*RECAP* Inaugural Santa Hustle New England Half

SANTA ... I know him!!!

Yes I gave the Santa Hustle Race Series a second try.

When did I first run into it (slow cap) you may ask? In December 2011 in Chicago, I did the Santa Hustle 5k.

It was not my favorite race at the time.

BUT, when I heard about the inaugural Santa Hustle New England race my hopes for a different sort of race were lifted higher.


Because they would be offering a 5k AND half marathon option. Woo! I figured the half marathon would be more spacious than the 5k and possibly offer more candy! :P

So when offered a complimentary race entry by the organizers, I jumped at the chance and signed me and the BFF up right away.

(Note: while I did receive complimentary entry - all thought and opinions are my own ... ain't nobody got time for lyin'!)

The race was taking place in South Portland, which I hadn't explored as much in the past so I was exited to run through it with my BFF.

We knocked out packet pick-up on Saturday and grabbed our santa hat, santa beard and dri-fit hoodie. The race organizers wanted the participants to wear all of it for the race, but I knew I wouldn't be comfortable in that garb for 13.1 miles. I opted to break out my Santa Hustle shirt from 2011 so I could sort of blend in. ;)

If I had done the 5k I would've been fine dressing up, but 30 minutes in it vs. 2 hours is huge. Am I right? My friend opted to wear the hoodie.

I requested a men's medium sweatshirt when registering for the race, but when I opened my bag I had a women's medium. Ummm... nope! Definitely not fitting. It was like a fat guy in a little coat type incident. Not fun. So I tucked it away and planned on attempting to exchange on race morning.

When the alarm BLARED off at 5am, the chill in the air was fierce. Oh right it was late November in Maine. Yeah it was freakin' cold. Yay! Womp.

We bundled up in the car at 6am and headed out to the Start Area. I will give the race credit for using The Maine Mall parking lot as their Start/Finish area as it gave PLENTY of parking spaces for the participants and spectators. We were one parking row away from the festivities. Woo!

I was able to exchange my sweatshirt for a Women's Large and we headed back to the car to try and keep warm til the 7am start time.

Just after 6:30, we begrudgingly got out of the car and into the cold to start our race prep. :P The race had a ton of port-o-potties so the line wasn't too bad.

Plus we had this cute reindeer to chat with...

With 10 minutes to go, we shivered our way over to the Start Corral.

I thought the race directors had done the pace markers just for me...

... oh I am not meant to be up here at the front? My bad. Let me shuffle on back to my proper corral.

As the half marathoners were shivering in the Start Corral, the announcer kept pushing the start back. It was it's original 7am then 7:04 then 2 more minutes. C'mon dude. We were cold.

We then learned that they wanted to catch the start on live tv for the local ABC affiliate so the start would be 7:15am. C'mon? The 5kers were supposed to start 15 min after us so they could've been the live shot.

But we waited and I am sure the 6 people awake at 7:15am on a Sunday watching the news loved the shot. <<note sarcasm>>

I crossed the Start line, started the Garmin and promptly couldn't feel my feet while running. Awesome. The BFF and I were debating how long it would take to start feeling our appendages. I KNEW we would start out too fast for what we were aiming for because we were just trying to warm up... and I was right.

Our goal was to have fun, eat candy, enjoy one of our last races together and finish in sub-2.

Mile 1: 8:14

During Mile 2 on Running Hill Road, we passed a Weight Watchers center. Yes I had to snap a pic.

Taking the pic also helped distract me from my desperate need to hit the port-o-pottie.

Mile 2: 8:14

Mile 2 marker offered a water stop AND a port-o-pottie. YAY! Now he run could continue. Phew.

Just after exiting the port-o-pottie we headed up our first hill. But at the top we were rewarded with our first candy stop!

I started jogging and trying to eat the mini m&ms, but knew that would be disastrous. So we opted to walk and snack.

We were in an office park (Sable Oaks Drive) I would say, which featured two separate out and back loops. At some point there must've been a lack of guidance because people were running towards us on both sides of the road. There weren't any cones in the middle to indicate as you came up the hill you should stay to the left so instead people were coming up the hill and moving to their right. Does that make sense?

Mile 3: 9:39

I figured out the error when my Garmin buzzed for the Mile 3 marker and we were across the road from it. Thankfully the folks behind us had started to see the error of the earlier participants and they corrected the course themselves. So we really took m&ms from the Mile 3 station rather than the Mile 2 station. They were across the road from each other so easy to see the mix-up.

As we headed out of the tiny office lot, we did one more quick hilly out and back before retracing our steps to get back to Running Hill Road.

Mile 4: 8:27

Once back on Running Hill Road, we spotted Buddy The Elf

and asked for a quick selfie.

After shouting "I hope you find your dad," the BFF and I continued on the journey.

Mile 5: 8:21

We ran back over the Maine Turnpike, the local cops helped usher us across Maine Mall Road so we could continue the race in the shoulder of the road on the right hand side. Luckily the shoulder of the road is an emergency lane so it was pretty wide and we weren't in the middle of traffic.

