To Chase and Be Chased (2018 Hike the Halo Race Recap)

My final race of 2018 is now in the books! And at a very familiar venue:

ANGEL STADIUM! The race was Hike the Halo, an annual event benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and it’s the only event I do that’s held at a Major League Baseball stadium. (Last weekend’s 65 Roses Climb was held at a college football stadium, so… that’s different!)

Last year’s Hike the Halo was cancelled, due to construction, so it’s actually been two years since I’ve made the drive down to Anaheim to run up and down a plethora of stairs.

I wore the shirt I got at the race two years ago, and pinned on my bib. Good ol’ lucky number 308.

Bumblebee was on the field, taking a break from battling Decepticons to pose for pictures.

This is the fifth time I’ve done Hike the Halo, so I speak from experience when I say that this race is a doozy. You start in the outfield, and run into the lower deck stands. You run up and down the aisles, making your way across the entire lower deck, and then up a series of ramps to the upper deck. You run up and down all those aisles, before running down a different set of ramps. While the lower deck steps are shallow, the upper deck steps are super steep. They say the course covers about 2,000 steps total.

But you’re not done! Then you exit the stadium, and run a lap around the exterior perimeter, before entering a tunnel that leads to the outfield, and then, finally, you cross the finish line.

This is a race that I underestimate each and every time I do it. I forget how steep and difficult the upper deck steps are, I forget what a pain it is to run up ramps, and I forget how annoying it is to run between two rows of seats at the very top of the aisles.

At this year’s race, though, I didn’t focus on any of that, because I was too focused on the competition. What a difference having competition makes! It’s refreshing to have something else to fixate on, and at nearly every moment of this race, I was trying my damnedest to either stay ahead of another runner, or catch up to one.

I was the fourth athlete to start the race, and the fifth, who started about five minutes after me, was a guy named Simon, who I met before the race. Simon hadn’t done this before, and our mutual friend Johnny suggested that Simon follow my pace, as we were likely pretty evenly matched.

After the race, with Simon on the right, and Johnny on the left. Johnny won this year’s race, for the third time. Way to three-peat, Johnny!

So Simon stayed hot on my heels all throughout the lower deck, and up the ramps to the upper deck, literally two or three steps behind me. I started slowing down on the upper deck steps, the most challenging part of the course by far, and I knew Simon would likely pass me, but having him right behind me pushed me to go harder for longer, and I appreciated that.

Simon did pass me, about halfway through the upper deck section, just as I felt my side start to cramp up a little bit. Ugh. I didn’t want to deal with a cramp! Thankfully, I had something else to focus on… and it was another runner who passed me, shortly after Simon did. (And the cramp went away!)

This dude was running with his backpack, and had a GoPro strapped to his chest. I learned later that his name was Chris, but at the time, in my head, I was calling him GoPro. And whereas Simon had zoomed way out in front, Chris wasn’t building a commanding lead – in fact, for a long time, he was only about 100 feet ahead. By the time we started on the ramps down from the upper deck, my mission was clear: I was going to catch up and beat Chris.

Me and Chris, after the race.

Chris knew I was behind him, because I saw him glance over his shoulder a couple times and turn on the gas. Every time he did, I followed suit. I stayed behind him down the ramps, as we excited the stadium, and on the sidewalk around the stadium…

I knew, as I entered my final quarter mile, that I wasn’t going to catch up with Chris, but it didn’t matter. I was proud for staying on his tail for so long, never letting him get more than 100 feet ahead of me, and I was going to finish strong.

And that’s what I did. There’s about 100 yards left once you enter the final tunnel, and I sprinted my ass off, crossed that finish line, and promptly collapsed face-down in the grass.

Chris came over within seconds, and laid on his side next to me, congratulating me, and thanking me for pushing him during his race. I returned the sentiment, and appreciated his kindness and sportsmanship. I later learned that Chris is a soccer coach, and wasn’t surprised.

The lady above us was a volunteer, who was genuinely concerned for my health. Two EMTs came by, too. I told them all I was fine. And I was.

My faceplant in the damp grass meant that I had some dirt on my face and arm when I took a selfie with my finisher’s medal, but who cares?

My official time was 29:51. Not a PR, not by a long shot, but one helluva good race. This year can’t be compared to previous years, anyway, because this year’s course was longer – about three more ups-and-downs in the lower deck.

Oh, and I finished in 7th* place!

*Getting timed is optional at this event, and of the couple hundred people that participated, only 39 opted to get timed. (Four of them took off their bibs before they started, and another two never finished.) Of the 19 people that did the same event as me (you can sign up for one of three different options), I came in 7th!

This race also has an awesome expo. Most of their corporate sponsors are supermarkets and food distributors, so there’s over a dozen booths where you can just get free groceries to take home. They always bring too much, so you can take as much as you want. There was plenty of snack and junk food that I stayed away from, but I also got some protein bars and enough beverages to fill two entire shelves in my fridge.

All in all, it was an excellent morning, and a fantastic way to wrap up my 2018 race season. I’m already looking forward to some awesome 2019 races… and I’ll be sharing my itinerary soon!

Keep it up, David!

A huge thank you to my Uncle Philip and Aunt Mary, who brought me to my fundraising goal for this race by making a very generous contribution to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on my behalf. You’re the best!

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