Run Chicken Run: My Finisher's Medal

Women of Wonder Medal

Run Chicken Run: My Finisher's Medal
| published October 20, 2014 |

By Sarah Michelle Herrin
Thursday Review contributor and running blogger

“Hulks don’t do weak!” – Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk

After the Bainbridge Island 4th of July Fun Run with my partner and cousins, my next choice was chosen with the ambition to be more independent—and on a whim. My partner was out of town for a few days, so I was just pursuing my app for upcoming local races and there it was: the Women of Wonder 5k. It was women only, just a short bus ride away, and best of all, it encouraged superhero costumes. I was beyond ecstatic. This was an art nerd turned newbie runner's dream come true! I get to run a 5k and get my nerd on at the same time?! Score! Like a geek preparing ComicCon, I started researching my costume right away. It had to be someone unique from the other runners, but still someone they would recognize. She needed to be someone that expressed my personality and a woman that I counted among my heroes. It also had to be easy to run in.

After browsing the race's website and seeing everyone in Wonder Women costumes, I knew I had an advantage already: I'm a Marvel, not a DC, and while DC does has some great female characters like Wonder Woman and Catwoman, Marvel definitely has a later cast to choose from. X-23, the clone-daughter of Wolverine, is usually my go-to girl, but running in goth clubwear and claws wasn't going to cut it. Plus, the general public has no idea who she is and I wanted to be recognizable, otherwise, where's the fun? I decided on She-Hulk because although most people don't even know there's a She-Hulk, it's easily acceptable because there's a Hulk in the Avengers movies. (There’s a whole planet of Hulks and She-Hulks, actually.)

Creating a costume is always a challenge for me because I don’t sew. I took a class once and really hated it, so I stick to piece-meal costumes which allows me to create my own version of the character. It makes me feel more in-character when the character is modified to suit me rather than the other way around. Now that I’d chosen my character, I needed to analyze her costume. The highlights of She-Hulk’s costume are fingerless gloves, a sort of leotard in purple and white, long green hair, and of course, green skin. Luckily, one thing superheroes and runners have in common is that they both wear spandex. My first priority was to find an outfit that would be comfortable and practical to run in. It was my first solo 5k and I wanted to do my best at setting a new personal record. I logged onto my favorite supplier, LuluLemon, and found what became my favorite run uniform ever: a white pleated skirt with shorts underneath and a purple tank top with three front pockets.

At first, I was a little shy about running in a shirt, but the shorts underneath made it flash-safe and I felt super cute wearing it. The top looked and felt great and had three pockets that made it practical for carrying my key, cash, and even phone (while walking.) And although it didn’t have the striped look of She-Hulks actual costume, I’m pretty sure it was much more comfortable and less revealing. I decided right away that I wouldn’t worry about the long green hair because my hair is short and my job does not allow me to dye my hair green. At least it’s already black, the original color of She-Hulk when she’s in human form, so that’s good enough for me. Next, I needed some fingerless gloves which gave me an excuse to go to a bike shop and scope out the course.

When my partner got back into town, we decided to test drive some new road bikes around the course and it was absolutely beautiful. The park was huge, full of people, full of trees, and a run/bike path that curved around a sparkling lake. I left with a pair of biking gloves for She-Hulk and renewed excitement for the upcoming race. The last piece of my costume was perhaps the most important. It was the defining factor that would pull the costume together and let people know that I was no ordinary human. I needed something green. Sweat and body paint do not mix, however; green tights were the way to go. I only hoped they would be comfortable to run in. For these, I ordered online and received a pair that fit horrible and felt awful. A second order through another vendor proved much better quality and much more comfortable. Before the race, I put the costume altogether and felt it was perfect. Now, to prepare for the actual race…

A race is like a test—against yourself, against others, however you like to think of it—and like any test, the best way to make sure you’re prepared for a race is to over-prepare. Since I’d already finished a 5k before, I knew I could do it again even though this time would be on my own. That part was important to me, that I’d entered a race without needing someone to agree to run alongside me, and I was ready to prove to myself that I could do it. I kept up my usual training of running (almost) every other day and made sure each run was at least 5k. That way when race day came, I would, without a doubt, be prepared. Race day morning, however, was every bit of the challenge I thought it would be.

