Latest reviews by Brad
The Challenge Aging 5K is part of the Challenge Charities race series, with all races at Como Lake in St. Paul.
Typically speaking, Challenge Charities races are smaller races, with anywhere between 20 participants to a few hundred at the largest races. Because the race is part of a series, and each race is run on the same course, there are a lot of regulars that you'll see at nearly every race. Everyone is extremely friendly, especially Gary Westlund, the race director. It's a must to connect and have a friendly chat with Gary if you ever to a Challenge Charities race.
There is no expo for Challenge Charities races, as check-in is always done the morning of the race. Parking is super easy, maybe the best of any race that I've ever attended, although the smaller size of the race could have something to do with it. The race starts and ends near the Black Bear Crossings Cafe, with two medium sized parking lots within walking distance. Check-in is quick and painless for pre-registered racers, and equally as easy for race-day signups.
The race swag consists of a cotton T-shirt with the race logo on it (the gray background with red and yellow lettering). Lots of racers choose to wear their shirt for the race itself.
This race, particularly because it caters to runners of all ages, is extremely walker friendly - as are all Charities Challenge races. The participants range from near-elite 5K runners all the way to first time 5K walkers, with finishing times coming in between 17 minutes and an hour plus. Runners and walkers of all abilities are always made welcome by Gary and the rest of the race staff.
The race starts at a nondescript point just north of the Black Bear Crossings Cafe. Gary and the other race staff know where this point is, but I haven't been able to figure it out. Perhaps there is a marker or something. The race is not chip timed, so if you're concerned with your finishing time, start near the front. Gary will give a pep-talk and countdown, and we're off!
The race is nearly two full laps running clockwise around beautiful Como Lake. It's as flat as can be, a perfect race for a 5K PR. You never stray off the path around the lake, so it's impossible to get lost. After completing one lap, you'll run by Gary and other race staff members at the finish line who will be furiously cheering you on, and snapping pictures of you. There is an aid station at this point, so grab some water or a cookie if you need it, then continue on for your second and final lap. Como Lake really is a nice lake to run or walk around, so while typically I don't enjoy races that are multiple laps of the same course, in this case I don't mind.
After the second lap, you'll come up on the finish line, where Gary will be waiting for you with his Canon, snapping pictures of you as you cross the finish line. Gary always picks the best pictures of you and posts them on the Facebook page after the race, labeled "Miles of Smiles."
After the race, grab some water, juice, cookies and bananas and relax while chatting with other friendly runners. The typical person who runs a Charities Challenge race is someone that you'll enjoy talking to; everyone is very friendly. It's a nice small-race feel, and everyone is pulling for one-another.
It's hard to compare this to some of the bigger races, it really is apples and oranges. Looking for a big race with elite runners, big time race fees, tons of spectators, and fancy swag? This isn't that race. If you are, however, looking for a fun and memorable race with fun and memorable people in a completely stress-free environment, then absolutely give this race a try!
This was the first Challenge Charities race I had ever run, but my experience has been the same nearly each time. For a more in-depth review of a Challenge Charities 5K, check out this review: http://www.bibrave.com/races/challenge-aging-5k/1745
This is a small race, with a lot of friendly people. If you're looking for an extremely competitive race with lots of fast 5K runners, this isn't that race - it's a race for anyone and everyone, including those with arthritis, to get out there and have fun!
It's two laps around beautiful Como Lake, one of the rare races that I don't mind having to run laps for, instead of a point-to-point or single loop.
What makes this race fun is the race organizers and the other racers. Gary and his staff are incredibly friendly, and make this an easy and relaxing morning. It's almost as if you're just going for a competitive stroll around Como Lake with some new friends.
So, don't expect world-class speed runners in the field for this small race, but expect a lot of heart and a lot of fun!