Mile 6: 8:13

We got so excited to see a banner thinking it was a candy stop... nope just water! Womp womp!

I made a point of stopping at every water stop to keep myself hydrated. You know how easy it is to forget to do that when it is cold out!!

Just after the 10k mark, we crossed over to run alongside the Portland Airport. In case you are wondering, not scenic. You can see I am lacking in the scenery pics from this race because it wasn't very pretty, but rather industrial.

As we made our way down the nice and flat Airport Plaza Road, the lead runner came running towards us. I wasn't sure which side of the emergency lane to run on since there weren't any cones. It seemed again the participants were making their own game time decisions on which side to use. Luckily the street wasn't too busy at the time we were running so I wasn't so worried about being hit.

Mile 7: 8:34

With another water stop that we thought was candy, we took a right on to Westbrook St and were finally in a little neighborhood. There weren't any spectators out unfortunately and no music along the course so it was pretty quiet.

A volunteer tried to stop a woman from driving through the course, but she blatantly ignored him and zipped right in front of us. Thanks for listening jerk! Harumph.

I read the race would be having Christmas music along the course, but I didn't hear any... until we started approaching the Mile 8 marker.

Mile 8: 8:44

YES! The prize for tackling yet another hill (Brickhill Ave) would be COOKIES!!

We took this as a chance to walk and eat - again no need to choke on a cookie during a race. ;) I haven't typed that ever in a race recap.

We finished the trip around the Cul de Sac and headed back down Brickwell Ave.

Mile 9: 8:56

Since this was the third out and back of the race, we once again retraced our steps to head back along the airport.

We emerged back at the main intersection and headed left on Western Ave.

Mile 10: 8:34

The temps were rising and the sun was blaring. At this point in the race, I really wanted to steal someone's sunglasses and toss off my Under Armour. But I battled through. I know I know I am a warrior. ;)

There was a barely noticeable incline all along Western Ave. If in a car I wouldn't notice it, but of course running I did. This may be where I got a little whiny.

I was ready to be done and I was disappointed in the lack of Christmas music and candy on the course. I thought there would be more of both.

As we made our way down Western, we were once again in the emergency lane of the street. Not very scenic, but thankfully there were orange cones to our left so drivers knew what was going on.

Most of the racers did the 5k so the half course was pretty spread out in terms of participants.

We took a quick right on to Gorham Road before hitting the Mile 11 marker and heading back into the shopping area.

Mile 11: 8:15

You know how many malls have surrounding businesses? That was the road we were on. Oh hey it's Home Depot. How exciting! Not. I didn't get a "I'm running in Maine" vibe at all from the course. I did learn about all the factories and box stores South Portland has to offer.

It was like we saw the light as we rounded a bend and saw the Candy sign.

Did you spot my shadow?

But I thought it would be candy canes... nope! More mini m&ms. Boo!

Now don't get me wrong I love a good m&m, but was hoping for some variety in the candy selection.

It was just after this point that we spotted our first photog of the morning and of course we entertained him with some leaps and jumps. ;)

As we approached the Mile 12 marker, we re-enetered the Maine Mall parking lot.

Mile 12: 8:50

We were so close yet so far away. My stomach was starting to reject the candy and cookie along the course and began acting up. I thought I was going to have to just sit in the fetal position and not finish the race. My BFF said we could walk and I said hell no. We needed to run faster so it could be over. I was in pain, but I wasn't about to stop.

We made our way around the outside of the mall and were finally approaching the Finish.

I do want to thank the 5k participants who waited around to cheer on the half marathoners.

Mile 13: 8:22

We opted for the jump across the Finish line as our photo opt... and it was perfect!

Official Time: 1:52:28

Woo! We hit our goals of eating candy, having fun, and sub-2. Mission accomplished.

Fun medal - check!

I decided to trade in the sweatshirt one final time to go from a Women's Medium to Women's Large to Women's X-Large. Finally it felt comfortable.

Since I couldn't get the live reindeer to do a selfie with me ... I went for the next best thing.

When there is an after party, we will be there. So the BFF and I dropped our stuff in the car and headed to Jimmy The Greeks. We went inside and were told there was no free post-race beer. Sad face. I thought when someone invited you to an after-party there would be at least one free beer... but no!

So there were some angry santas, but of course we were suckers and bought one any way.

The BFF's family and my wife joined us so we could do some post-race photo ops and raid the snacks!


Overall, the we gave the race a B-. I know I don't normally rate them with a grade, but the BFF and I had some time to discuss it post-race before our crew got there.

I thought for $60/65 registration for the half it was a great deal. I rarely get a sweatshirt for race swag... and I have been living in it since the race. The volunteers were amazing. Plus there were actual reindeers at the party.

I wish the race had more on-course entertainment, additional candy stops (even though my stomach my disagree) and prettier scenery. South Portland I learned had little to offer in terms of beauty.

Now this was an inaugural race so I know it is a learning experience so I give then the benefit of the doubt that they would improve it if they opt to return next year.


Have you done a Santle Hustle race before?