Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Race With 2000 Stories - The Biggest Loser RunWalk Crown Point Half Marathon 2015

It seems like forever since our first race. Ten years ago this June, we finished our first race at the Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. Finishing a marathon was on Ron's bucket list along with having a meal in all 50 states. Susan came along because she didn't want to get left behind. That's our story. That's how we got started.

The Biggest Loser RunWalk came to Crown Point, Indiana for the first time this year. This is one of the 14 Premier Destination races that offer a 5K and Half Marathon distance. Add this to the 17 Off-Road Challenges and The Biggest Loser RunWalk has more events than just about any other national series in just three short years since Dan and Jackie started in 2012.

Race weekend started Saturday morning at the Franciscan Home Care Services building at the Crown Point Fairgrounds. Like every TBL race we've attended, parking was plentiful and access to the expo was easy. This was probably the biggest expo we've seen in the series. The fact that Season 11 contestant, Marci Crozier, is the Regional Director of Franciscan Omni Health and Fitness had a lot to do with securing such a great location for the expo, start and finish lines.

Lines for the 5K bib pickup were about 100 deep. They did a great job getting the word out.
This year, the series rolled out their new technical race gear by Green Layer. The line of shirts, tank tops, hats, visors, half-zips and really nice fleece jackets sold well. We came away with three or four items apiece!

One piece of feedback I had for Green Layer was that motivational sayings are great on gear. With all the mottos from the trainers and the experiences of the contestants, there should be a LOT of great material for TBL fans!
I was able to catch most of the expo presentations, starting with Doctor Cheryl Forsberg, Chef and Nutritionist on the Ranch for The Biggest Loser TV show. Her presentation was spot on for the audience, giving enough basic information, really good stories about the show and also some more tips that even some of us veterans didn't know. One of the interesting facts about The Biggest Loser was that there has never been a vegetarian on the show. Susan claimed a moral victory for this, of course. I had already bought Doctor Cheryl's two books when she came to Clorox a few weeks ago and I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes.

Susan, Doctor Cheryl and Paul. I saw quite a few of her books leaving the expo.
I caught the end of Megan Glaros talk. She's the meteorologist for CBS 2 Chicago Morning News. Part of her message was how to keep a healthy lifestyle while balancing a job and family. 

Two other former contestants from Season 16 were on the schedule as well. I missed Andrea Wilamowski (she lost 70 pounds on the show), but was able to meet her on race morning. I was there in time to listen to JJ O'Malley, also from Season 16. The theme of the season was "Glory Days" where former athletes tried to get back to the shape they were at their peak. JJ played college football at Arizona State until knee injuries cut his career short. To date, JJ has lost 167 pounds and continues to work hard at staying healthy. 

JJ had a bit of an identity crisis after losing the ability to play football. Before the show, he weighed in at 392 pounds. 

Marci talked about how she felt a little hypocritical being out of shape and an manager of a Health and Fitness center. One of the defining moments for her on the show was during a particularly strenuous workout. It was early on in the show and she was on the edge of exhaustion, saying her body couldn't take it.  Her daughter Courtney said "It'll take a while to change your body, but it'll take a split second to change your mind."

Marci shared one of her favorite poems called "Courage Doesn't Always Roar" by Paula Fox. It speaks volumes about people struggling with health, physical, mental or emotional.

You are not defined by this moment in time. You are not what has happened to you
It’s the way you choose to respond that matters and what you decide to do

Dan and Jackie closed the session. We've heard their story a dozen times and I have a ton of respect about Jackie's look back at being a mother who failed her son. She's made amends and then some by going on Season 5 with Dan and with the work she's done on the race series. We got to meet Dan's girlfriend Stacy for the first time too. She would be running her second half marathon.

Even though The Biggest Loser RunWalk is a national series, the prices are comparable to a lot of local races. They have a VIP program that includes a dinner, pre- and post-race food and preferred parking. Prices for those perks, especially for those of us traveling a long distance are well worth it and we'd recommend upgrading if you attend. All of the former contestants spoke at the dinner, but some of the stories at the tables were just as memorable.

