LOCATION: Stratford, CT
DATE: Saturday, February 13, 2016
LENGTH: 3 miles
RUNIT RATING: 2 thumbs up!
The Stratford YMCA’s 20th Annual Sweetheart Run was one of my favorite races to date. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t fancy, but it was full of love and smiling faces, despite freezing weather and a hilly course.
The three mile course (and two mile fitness walk) began and finished at Boothe Memorial Park. Parking was free and right next to the registration area inside Boothe Hall. The ease of parking and location was a huge plus considering how cold it was outside. The entry fee was $20 in advance and $25 on race day.
This residential race course, which was changed from four miles to three miles this year, is described as “rolling with a challenging hill.” The challenging hill is referred to as “The Beast” and it lived up to its name. Despite the fact that I was jogging at a snail’s pace, I had to walk the last quarter of the hill. Unfortunately, it took me a while to get my pace back, but I was able to finish strong. There was nothing visually spectacular about the course, but it was a peaceful run through wooded neighborhoods on a well marked course.
I truly enjoyed myself during this race, and it wasn’t just because I got to do it with my own sweetheart. Here are some of my favorite perks:
<3 The registration/check-in/start/finish area was welcoming and fun. There was a DJ playing upbeat music before the race, friendly volunteers handing out race swag and refreshments post race, and plenty of good cheer among the crowd.
<3 Being able to gather in a warm place before and after the race was key. How many times have you been waiting for a race to start, cramped in your car until the last possible minute when you have to brace yourself for the weather and hike to the starting line? There was none of that here. We parked, walked the twenty-five yards across the parking lot to the hall, and enjoyed the comfort of a warm room while we stretched and waited until they ushered us out to the starting line.
<3 You could register as a couple and compete against other teams by combining your times (your age group was your combined age). The race organizers even promise to try to match you up with someone if you come in solo and are looking to be on a team. I spoke with a man named Otto who said he’s been participating in this race for about nine years. He shared some great stories about years past, including the time he and his running partner (who he met at another race) established a new record for their age group. They were in their sixties, and I’m confident I will never run as fast as either of them did, ever.
If you’re local, I highly recommend this for your next February race. With around 200 people, the sweetheart run allows you to feel like you’re running with friends and family but with the benefits of well organized race. I could definitely see myself doing it again…but next time, I’ll be ready for the beast.
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