Yesterday I participated in the Santa Claus Hustle at Soldier Field. Chicago was the first stop on this month-long fundraising event. Other Hustles will be held in Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas.
This was a fun event with nearly 8,000 participants, many wearing the Santa hats and beards provided to all entrants, running, strolling and walking along Chicago’s Lakefront and feasting at the “aid” stations that provided cookies and candies.
The most exciting part of the race for me was getting there. I had planned to drive down with my coach, but she had to cancel, so I decided to take the Red Line CTA train as the Roosevelt stop is only a mile from Soldier Field.
I boarded the train at Howard and took a seat in the nearly empty car. As the train departed, a fortyish man, wearing a tattered sweatshirt, baggy jeans with a huge hole just below his butt, and greasy running shoes with no laces, staggered into the car. There were plenty of available seats, but he opted to stand in the aisle. The forward lurch of the train synchronized with his staggers and he maintained a more-or-less upright position.
There are certain rules to follow when riding the CTA: Don’t flash a wad of bills; Don’t eat smelly food; don’t get sucked into playing a shell game with some dude who wanders through your car; and NEVER EVER talk back to obnoxious drunks, especially if they smell like vomit.
Mr. Stagger parked himself in the aisle in front of my row, with his back to me. I turned on my iPod and looked intently out the window, hoping he would move.
After the Jarvis stop, he started to rant. I assumed he still had his back turned to me, so I casually turned in his direction to see who or what had set him off. My assumption was inaccurate and caused me to violate one of the most important rules for riding the CTA: “Never make eye contact.”
He was ranting at me to “not touch his motherfucking stuff.” It didn’t appear to me that he had anything I could have touched, but I gave him my most neutral glance and slowly rotated back to my study of the Chicago landscape.
I waited for the train to reach Loyola, where I hoped he would be swept down the aisle by the influx of fresh passengers. But everyone who entered the car took one look at him and decided to try another car.
Escaping to another car didn’t seem very manly, and I’m an Ironman so I have standards to uphold. But he really smelled bad, so when the train pulled into Bryn Mawr, I bolted for the exit, accelerating into sprint mode – even though I hadn’t properly warmed up – and raced to the front car, which was nearly empty and drunk-free.
Soon that car was filled with other runners on their way to the race, all dressed in their Santa hats. I had left my hat and beard at home, as I’m not really a hat person. Or a beard person.
This time I followed my coach’s instructions, which were basically to not go out too fast, which she patiently explained to me, didn’t mean go out slow, like I did in the last race.
I finished the race in 20:59, which would be a great time for me for a 5K, but I’m afraid that Santa took a shortcut when he set up the course and it probably was more like a 4.7 K instead of a 5K. But who am I to question Santa?
I beat all the guys dressed as reindeer (they were not as fast as those ringers who were dressed as turkeys in last week’s turkey trot) and finished 3rd in my age-group out of 31 Santas.
|Clarissa Heather B. (not the coach) Len Nikki Mary|