On Saturday, April 14, I ran the 34th Annual Blue Bell Fun Run in Brenham, TX. This race is sponsored by Blue Bell ice cream, which is headquartered in Brenham, TX, about 90 miles east of Austin, TX. This event included a 5K, 10K and 10K relay event, as well as a 1 mile run for kids. I did the 10K run, which was scheduled to start at 8:30am and cost $20. The race start and finish was held at Brenham high school. This was a very family friendly event and I noticed a lot of kids and parents participating in the events.
Packet pickup was handled on site prior to the race inside Brenham high school. Race day registration was available. Packet pickup was very well organized, and despite lots of people was handled very efficiently and took just a few minutes. Volunteers did a great job.
Ample parking was available at and around the high school, where the event was hosted. Parking attendants were present and once a lot was filled, cars were directed to the next lot. I got there just before the high school lot filled, so I got a great spot. However, getting out of the parking lot after the race was a SLOW and arduous process. Too many cars from too many different places all trying to exit on small roads, so it took about 30 minutes for me to get out.
Because Brenham is about 90 minutes outside of Austin, I had to get up pretty early for this race (5:15am) and was out the door at 5:45am. This gave me plenty of time once I got to Brenham to park, pickup my packet, use the indoor, high school bathrooms (a nice perk!), do a warm-up jog of 1.3 miles and stretch. It was another warm, humid morning, high 60s and 90% humidity, so I was sweaty early on. Although the race was supposed to start at 8:30am, it got off a little late. The kid's 1 mile and 10K relay start were scheduled before the regular 10K start, and because the kid's run took longer than expected, everything was shifted slightly and we started a few minutes late. Signs with per mile pacing (sub 7 minute, 8 minute, 9 minute etc) hastily went up, and participants were encouraged to file in accordingly.
This course is very pretty and mostly flat, with just a couple of small, rolling hills. The roads were completely closed to traffic and we left the high school, running on downtown streets and quickly approached quiet, neighborhood roads with pretty houses and big green lawns lining either side of the street. The 10K has an extended loop that turns back and meets up with the 5K route at about 5 miles. The extended loop takes runners on some back roads with small farms and grazing animals on either side. It was picturesque. The course ends with a pretty long uphill (about half mile), followed by a quick downhill for the last 0.2 that brings runners back to the high school and finish line. I did have one complaint regarding the course; the 5K and 10K merge with about 1.2 miles to the finish. Because the 5K starts after the 10K, most of the 5Kers that I merged with were moving at a much slower pace than the 10Kers and a lot were walkers. They took up the entire road, forcing 10Kers to literally weave around them to keep moving forward. Although the road was wide enough to split 10K and 5K with cones, the race directors did not attempt to do this and I think that it would have improved the experience for everyone involved.
The atmosphere after the race was very festive! HEB was a sponsor and provided sliced oranges (which were delicious), granola bars and bananas. Blue Bell was the major sponsor and had a big ice cream truck with boxes and boxes of ice cream sandwiches and other frozen treats on a stick. I was expecting to have to skip the ice cream (as I am vegan) but was delighted to find a strawberry fruit bar with no animal products in it. The frozen snacks were especially delicious on such a hot day. The high school remained open for people to use clean, indoor bathrooms, and the field house was opened up for people to shower. That was pretty neat!
The Race Stuff
Participants received a technical t-shirt in the size of their choice. This was the first year that the race switched from cotton t-shirts to technical shirts, even though the race is only $20 to register! In addition to the shirt, race bags included lots of coupons (related almost exclusively to businesses in and around Brenham) and a packet of TX wildflower seeds, perfect for spring!
As I mentioned, I had to get up quite early to drive to this race, 3 hours before the race start. Because my legs were pretty sore, I wore my newly purchased compression socks (will discuss in upcoming post) the evening before and on my drive to Brenham. They definitely helped with tight calves. This was another host, humid race and my time was an uninspiring 56:38. I definitely did not run my best and even had to take a walk/stretch break around mile 3. I think my poor performance was a combination of weather (what happened to spring, TX?), hamstring soreness and problems, and running much later than I am accustomed to. I usually start my run within 30 minutes of getting up in the morning, which mean no later than 6:30am. The three hour gap between my alarm going off and the race starting was definitely not something my body was used to and this time period was long enough for me to start getting sleepy and lethargic again. In fact, on my drive back to Austin I felt completely exhausted, which is not good when one is driving alone!
All in all, I enjoyed the Blue Bell Fun Run, although I wasn't impressed by my own performance. It was a fun event, well organized, inexpensive, geared towards family and is a pleasant course. That being said, I do not expect to do it again, because the drive is quite long coming from Austin. In fact, there were two other events that same weekend in Austin (Longhorn Run on the same day and Austin 10/20 on the following day), which might be better options for me next year. That being said, $20 for a 10K and technical shirt is a good deal that should not be ignored!