« Health & Fitness

Portage Winter Blast Half Marathon and 5K

by Michael Louden

It is that time of year again.  Time to get back to racing after a long three months between races.  I had been waiting for this day for quite a while.  Yes it was cold out yesterday for the Winter Blast, but it was great to be out there with so many other runners willing to brave the cold weather to get back to what they have been waiting a long time for, a race to run.

The race began at 8:00 am in the morning and the temperature was around 10 degrees at race time.  Last year it was two degrees, so it was a little warmer this time around.  I was joined with about 200 runners in the 5K race.  Portage Mayor Pete Strazdas and Kalamazoo Area Runners President Bonnie Sexton counted us down to the start of the race.

We went off without a hitch.  A group of kids led us out and it seems like the kids always get up in front and have this determination they are going to dominate the race by sprinting out of the gate.  They realize about a minute later the race is longer than they think and soon drop back in the pack.  To my surprise I was out in second place with just one guy in front of me, but this day I could tell I was not going to beat him.  This is my first race of the season and of course I am not in top form yet.

It had snowed the night before and the City of Portage did a great job of clearing the roads and trail the best they could.  The roads had some slippery slush on it which made me shorten my stride up to prevent my from slipping and falling.  

After about a half mile I hit the trails and it had a light dusting of snow on it, but it was not slick and I lengthened my stride back to normal.  Many volunteers were out on the course cheering us on and about halfway through we saw some students from Mattawan cheering us on and at this point I got passed by another runner.  I was now sitting in third place and no one else was pretty close to me.

After the trail led us through the woods we ran on the trail near the railroad track which gave us a straight shot by to the street Portage Central High School is located on.  I was now running into the direction of the wind, but the wind was very light so it did not bother me.  

One thing though started to go wrong for me around mile number two.  I had enough layers on me to keep me warm, but the cold air started to seep into my left glove as my hand started to go numb.  To make matters worse, I could not feel my toes.  The rest of my feet were fine, but my toes were numb.  

The two runners in front of me were getting smaller and one runner was starting to gain on me.  As I got off the trail I was back on the slippery, slushy road and I had one uphill to maneuver before I turned into the high school parking lot.  The hill was hard to get up due to the slush and it felt like I was treading the slush and not moving.

I headed to the finish and picked up my speed and crossed the line in third place overall as the fourth place runner almost caught me.  I finished with a time of 22:55 about 30 seconds slower than last year, but 6 places higher.   

It was a well organized race and cannot wait to run it again next year.  Now enough with this cold weather.  It is time to begin the Kalamazoo Area Runners race series in less than three weeks and it will kickoff with the Shamrock 5K at Hackett Catholic Central on Saturday March 22nd.