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On the morning of Halloween, I ran the Team Ortho Monster Dash 5K in St. Paul, MN. Team Ortho runs an annual race series in Minnesota and this was the first event that I’ve run. Judging by bib numbers and by the sheer number of people on the course, there were thousands of participants, not including participants in the 10-miler and half marathon. I’ve run a number of 5K races in the past but this is arguably the largest, most publicized race that I have run.

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Decked out in our Minion costumes, my running bestie and I set out on the course with a goal of beating our past 5K times. We didn’t cross the starting line until 20 minutes after the start of the race. Despite the throngs of runners in front of us, we held on to our pace goals and dutifully glanced every so often at the running app on our phones. We expected the pack to thin out at any minute, giving us room to find our pace. It never happened.

I was running past people pushing strollers with phones on selfie sticks who, with no regard to runners around them, would dead-stop in the far left running lane. There were people dressed in costumes so cumbersome that they couldn’t walk, let alone run. It wasn’t until I passed the six people dressed as one dragon and struggling to move at all that I realized this race was not for serious runners. This was clearly a fun run, where the costumes and selfies were more important than the times.

I spent the next mile being frustrated by everything that was not going as planned. I really just wanted a good, hard run and I was stuck behind four girls dressed as inflatable turkeys. I think I ran an extra half mile on the course just weaving in and out of people. When I realized that accomplishing my goal for the race was out of my control, I made a conscious decision to let go of the goal and just enjoy the run and the sites around me. After all, there were some pretty creative costumes!

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Photo Credit: Monster Dash Facebook page

When I let myself think about it for a few minutes, this really was an inspiring event. Just look at how many people braved the cold rain, wind and construction-riddled streets of lowertown St. Paul in the name of fitness! There were moms and dads demonstrating to their children how important it is to get up and move. There were families making memories together in themed costumes. I could see others with their running besties, just enjoying the time together.

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We had to stop running 50 feet before the finish line because the chute area was congested with participants. As I made way through the chute, collecting my finisher medal, water and banana, I realized that this is what running is supposed to be. Events like this are not about the pace, the the times, or the PR. Events like this are about relationships. Sure, the goals are important and they are what keep runners moving forward. Those goals, however, should never be so important that we forget to just have fun.

When was the last time you ran a race just for fun and not for a PR?