When I went to pick up my race kit, they couldn't find my name as I had signed up so close to the cut off time. I got my bib (which I would realize as I lined up at the 10K start that it was actually a 5K bib!) and a fun long sleeve light-weight hoodie with the 'monster' on it in a cute Hallowe'en themed shopping bag.
On the evening of the race, I added some glow sticks to my hydration pack and arms, and snapped on a small bike light. Given the start time of 6:00 pm, I figured I would likely be finishing with a tiny bit of daylight. (Ha!) I scored a parking spot parked about 50 meters from the start on one of the side streets just south of the race route. (Advice to future racers, do not park in the Bloorview parking lot--it will be very backed up with cars all trying to leave after the race). I was early enough to watch and cheer on the adorable Spooky Mile kids racing in costume.
Once the munchkins were done, it was time for the 10K gun. It was a nice-sized group of runners, not too many to have to maneuver around, but enough to make it competitive. Many of which were in costume. I was happy I had at least added my glow bracelets and sticks! The route wound around the parking areas and trail towards the valley and down a steep hill. Hmm...that won't be fun on the way back, I thought! Once in the valley, the winding route was enjoyable, and the racers were chatty and having fun. The race felt more like a fun run with a bit of friendly competition. I hadn't headed into this race aiming for a PB given my half-marathon was literally days earlier. The first half felt surprisingly good, and my pace average was steady at around 6:20/km. At this point, I noticed the daylight was decreasing, but I could still see perfectly. Little more than 10 minutes later, I realized that a valley with no lights whatsoever gets darker a lot faster than a city street! I was extremely glad for my small bike light which I switched on just as we headed to some stairs that would have been incredibly difficult to navigate without any light. The runners were now quite spaced out and it was somewhat scary to not quite see where you needed to go when you lost sight of the person in front of you. Cars still drove through the park, making it even more unnerving. Around another corner and suddenly there was the hill! Wait. If I'm at the hill--doesn't that mean I am really close to the finish? The first kilometer had included the hill...I quickly thought back to when I had last heard my RunMeter app alert time...it had been 51:05. What? So was that at 9K? Without giving myself a chance to even consider the reality of this, I powered up the hill as fast as I could. I continued along the very dark and very narrow trail pushing hard, suddenly tasting a totally unexpected PB. The race route maps online hadn't been very clear for the 10K, so I kept anticipating a turn left to the finish...since we were on the last kilometer, right? Instead, the trail took us almost out to Bayview Avenue before we finally turned. At this point, I honestly had no idea where the finish was going to turn up, and I was very quickly running out of what I thought was my final kick steam. I also began to realize that this wasn't just the longest kilometer ever--I must have miscalculated. At long last I saw the finish ahead from a totally unexpected direction. With nothing left in the tank, I actually had to slow to a walk before making the final turn and powering to the finish.
It was a great relief to make our way inside to the brightly lit, warm and very nice Bloorview Hospital facility and a room full of food offerings. After having some much needed fuel, I checked the stats and was pleased to see that although I didn't get a PB--I was third in my age group! If it weren't for that crazy final-before-the-final-kilometer-kick, that certainly wouldn't have happened!
Would I do this race again? Maybe. I am definitely a morning person and runner, and waiting all day was difficult for me. I have to admit that I felt somewhat like I was putting myself at risk of injury running in the dark along trails. Perhaps race organizers could make some sort of personal lights mandatory? Lastly, running a 10K race days after running a half-marathon and expecting any sort of good time was probably not the best idea! All of that said, I loved the medal, the swag, the fun vibe and the facility. It was a fun evening and I have no regrets!