moved on to the next booth. There I picked up a pair of moisture wicking socks. We got raffle tickets just for accepting a free pair of socks! The final booth was the big sponsor of the night- New Balance shoes. I got set up in a pair of shoes to run in for the evening. I figured it was fairly safe since one of the pairs they featured was the exact shoe I was wearing, except this was the upgrade. Unfortunately, they didn't have the shoe in my size so I went up half a size. I'll tell you why you shouldn't run in shoes that are too big later. The final booth had information about how to donate to an organization for cancer research. Believe it or not, that tour took about 40 minutes. It was time to hit the restroom and gather for the instructions for this adventure.
The rules turned out to be fairly simple. A big map would be revealed, with checkpoints along the way. Each runner had to chose which checkpoints to stop at to receive raffle tickets. Some check points were worth more tickets than others. The catch was this: the route was not a nice circular path. There were checkpoints in every direction. Runners had one hour to return to the store, going to as many check points as they wished. Raffle tickets had to be turned in by 7 pm. No tickets would be accepted late. It was the responsibility of the runners to decide which route to take and how many to go after.
I wanted to play it safe and get the tickets closest to the store first. I figured if I couldn't run too far, I could at least get one or two. I took off running with a group that was heading for the closest check point. We were looking for a store in the Tempe Marketplace shopping center called "Down East Outfitters." We ran first to a directory, couldn't find the store, so we all started taking off down the main corridor of the mall. It was crazy, dodging in and out of groups of people strolling by, shouting "excuse me" as we passed. At one point I looked up and saw a sign for "Down East Basics." Close, I said, but not what we were looking for. Ug, it turns out that was EXACTLY what we were looking for, and we all passed right by it!
My frustration at not being able to find the first checkpoint was intensified by the fact that I had started running WAY too fast and could now not keep up with anyone. I needed a walk break already. It was only about 6 minutes into the run. Looking back I realized I was pretty near sprinting for those whole six minutes. I need to give myself some credit there! I gave up on the first check point and headed toward Danny's Carwash. There I picked up my first raffle ticket and a business card for half off carwash services for the rest of this year. Whooo Hooo!
Looking at my watch I thought I would have time to hit one more check point. Being a Facebook fan I had found out about a "secret" checkpoint that was only a mile down the road. I started out strong, having a running partner I had just met at Danny's. Unfortunately, a quarter mile down the road I had to tell my new friend to go on without me. My lungs were burning, and my legs were jelly. Ug, it was like being a brand new runner all over again! I wound up alternating walking and running for most of the mile, until I could see the check point. It was probably another six minutes ahead, though. A quick glance at my watch made me realize I was not going to make it to the check point and get back on time for my raffle tickets to be counted. Darn it, I worked hard for the one raffle ticket I did have; I wasn't going to risk being late! I turned around, knowing that next month I will have a serious change in strategy.
On the way back into the shopping center parking lot I took one final look at the directory. I still couldn't find Down East Outfitters, and neither could the guy who was also looking at the sign. We talked a few minutes about strategy and what brought us to this run, then decided to head in to the end together. I turned in my tickets with about ten minutes to spare. Darn, MAYBE I could have made that secret check point after all. Oh well, there's always next month.
I learned a lot on this first adventure run. The first is to not get caught up in the excitement. I knew this from reading article after article about race mistakes. Taking off too fast is a common newbie error. I learned that next time I want to skip the shops close to the finish line and go out as far as I think is safe first. If I have time to make other stops on the way back, I will. I learned that wearing shoes that are too big HURTS! The pain I've had in the past in the ball of my foot, my arch, my hip, and my knee all returned in this single run. NOT pleasant! I figured out that my foot was slipping forward in the shoe, rubbing each time my foot hit the ground and again when I picked it up. Next time I will pass on the opportunity to run in the sponsor's shoes if they don't have my size. Finally, I learned that I AM someone that people will stop and talk to along the route. When we first arrived at the running store last night I was convinced I was going to be the fattest and ugliest runner there. The running partner I picked up along the way didn't seem to think I was too unattractive to run with, so that was a big ego boost.
I turned in my water belt, gave the company my honest feedback, and I got to keep the actual water bottles. I moved on to collect my own shoes and turn in the loaner pair. I got another prize for running in the New Balance shoes. A water bottle, a chapstick, and new shoe laces were all mine. I am now the proud owner of neon orange shoe laces! My arms were now filled with prizes and my raffle tickets, but I couldn't get into the car to put anything down. Daniel had the keys, and as I looked around I couldn't find him. He wasn't back yet! "Three minutes left to turn in your raffle tickets," the announcer called out. Come on, where was Daniel? "Two minutes left!" I hear the DJ call out. There he was! Daniel had just turned the corner and was turning in his tickets. This was truly an exciting run.
The final part of the evening was the actual raffle. Did we win prizes? Oh, yeah, we won prizes! Over and over again our numbers were called. Between the two of us, Daniel and I won a pair of New Balance shoes, $60 worth of socks, a ticket to Big Surf water park, $30 to Down East Basics (hey, I know where that is now!), $15 to Brand X clothing, AND an extra large pizza and wings at Peter Piper Pizza. Thanks to Daniel running to several ticket stops more than I did, along with all the tickets I got for trying the sponsor's items, we had a LOT of chances at prizes, and it showed!
Even if we hadn't won the prizes this run would have been the most fun I've had since starting in this sport. I've got a standing date with my mom to watch the girls on the third Thursday of every month from now through November. If anyone would like to meet Daniel and I there, we would love to introduce you to our favorite activity. It doesn't matter how fast or how slow you are. We each ran at our own pace and met at the end. The run is fun, the staff at Road Runner Sports is fantastic, and I am pretty sure we will be making some new friends through this event.