This past Saturday I participated in my first ever nighttime race, the Way of Lights Run at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL. This is my review of the race.
I had been looking for a race in January when I got my Big River newsletter and saw this one. The only thing I found unfortunate about it was that if you wanted to get a shirt (you had to pay extra to get a shirt, which looked really nice) you had to register and submit your order by a certain date, and my email came about four days past that date. So that was a bummer. I did email asking if there would be extra shirts available at the race, and they said there would be but once I got there, it was made pretty clear that they weren’t expecting to have many extras. So that is one thing that I would change. Either extend the due date of the shirt order, advertise your race a little better, or make sure there are extras for participants to purchase on site.
Instead of having any early pick up dates, you picked everything up on site. My advice, get there EARLY. I was running behind and arrived about 30 minutes prior to the run start, and I had trouble finding parking. Also, even though it’s all confined within the Shrine facility, where to go to park wasn’t very clearly labeled and they had TONS of parking spots coned off for some reason. Once I finally found a spot, I was able to get in and out for packet pick up fairly easily, although there was some congestion in the building, since no one really wanted to stand around for forever in the cold waiting for the race start. There were inside, real bathrooms available, and I didn’t have to wait in line.
Race & Course
They made it pretty clear that they didn’t want people crowding around the start/finish area until they called everyone to the start line, probably because there was still vehicle traffic moving through the area, and they just wanted everyone to be safe.
The race started right on time, and was a double loop course through-out the Shrine park. One thing I thought was a little misleading was the whole running under the lights thing. Our Lady of the Snows puts on a light display every year, and it’s supposed to be one of the best around. Now, we did run through some displays and some tunnels of lights, but there were plenty of time when it was pretty dark out and they also had to bring in generator lights. Another thing was, while there were course volunteers, there were a few times I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way or not. And some volunteers were very friendly while other seemed more bored and weren’t even pay attention, but texting on their phones with their backs to the course. There was one water stop about halfway through, which was nice. One thing that was a little bothersome to me is that the lead vehicle is a four-wheeler, and since it’s a double loop, the race leaders will pass you at some point on the course. Now, I am not concerned with the four-wheeler myself, but it should be announced at the beginning and made clear that you need to move to one side or the other to allow it passage, as there seemed to be a few people who didn’t quite know what to do when it approached.
The course itself is really nice. It’s challenging with a few steep-ish hills. And even though it’s a double loop, one runs slightly longer than the other and takes a slightly different route. And since it is winter and there was some snow, there is always a chance for ice even though I didn’t see any on the course, there was some on the sidewalks.
Finish & Post Race
The finish was in the exact same place as the start, which another note about the course is even though it’s a double loop type course, you don’t run through the finish/start area at all until the end. Post race, there were supposed to be some refreshments like chocolate milk but the only time I saw that was at the beginning and that table was packing up by the time I was finished. They had some oranges and Gatorade, and a little post-race festival thing, but I didn’t stick around for that. I grabbed a little cup of Gatorade and hit the road.
Overall, I think there are some things that could definitely improve on this race. But I think I would still mark it down on my calendar for next year as well, because the course is fun and challenging and when you do run through the lights it is nice. Plus, it’s all contained within the Shrine, so you never really have to deal with outside traffic or anything like that. A few notes:
- Plan ahead to get there with plenty of time to find parking. Also-exiting can be tricky as well. Again, the whole limited signage thing.
- Start looking for this race in November if you want to get a shirt. The race swag was an ear warmer headband type thing, which is nice, but I would have personally preferred a shirt.
- Study the course map to make sure of the direction you are supposed to be headed, since it can get a little confusing.
- Practice good race etiquette, such as staying to one side of the course and keeping aware of your surrounding and being respectful of other runners and walkers.