Saturday June 11 I ran the Bellin 10K race in Green bay, Wisconsin. This was the 35th running of the Bellin and probably about the 5th time I have participated. The Bellin 10K race is named after the Bellin Hospital/Health System and benefits the Bellin College of Nursing. In recent years it has grown to be one of the largest 10K races in the United States and features a prestigious field of elite runners and past champions.
Green Bay – Road Racing Mecca
Green Bay is known for the Green Bay Packers, the NFLs premiere franchise and only community owned team (disclosure: I am a stock holder). Green Bay is also known widely in the running community for the Cellcom Marathon (see my 2011 race recap). Green Bay is my hometown and about 2 hours east of where I live now. Events in Green Bay allow me to spend time with my extended family and reconnect with life long friends. I raced Saturday with other runners I have known since grade school.
The Bellin, like the marathon, is mostly run on tree lined residential streets and receives fantastic community support. I like, the more than 18,500 2011 registrants, enjoy the easy access to the race start/finish area, strong crowd support, and smooth race day logistics.
Registration and Packet Pick-up
Friday night packet pick-up is co-located with the athlete’s village, kids race, and expo in Astor Park. This was the first year I picked up my own packet which I usually have deferred to my brother-in-law. We arrived just before closing (8 p.m. which seems a little early), but after the kids race had concluded. We were able to park less than a block away and walk right to our alphabet letter. Based on the size of the t-shirt pile it looked as if most of the other racers had already come and gone.
A Family Tradition
The Bellin is a tradition for many families. In addition to me, my wife, sister, and brother-in-law where all running. We were also joined by the next generation. My niece, age 8, had been participating in a school based running program for the last two months and was prepared to run her first 10K Saturday morning. While we raced my parents cheered for all the racers with my kids and my nephew.
A Real Kids Race
The Bellin 10K organization facilitates a school based kids running program. Volunteer coaches, like my sister, lead three days of running a week for grade school kids. Her group of 15 kids built their strength and endurance for the Bellin. Their longest training run was 4.5 miles and all of the kids in her group went on to finish the Bellin.
Grade school kids post some incredible times. The top finisher in the 1 to 9 year old group was 44:07! The top 10 to 12 year old make ran a 38:13! He was 134th overall.
In addition to running great times, the kids add amazing energy to the race. They zip across the road to run through sprinklers, high five with spectators, and receive loud cheers from the fans.
We car pooled to the start area with my sister, her husband, and my niece. They were meeting their running group at 7 a.m. so we arrived an hour before the start. This is a little earlier than I would normally arrive so I had extra time for some light jogging and several visits to the port-a-potty.
As we walked to the start area we were followed by a woman being pulled by an obese golden retriever. The dog had such horrible breath we had to run half a block to be well in front of her and the stink dog.
We scoped out the start corrals – seven in all. Corral assignments are based on runner self selection based on anticipated per mile time. Corral 1 is for <8 minute miles. Corral 2 is for <9 minute miles. Strollers and walkers in the back corral.
Plenty of seats! I was lucky that I did not have to wait in line for a port-a-potty x 3. I heard a volunteer say their were 500 port-a-potties in the start area which worked out in my favor.
I had one brush with fame while waiting to start. I saw Sarah Reinertsen, from the Amazing Race, warming up and stretching in the elite and VIP area. Fans of the show will recall she is an amputee that competes in triathlons. I either didn’t see or didn’t recognize any of the other VIP athletes.
I was in my corral by about 7:45 and worked my way forward to be about 1/3 of the way to the front. The corral 1 is a real mix of ages, experiences, and aspirations. Lots of worried moms whispered last minute instructions over the fence to their young children that were running solo while veteran runners reconnected with old friends.
The wheelchair racers start at 7:53. Since the start has a gentle uphill, standing on my tip-toes I can see them push away in the distance. Next the national anthem – always a saxophone soloist – and then the introduction of the elite runners.
The race starts and finishes on Webster Avenue which is divided by boulevards. The first two blocks are run only in the southbound lanes making the start fairly congested. After seperating from the shared road with the finish runners spread across all four lanes of traffic and most runners merge to the northbound lanes running south.
The first two miles are run on Webster Avenue which gently climbs. This was the first year I didn’t see a runner take a header on a boulevard curb. This could be a function of the corral starts and me being further up in corral one.
One of my goals at the start was to run my own race and not get swept up in the excitement and go out to fast. At the same time I couldn’t dilly dally and go to slow because there isn’t enough distance to make up for a slow start in a 10K. After a bit of weaving for the first half mile I found a good line and settled into a groove.
Mile 1 6:52
Mile 2 6:47
Mile 3 6:37
Mile 4 6:58
Mile 5 7:07
Mile 6 6:59
After steadily climbing for the first two miles, mile 3 is almost all down hill. The route turns east on to Green Avenue and descends quickly to a fast flat section that leads up to the turn back north. Green Avenue has lots of crowd support. On the downhill I was passed by a lot of runners. Some that I caught on the flats and some that I never saw again.
Mile 4 and 5 – ughhh. For me mile 4 is always the hardest mile. This year we turned into the wind at the start of mile 4. If it is sunny this is the mile that has the least shade and most of the mile is gradually uphill. These miles also features a gentle S curve and 5 ninety degree turns.
Mile 6 also has several turns and climbs to the same elevation as the start area. Specatator support really ramps up as fans can watch mile 1 walk a block and watch mile two. Most of mile 6 is run north on tree lined Clay Street. This street is fairly narrow and I imagine it might become problematic to keep Clay Street in the route if the field continues to increase.
The final 0.2 features a left turn followed one block later by a right turn to the finish line. Going around the final turn the runner on the inside of the corner drifted out from the corner, kicked me in the shin, and then gave me a mean look as if I was to blame for her not holding her position. I momentarily thought about checking her into the fence, but then thought better of it.
The Bellin Run is one of the events for myTEAM Triumph, a unique organization that partners adults with disabilities with runners. The running “angels” push the team captain in a custom stroller. The myTEAM Triumph athletes started with corral one so I was able to see and cheer for many of the teams. The team captains received great support from the crowd. One of the team captains, Jenny Crain, was a past Bellin winner and a top American runner in the New York City Marathon. Jenny was hit by a car while running several years ago and suffered a devastating brain injury. Jenny and her team angel Elva Dryer were near me the entire race. It was great to hear the crowd yell hello to Jenny and support Elva.
Clearing the Finish Area
The Bellin features a long walk of several blocks to the finish area. During the walk back to Astor Park runners are offered bottled water, a race medal, and snack bag. At the Astor Park athletes village additional water and gatorade is available.
I was able to find a spot on the fence to cheer the thousands of runners and lucky enough to see my wife, several good friends and my niece run by.
A Great Day to PR
With cool temps and cloudy skies it was a great day to PR. My time was a new PR. My wife also ran a PR. My niece was the champion of all. In her first 10K she ran without stopping and finished in just over 1:07! A new PR!