First off, let me say that I love this film. I mean, love it big. I saw A Christmas Story in 1983 when it hit the theaters, and knew I had just witnessed the birth of a new Christmas classic. Every Christmas season, I watch it. Frequently. In fact, when TBS does their 24 Hours of A Christmas Story event every year, I just leave the TV on. It’s a film you can just walk into and out of, and never miss a beat. I suppose that’s part of what makes it so magical.
Earlier this year, when I heard about the Christmas Story 5K, I knew I had to go run it. The race was in Cleveland OH, however, and I knew that Cleveland in December could be a really cold, cold race. I hadn’t been to Cleveland in over a decade (that was a bowling team trip to watch the Cleveland Indians play), but much like Raphie and his Red Ryder BB gun, though, I knew I had to chase after this race.
I bundled up Friday morning, and pointed the Lil’ Red Rubicon toward Cleveland. It was a facinating drive, with freezing fog surrounding me all the way across Illinois. By the time I stopped for gas near the Indiana state line, I had a good bit of ice on the Jeep’s windows and front. I get a kick out of that ice buildup, because it’s so much different than ice you see just collecting of surfaces. It’s almost like the ice is having a “bad hair day”!
When I got to the Renaissance Hotel after nine hours of driving, I dropped the Jeep off with the valet service, and got chceked in. The Renaissance is a beautiful hotel, and has been the site of lodging for 200 years. It didn’t exactly look like an old building, and was more than enough hotel for my needs.
Since I’d elected to lodge in the host hotel, I just wandered downstairs to packet pickup, making this one of the easiest packet pickups all year. And at 4pm on a Friday, it wasn’t very busy at all. However, if the lines got long, the packet pickup folks planned ahead, and had a big screen setup, playing … A Christmas Story! 🙂
I moseyed back up to the room to lay out my running duds for Saturday, and realized that the hotel was showing A Christmas Story on the in-hotel channel… on an endless loop. It’d stay this way until I checked out on Sunday morning. Way cool.
Saturday morning came, and with the late start of the race — a luxious 9am! — I decided to try out the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Normally, I’m a English-muffin-with-peanut-butter-and-honey guy on race morning, but there were two-and-a-half hours until race time, so I figured I could go big. The spread was outstanding, and I think I may just have to add smoked salmon to my race morning nutritional plan!
I got dolled up in my racing wear, and made my way to the start line, which was about two blocks away. It was chilly, but not really cold, so I was warm enough, despite the moisture in the air. And again, on a big screen at the start line, the race folks had A Christmas Story blaring down the city streets. I really think you’d have to love the film to be surrounded by it so much… and I totally do!
There were all kind of Ralphies, Randys, leg lamps, fra-gi-lay boxes, bandits and every other character from the film you could think of. I didn’t get dressed up, although I wasn’t alone. There were about 4000 runners all lined up, awaiting the starting blast, about half in some kind of costume. Next time I do a themed race, I’ve gotta do some costuming!
We got started on time, and the mass of humanity began chugging through the start line, and onto the course. Those first few minutes on-course are generally the most concerning for me. There are so many people crammed into such a small space, and many of them are jockeying for position. Faster folks for some reason will place themselves at the back of the pack, and try to zoom through little holes in the compressed crowd to move forward. I can’t imagine what their driving must be like!
The first part of the course was atop the Hope Memorial Bridge that eventually crossed the Cuyahoga River. This was a long bridge, with giant pairs of sculpted art deco statues on either end, called the “Guardians of Traffic”. They are mammoth, and looked down on the bobbing throng as we moved along. I love deco stuff, and really appreciated the chance to see those at slow speed.
After exiting the bridge, we crossed under I-90, paralleling it for a while. One thing that stood out to me about this stretch of the race was all the churches representing so many denominations. It seemed like every block had yet another church, each with their own personality. This is the kind of race environment I love, stretching through old neighborhoods with so much to look at. It keeps my brain occupied while I’m running and makes the race go by faster.
Eventually, we turned into Tremont, the neighborhood in which Ralphie’s house sits. It occurred to me that all these little houses, one by one, had so much character, each similar to the one next to it, and yet, completely different. Visually, that was a very cool neighborhood through which to run. And it was great to see folks in the neighborhood cheering us on.
I got to the finish line — right at the the A Christmas Story House and Museum, collected my major award, and started working through the post race line. As you would expect, they were serving Ovaltine, both warm and cold. At the Renaissance, I had seen race helpers carrying cases of Ovaltine for this, and it was sure tasty. I noticed that they had pre-prepared bags of Ovaltine, making it simpler to distribute so much Ovaltine to so many folks. And in case you’re interested, I really preferred the cold Ovaltine, even on a cold morning.
After making my way through the snack line, I found the line for the museum. With each race entry, you got a free entry into the house and museum. The line stretched well over two blocks, and I waited in it for at least an hour. The pot of gold at the end was worth it, though…
I was standing on Ralphie’s front porch, and eventually wound my way through the house!
I was struck by just how small the house was, as compared to how it was represented in the film. It just seemed like a huge house on the big screen! I walked though the front room, the kids’ bedroom, the infamous bathroom and the kitchen, taking photos, and enjoying being on the “set” of one of my favorite films.
And when I exited, the line to get in still stretched over two blocks. Wow.
I walked across the street, and strolled through the museum. It was interesting, with lots of goodies from the film. And like any good museum, it dumps you into the gift shop, which here, meant walking next door to yet another house. The sales floor was huge, with loads of stuff from A Christmas Story, Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I had a great time in there, and found a few things that had to come home with me.
This was my last destination race for 2015, and probably the one I enjoyed the most. I didn’t set a PR, and I didn’t accomplish any big feat, but I got to enjoy immersing myself in one of my favorite films, and there’s certainly nothing bad about that!
This race benefitted A Christmas Story House Foundation.