A Guide to the Katy Trail 5k
The month of June signals the beginning of summer and the start of 5:00 am long run training days to avoid that inevitable Texas summer heat. I don't plan to really start racing until October later this year, but last week presented a good chance to test my fitness going in to the summer. The Katy Trail 5k takes place on my favorite run spot in the Dallas Area, the Katy Trail. This race is SUPER crowded and sells out every year. Reason? At the end of the race, participants gain access to the Katy Trail Picnic in Reverchon Park where local restaurants and other businesses set up tents and provide free samples of food, drink, and other goodies all night long. This race is definitely worth the experience and the slightly overpriced entry fee: $40 for early registration, $50 for regular registration. However, to maximize your experience running the Katy Trail 5k, here are a few tips to consider on race day.
Tip Number One: Parking
The beginning and end of the race is always in Reverchon Park. Parking is limited in this area as most people park along side streets throughout the area. If you are coming from outside the neighborhood and plan to drive, I would suggest carpooling with friends and getting to the race line at least 45 minutes prior to the start. The first place I'd look for parking would be Turtle Creek Blvd and Fairmount Street. Normally that intersection the southern stretch of Fairmount Street provides a good chance for a parking spot that is just a block away from Reverchon Park.
Tip Number Two: This Race is Crowded
There are far better race choices if your main goal is to set a personal 5k record. The Katy Trail 5k is always in the first week of June and it is always on a Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Every time I've ran this race, the temperature has been 85 degrees with a touch of humidity. The course itself isn't the ideal either as a steady incline midway through the race taxes all racers for about 1/4 of a mile. The course then finishes on the Katy trail itself which is a great place to run on the weekends usually, but when it is filled with 10s of thousands of people, it becomes very difficult to change your pace if your time is greater than 25 minutes or so. So to give myself the best race experience possible, I try to get as close to the start line as possible and run my fastest mile during the first mile in an attempt to stay ahead of the crowd. One nice thing about the course is that the last mile is on a slight decline, so any ground lost in the 2nd mile uphill can be recovered on the last leg in the race if you have room ahead of you.
Tip Number Three: The Picnic
Normally I run this race with friends of various fitness levels, so we wait until everyone is finished before heading towards the picnic area. The first priority should be the beer. Each year, the beer is the first thing to run out. All racers are provided 3 beer tickets, so I'd suggest using all of them at the beginning. If you're in a group, I'd say its worth always having 1 or 2 people in the beer line to gather as many as possible. This last year, my group only recieved one beer, and waited in line 3 times, so get to the beer early and often at the beginning. Next, I'd employ the divide and conquer strategy. Some of the food lines are longer than others, but there are so many to try and many of the best ones will run out in the first hour of the picnic. To try as many items as possible, I'd suggest sending a person to each of the best vendors, which are generally found on the far sides of the picnic, and then congregating to a central spot in the park. The best items I tried this year included street tacos from E-Bar and chicken and rice from Halal Guys, but there were plenty of other foods I wasn't able to try as they ran out of food.
Tip Number Four: Stay Late
There are lots of things to do other than wait in line for booze and food. Other vendors usually provide selfie tents, massage chairs, and give away prizes through out the night. A live band is also staged and provides entertainment in the park. But one funny thing happens that I've noticed at the end of each race. Usually, the festivities slow down around 9:00 p.m. And vendors begin packing up. At this moment in the three years I've ran this race, some vendor is giving away something so they don't have to take it back with them. This year it was entire cases of water. In a previous year, someone gave out entire bottles of wine. Now this is not an officially part of the race or picnic, but if you stay until the very end, you may go home with a parting gift. I took advantage this year, and found myself with a 24 pack of bottled water. It's the little things in life you know?
The Katy Trail 5k is definitely a race worth considering. It is generally well organized, it is very popular, and the concept provides a nice introduction to a variety of local Dallas businesses. If I were to run this race next year, I'd suggest finding a group to run and party with you, find a parking spot early, get close to the start line before the race, gather your beers first thing after the race, and stay late for a potential parting gift. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night in June.