Peoria's Santa Claus Parade, celebrating its 125th year, is the longest running Christmas parade in the country. In previous years, the Trot for Tots race was the unofficial start of the parade, starting just 15 prior and running along the entire parade route. There were thousands of spectators lining the streets!! This year unfortunately, the city pushed the race start to an earlier time. There were some people camped out in their parade spots, but not nearly the WOW factor of the past several years. In the bright side, RC Race Management assumed race operations, which provided easy registration, chip timing, online results and runner announcements at the finish.
The run benefits the Marines' Toys for Tots program. Because of this, we'll come back year after year regardless. The event is low key and simple. I like races like that. There is race morning registration and packet pickup, so everyone gathers in the lobby of the local Riverplex Recreation Center to chat and stay warm. It's a fun jovial atmosphere. As race time approaches, the large group walks through the parking lot to the start. With a quick 1-2-3, the police motorcycles and sirens lead the way and we're off.
I gave myself four days of rest (feels like longer) after last Sunday's marathon. My legs felt rested and I was ready to go this morning. We started the run against the wind and up a slow incline. I prefer to get the hard stuff out of the way early, makes for a good warmup! I set my eyes on my friend Deanna (today's rabbit!) and focused on keeping up with her. About halfway through, I finally passed her. We made a turn onto Fulton St and it felt like we were in a wind tunnel. It literally stood me upright! There were two guys in front of me that I tried to catch, for the sole purpose of drafting behind them.
As we exited downtown, there was female in front of me (I wondered, is she in my age group?). I set my sights on passing her next. And then darn it, my shoelace came untied! After a quick stop, I closed the gap on the "gal in the green jacket". The last stretch of the race was along the Illinois River. It was a (cold, windy) sunny day, and the river looked beautiful. I love running alongside water. I figured there was 1/4 mile left, so I kicked in a little speed and passed the green-jacketed girl, learning her name was Anna as she had quite a few cheerleaders at the end... I felt her footsteps and heard her breathing all the way down the final stretch. I was determined she would not beat me over the finish line. So the race was on... and I won - but not by much. Our official race times are exactly the same: 15:59. Not bad for five days after a marathon! And much better than last year, when I became the "elf who took a face plant in the middle of Main St".
The best part of the race was getting together with my Sole Sisters to kick off the Christmas season... I love this group!