Vicki Soto 5K Race Recap

This one is a long time coming.  I ran this race over a month ago.  Why haven’t I written about it?

Honestly, I am not sure.  I guess it was a pretty emotional day and I hadn’t really thought I could get it all out in words, to do it justice.  But now looking back on my year of running (one more race to go), I don’t want to leave it out.  So here we go.

It was a chilly November morning, but beautiful and sunny as my girlfriend and I drove down towards the Long Island Sound town where Vicki Soto hailed from.  She was the 27 year old first grade teacher who was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook a year ago.

It’s all still very real here, that day.  As we approach the anniversary even more so, but it’s never far from us here.  We have friends who lost here, and the tributes have been all year long.  The kids go to school in my town.  Sandy Hook is never far from us.  It was not even a question that I would run this race, and my girlfriend agreed.

We had gone the day before to packet pick up because there were so many registered.  The bibs and the shirts all had the Flamingo logo emblazoned on them; they were Vicki’s favorite.  I bought a hoodie there as well:

sotorace1

We arrived early and walked around the race area.  It was large; they were expecting over 2,000 people.  We tried to take it all in….the magnitude of it.  The spirit of it.  There was something palpable about the people who were there volunteering….a positive edge that I hadn’t expected.  This wasn’t a memorial race.  It became clear this was a celebration.

soto2

My friend and I bought some bracelets to run with…they are a fundraiser of course, but they also give me a sense of having that spirit with me.  I have Chase Kowalski bracelets and a Sandy Hook bracelet that I’ve often run with that give me that same sense of “I’m running for a purpose” feeling.

The parking lot where we assembled filled up.  Pretty soon you had a sense of how immense this race was going to be; it was nearly claustrophobic.  We ended up going to walk early to the starting line because of the crowd; it was too close.  On the way we saw people we knew.  Like I said, Sandy Hook is very close.  There were at least ten people I knew running the race that day.

All along the route, there were these little plastic flamingoes.  Over three hundred, apparently.  That’s roughly one hundred per mile, so you can imagine, they were everywhere, lining the race route.

flamgingo

As we approached the start line, we saw that two fire trucks had been placed just beyond with an American flag draped between.  It was such a beautiful sight, and gave you a sense of the gratitude that we all felt at being a part of this beautiful event.  We kept saying it over and over:  there’s a spirit here.

sotoflag

Finally it was start time.  There was a moment of silence and bells were tolled.  Someone sung Amazing Grace and we all stood, silently crying.  It was just a hauntingly beautiful moment.  Vicki’s family members spoke to us all and then it was time.  Finally we were off.

sotoflamingostart

We passed this life size flamingo made of balloons as we started.  It was a big crowd, so it was slow going at first, but we weren’t here for time….we were here for Vicki.

sotocrowd

That’s a lotta people.

The morning had warmed up considerably over the hour that we’d waited for the race to begin, so I got warm quickly in that bright sun.  Even though I wasn’t here for time, I still wanted to do well.  I started off at a moderate pace, immediately lost my friend in the crowd (who, despite running for less time than me, is faster….she’s better about being able to push herself than I am) and set out to enjoy the race.

There were cheerleaders from the local high schools placed every half mile or so.  There were families in the neighborhoods all out cheering.  There were people giving away candy (it was three days after Halloween).  There were signs and lawn art all out, honoring Vicki.  It was really something.  I tried to just run and savor that amazing feeling of being a part of this event.

I skipped the water stop and kept going.  My pace was good, I knew I’d finish one of my better times, because the course was mostly flat.  I saw a few people I knew pass me, but for the most part I stayed with the same group the whole time.  I felt good the whole time, right up until the last half mile.

There was a hill.  A big one.  It was actually the highway overpass; we’d gone up it on the way out so I knew we’d hit it on the way back.  It was about mile 2.5.  Because I’m not a pusher like my friend, I walked it, wanting to finish strong.  Strong for Vicki.

And I did.  I ran the rest of the race feeling good, and wasn’t surprised when I finished in the low 36 time frame, one of my best times this year.  My friend had finished three minutes before me (one of these days I’ll catch her!) and so we headed back to the parking lot where the post race food was set up.

It was actually so crowded by that point that I just opted for water even though there was a ton of great, donated, catered food.  I wasn’t interested in waiting ten minutes for it, because I’m often not hungry at all after a race.  I mostly just want to drink water.  We said Hi to a few people, snapped this post race photo and went to the bar next door to share a celebratory glass of wine (what, you don’t drink at 10am after having run 3.1 miles? ).

racefinishsoto

We talked a bit about the race together, raised our glasses with the few other boozy souls who had joined us before heading home.  It had been a truly lovely race….beautiful weather, great people, well organized.  But again, what struck us was just the spirit that pervaded the whole day.  From the volunteers to the logo to the flamingos everywhere…you just felt that something good had happened there.  It wasn’t sadness that brought us there, even though we all wished the event that brought us all there had never happened, but it wasn’t the death we all thought of that day.  It was the life.

As her shirts say:  Live, Laugh, Love.  And we did.

PS:  When I got home, I discovered my time, 36:02 was EXACTLY to the second the same time I ran the Sandy Hook Run for the Families 5K last March.  The angels were clearly with me on both occasions.

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5 responses to “Vicki Soto 5K Race Recap”

  1. elxankat says :

    Love this one :) Probably one of my favorite of your recaps….

    xoxo Your Boozy Friend 🙂

  2. kwik tek dry pak waterproof duffel bag says :

    Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m going to start my own blog in the near future
    but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your desiogn and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for
    something completely unique. P.S Sorry foor getting
    off-topic but I had to ask!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. My Year In Running | Mostly Forward - December 13, 2013
  2. Vicki Soto 5K Race Recap | Mostly Forward - November 2, 2014

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