2nd Annual 5k Stadium Challenge
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 8pm
Last Saturday, I participated in a truly unique 5k event. At night under the lights, I ran around the stadium, up the ramps, down the ramps, and on the football field (technically alongside the field) during the Stadium Challenge at EverBank Field….in a torrential downpour. It couldn’t have been more incredible.
Here’s a fun video that was created last year to promote the race. All the mascots featured are actual mascots from Jacksonville sports teams like Jackson Deville (Jaguars) and The Dolphin (Jacksonville University).
Stadium runs seem to be the next “mud run” of races. I’ve seen them pop up all over the nation and was thrilled when it was announced Jacksonville would be hosting their very own last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the balls to run the race last year. This year, I grew a pair.
It was unusual to prepare for an evening race. Usually I just wake up, get ready, and go. Our start time was at 8 pm which meant 2-3 meals before we event began! I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare.
Right when we were leaving the house, it started to rain..
…and it was pretty gloomy until we arrived at the stadium. Parking was super easy since the only other event in the sports complex was a Jacksonville Suns baseball game. We parked really close in Lot D which is right across from WJCT NPR-TV.
Quick photo before we did a short warm up. I only ran about 1/3 of a mile for a warm up which was a huge fail on my part. With the weather looming, I just wasn’t mentally focused on warming up. I typically do about a mile to warm up.
When we arrived, the first thing we needed to do was get the chip for our shoe. It was a little strange though. We received a race number in our packet, but when we went to get our chip, we actually got a NEW race number. I thought maybe it was to give us a race number with the chip embedded on the back.. but we also got a chip for our shoe. So I’m not really sure what was going on here. Regardless, it basically took no time to do, so it didn’t really bother me any.
I recognized several of the Box Office ladies I used to work with when I worked with SMG at the arena. (Though it’s been over a year since, so I was a complete doof and called most of them by the wrong name! [slaps head] I try! Really, I do!)
We started gathering by the starting line. Thats when I noticed how much darker the sky had gotten since we arrived to the South East of us. Oh boy. Thats when I knew this race was gunna be a wet one!
Finally we were off. We ran along the outside of the east side of the stadium.
Once we were finally close to the turn to run along the North side of the stadium, I saw Becky and Tom White come out a tunnel running the opposite direction! I see them almost EVER race I do. (They’re either running the race or photographing it!) I actually managed to meet up with them before the 2012 Gate River Run 15k and snap a picture which you can see here.
Once we got to the North side of the stadium, we headed towards the practice fields. I was cursing myself at this point because my legs started to burn. This is directly related to the fact that I didn’t warm up enough. Typically I deal with this during warm up, but once I get close to a mile in, my legs start feeling better. I KNOW if I’d warmed up right, I could have cut several minutes off my finishing time.
I trudged on until a few moments later, the sky dropped. This wasn’t just a regular rain shower, it wasn’t pouring, it was a torrential downpour. The kind where you’re literally dripping with water. I frequently had to rub water out of my eyes. It seemed as though most people hated the fact it was raining. As soon as it started pouring, I did see a lot of people stop and walk out of frustration. I personally LOVED it. My attitude immediately improved.
We entered the practice fields and ran in an S shape through the complex. Down one side…
..up the middle between the two fields (you can see people running up the middle in the pic above)…and down the other side.
We ran down along the West side of the stadium and finally entered our first ramp. There are four sets of ramps in the stadium, so we ran up one, down one, up one, and down one to finish.
It was pretty neat to run the ramps because there were really nice views of the city.
Here’s a neat pic I got of the practice fields. The ramps honestly weren’t THAT bad. I saw a ton of people stop and walk. I pushed myself to run up the ramps and then let myself walk the flat part between the ramps.. essentially just a few steps between them. The “Green Monster” (aka the Hart Bridge) during the Gate River Run is 15,000 times worse!!!
Finally we made it all the way up the ramps to the top. This part was fun because it was such a relief to run on flat ground. My legs felt good here. I sprinted across the concourses. Some parts were a bit slippery so I had to slow down a bit. There were employees stationed throughout the course ready to warn us to be careful of slips. Some were squeegeeing water out of the way. In general, the stadium did a great job staffing the event.
Finally it was time to go down a set of ramps.
I know this is a horribly blurry picture, but some may recognize this are with the low overhang inside the stadium. I *think* this is the area on the North endzone.
Then we went up the other set of ramps.
..and down the last set of ramps. You could see the Matthews and Hart bridge on this side of the stadium.
We ran through some of the back hallways of the stadium until we popped out on to the field!
We ran around the entire field to the opposite side to the South end zone…
and into a tunnel below the Budzone. This tunnel was our entry to the finish line! I had scoped this part out before the race, so I knew when I hit the field, it was time to pick up the speed!
Here’s the finish. (This and the picture before were actually taken before the race, not after, which is why it’s still bright out!)
This race was a LOT of fun and I can definitely see me running this again and again. I have to admit that though it down poured, that actually made the race MORE fun and LESS hot.