We met Amy, a fellow Half Fanatic, who drove up from Alabama to cross off another state. She'd be trying to get another 7 this year to finish 2015 at 21 states. As it turns out, the more compelling stories involved even bigger numbers.

Around the room, we heard weight loss totals. One lady lost 55 pounds. Another lost 138 pounds.  The woman seated next to me at the table lost 40 pounds so she could be eligible to donate a kidney.  

THAT story left me speechless.

Several other groups of friends pointed to this race as the milestone after months of training with support groups. This was the first race for a lot of them after making the decision to turn around formerly sedentary lives. We left dinner with a new perspective. A lot of these folks were where we were 10 years ago, excited for a first race, taking their first step to taking their lives back and celebrating the decision they made to be fit and healthy together. I was humbled by the experience.

Race day brought us great weather with temperatures in the low 50's and some good stiff breezes. We caught up with Amy before the start. This MAY have been most of the Half Fanatics at the race. Heh. Susan and I were off to see if we could place in the Walk Division, another thing that makes The Biggest Loser RunWalk attractive for us. Participants are on an honor system on which division they enter and the course is not judged or monitored.

The half started first at 8 AM, followed by the 5K at 8:30. Dan sang the national anthem as usual and he, Jackie and Andrea counted down the 5 or so corrals for the wave start. 

The course looped around the fairgrounds twice in the first 10K and we had a mile of slight congestion as the half marathoners shared one lane of traffic with the 5K. It was a nice tour of the neighborhoods with lots of shade and the locals came out to cheer us on. A few of the country roads had enough hills to give us even the veterans some challenges. I forget how the upper midwest has so many rolling hills. Fortunately, we had driven the course the day before, so we kind of knew what to expect, but after the first half, I pretty much abandoned my time target time as my calves stared cramping up. We have way too many races on our schedule to risk an injury.

We came back into the Fair Grounds from the south. We passed within 50 yards of the finish line at mile 12 before going out a half mile around the lake and back to the finish line. Both Susan and I measured the course at 13.25 miles. I count it as a bonus since we got extra steps in.

Did we mention that the race entry also includes free downloadable pictures?

After watching an absolutely precious Kids 1 Mile Fun Run at noon, we caught up with our new friend, Amy. We plan to see her again in Chicago in few months and she's hoping to get a little faster so she can keep up with Susan and try to set a personal best. Meanwhile, we were happy with our race results.

New this race: plaques for the top 2 finishers in the walk division for men and women. 
Susan won her age group and fourth overall. Her walk time was better than her fastest run/walk time in 2015. 
Every time I race with The Biggest Loser, I like to wear my Team Future shirt. This is the charity that Jackie supports back home in Chicago that we raised money for back in 2011 before the series started. The message on the back got a lot of comments like "me too! 72 pounds!" or "That's my goal too!" and even "That's inspiring, congratulations!" After over 10 years later, it's good to remember why we started and a reason why we keep racing.

Each of the 1,522 finishers were there for their own reasons. Along with their supporters, I'd guess the attendance at the expo, clinics and cheerleaders on the course numbered well over 2,000. 

Each and every one of them had their own story to tell.  


The Biggest Loser RunWalk Crown Point was an awesome event, even more impressive that it was an inaugural year. The city of Crown Point and the Franciscan Alliance Hospitals were huge supporters of bringing the race series to Indiana. The proximity to Chicago Midway made it a really good race for those of us looking to check off additional states.

There were a total of 1,522 finishers for the 5K and half marathon distances. As always there was a separate division for walkers. Numbers and median finish times for each event were: 595 for the 5K run (median finish time of 40:22), 538 for the 5K walk (56:50), 329 for the Half run (2:30), 62 for the Half walk (3:36). 

The course was a nice tour of the town, starting and finishing in the  Lake County Fair Grounds. While the elevation changes didn't reflect it on the GPS data, we thought it was a pretty hilly course. Apparently we weren't alone in that sentiment!

We are working on logistics and budget to get to another of Dan and Jackie's events in Killington, Vermont, but with the newly announced event in Las Vegas on September 20th, we may opt to stay local. Crown Point was our 99th race at the half/full/ultra marathon distance. That, my friends, will be the next part of our story.

No comments:

Post a Comment