I woke up bleary eyed at 6 o’clock, a digit I didn’t ever see if I could help it, and tried unsuccessfully to stomach some breakfast: just a few sips of coffee, water, and half an Odwalla bar. Mornings are never good for me and this one was no different. I was anxious, my nose was running like a faucet (it seriously does that – someone please tell me I’m not the only one), my stomach was in knots, and I was wondering why the hell I was doing this. We had to catch the bus out to the neighborhood where the race took place about 30 minutes away, so we walked the few blocks downtown and found the stop. It was one of those new digital stops that told you when the bus was coming and where it was going.

As it turned out, we’d arrived way too early and had about 20 minutes to wait. I groaned. That was 20 minutes I could have spent trying to finish my breakfast. I was tired and cranky. Time passed slowly as we watched our bus’s arrival time show -5 minutes, then -8 minutes…and finally, -10. I still had to pick up my race packet with my number and time chip and it was going to make us late! We make a quick decision to find a different bus and ran over to another stop going in the same direction. As we waited for the stop, an old man asked a nearby runner if there was a race today. It made me feel a little less cranky to know that yes, I was part of that race, too. Finally, we caught the new bus and we were on our way.

It was both exciting and overwhelming to arrive at the park. There were many more people than I expected, with lots of vendor booths selling protein bars or offering free massages, and there were costumes… Oh, there were costumes. A common goer of comic cons, I was in my element! I was She-Hulk! My little nerd heart was pounding and instantly set about critiquing. Mostly, there were variations on Wonder Woman, like the website advertised from last year, but there was also a female Captain America in full body spandex, a Hit Girl from Kick Ass, and a Batgirl or two. I pinned on my race number, tied on my timing chip, and I was pumped. All the nervousness of the early morning had melted away and all that was left was sweet, sweet adrenaline. After watching the most adorable kids’ dash ever, it was time to crowd the starting line. Some races line you up by age groups and some by finish times, so being a newbie at about 10 minutes/mile, I was in the back and I was okay with that. My biggest goal of this race was to finish and hopefully, as a bonus, set a new personal record. At roughly 10:30am, the announcer sounded the start and we all took off.

As I began jogging and A LOT of women passed me right away, I reminded myself to take it slow and use the first mile as a warm up. I took note of the girls that zoomed past me in rainbow tu-tus and found them walking later as I trotted steadily by. The track was a mixture of pavement, a dirt path that went through the park, and a portion of blocked off street. The 5k-ers only had to make one loop to equal 3 miles while the 10k-ers had to run it twice. It was a beautiful course and the weather was perfect. Throughout the course, there were supportive husbands and dads holding up signs and others cheering on at the safety cones. My partner kept popping up, taking photos and cheering me on, and before I knew it, I was coming up on the last mile. I picked up the pace and went hard. I remembered something I’d read about called “chasing rabbits,” where your goal becomes to pass just the person in front of you, then the next person, and then the next. But for the moment, your only goal is to pass that one person and it becomes more possible. I managed to pass a few rabbits and flew through the finish line minutes under my previous record! I had my own first personal record (which ironically, I’ve since forgotten now that I’m focused on crushing my 10k PR.)

I was so excited that I ran to meet my partner without returning my time chip – don’t forget that. After a bottle of water, a banana, and some celebratory photos in front of the glittery gold “Women of Wonder” backdrop, I remembered the chip and went to collect my finisher’s medal. Not every race gives finishers medals, but when they do, everyone gets one. It was sturdy, not some cheap piece of plastic, and I wore it with pride. We left the festivities early and went to enjoy my victory brunch. It was quite possibly the most delicious breakfast sandwich (with real bacon!) that I’ve ever had!

Coming up, I’ll explain my journey from this 5k to a spontaneous 10k sign-up. Have you ever done a costumed race? I’d love to hear your story over at my blog Show me some hungry chickens!

Related Thursday Review articles:

Run Chicken Run: My No-Mornings Schedule, and My No Meat Diet; Sarah Herrin; Thursday Review; October 15, 2014.

Run Chicken Run: My Strength Training; Sarah Herrin; Thursday Review; October 11, 2014.