Run Shadyside 5K: Outrunning Mickey Mouse and Lending a Trumpet

My alarm starts blaring at 6:30 AM on a cold, dark Saturday morning, and I’m tired and sleepy, and briefly wonder why I preregistered on Wednesday to run today’s Run Shadyside 5K race. But a commitment is a commitment, so I get, check the weather forecast, get dressed, eat something, and head off.

Little do I know that today I will just manage to outrun Mickey Mouse, far exceed my race time goal, and lend someone my trumpet that has been lying around unused!

Franklin and Eric after the race


Since it was cold, in the 40s, and there was a possibility it could rain (although things looked clear), I wore a long-sleeve shirt and gloves and a hat along with my shorts and Bikila LS shoes (this was the third race in which I used these shoes).

After my successful Great Race 10K toughened me up, I was ready to run a “fast” 5K race. I had run a 5K in August in 24:36, and another in September in 24:36, but these were mostly off-road and hilly, so I expected that I should definitely go under 24:00 in this mostly flat road race, I targeted 23:30 as an ambitious goal.

One thing you have to realize is that I hadn’t run a decent 5K in years, so my goal was to really gut it out in this one. My fastest 5K was in 2003, in 20:37. I slowed down gradually to 22:04 in 2007, but later in 2007, as my life entered turmoil, I slowed to 23:30, then 24:39 in 2008, 25:20 in 2009, and 26:41 in 2010. So I have been using races this year as a gauge of my gradual “comeback” to my former level of fitness (taking aging into account, of course).

The race

The gun went off and the race played out for me as most largish races do: I took care not to go out too fast, but a lot of people always act otherwise and pass me like crazy during the first minutes of the race. I just run my own race.

After a mile, things were mostly settled down. I noticed a guy ahead of me wearing a hat with Mickey Mouse ears.

Mickey Mouse ears hat

Furthermore, the gap between the guy and me was ever so slowly increasing. I decided at that moment that with two miles to go, I was going to do what I could to beat this guy. This goal was going to be the single purpose of my life for the next 15 minutes (approximately).

To motivate myself even further, I used the mind trick of publicly proclaiming my goal. I know this technique is controversial and can backfire, but I think it depends on context. Every time I found myself running side by side with someone (whether someone I was passing or someone who had caught up to me), I told him that I was going to catch Mickey Mouse. Somehow saying that always gave me a bit of energy each time, and I would pass the guy I just talked with and not look back.

Anyway, I pushed really hard but for the whole second mile had still not yet closed the gap with Mickey Mouse. Sometimes I could not even see him, but I always made sure to find him.

Around halfway through the third mile, I started closing on Mickey Mouse. For the first time in the race, I was totally confident that I had what it took to beat him. I finally overtook him when the finish line was in sight.

Final sprint

But that was not all. I saw the clock and was surprised to find that I was going to come in well under 23:00! In the excitement, I decided to go wild. I screamed, as though I were dying, as I launched into a big sprint to pass probably a dozen people as I stumbled over the finish line in something like 22:46.

Man, that was cathartic. This is only the second time I have ever screamed in a race (and I have run in well over a hundred in the past decade). I had let out a scream during a sprint finish at the Pretty Good Race 5K in September, but it was a short scream, not this prolonged seconds-long one that I let out today. I supposed that in the past decade I used to be too shy to do a thing like that, but it felt so good today that I may do it in the future.

I was reminded of how in karate class I was instructed on how important it was to use the kiai shout as a projection of energy. But then I reflected, my scream was not objectively the best way to end a race. If I had enough energy to scream, then I should have been able to run faster before that point, so a smarter race would have been to push even harder before the somewhat wasteful sprint. Nevertheless, at the very moment today, the scream seemed the thing to do, for psychological reasons, at least.


Mickey Mouse came in seconds later. I went up to him and shook his hand, then grabbed some water and food and started walking back to my car (parked almost a mile away), since I needed to cool down from the race, and wanted to get my camera and warm clothing to bring back to the post-race party.

On the way back from my car, I saw Mickey Mouse, but without the ears. He was walking with his family and I approached him and had his mother take a photo of us. His name is Eric and he said he wasn’t the only one with Mickey Mouse ears: a bunch of Disney Research people were all wearing them.

I got back to the post-race party and happened to see a guy I know from lots of previous races in the past decade, Ron Romanoff, and had him take a photo of me:

Franklin after Run Shadyside 5K 2011

Bumping into Ben Paul

Festivities after Run Shadyside 5K 2011

Pancakes after Run Shadyside 5K 2011

I saw a sign for pancakes, and suddenly realized that I had totally forgotten about the post-race pancake breakfast. I put away the half-eaten bagel I was munching on and headed toward the pancakes, and whom did I see but Ben Paul.

Ben Paul with coffee after Run Shadyside 5K 2011

I had first met and talked with Ben at PodCamp Pittsburgh, although I had heard his name much earlier since he was one of the founders of CommuniTeach. CommuniTeach is a really great concept, providing a way for people who want to learn stuff, or teach it, or both, to get together. Back in June, Abby and I had attended a CommuniTeach session on fermentation. We learned to make kefir and sauerkraut and experiment with various fermented veggie combinations involving radishes, carrots, zucchini, onion, fennel seeds, you name it. Since July (when our first batch was ready), we’ve been enjoying tasty fermented veggies to complement our meals.

If you are curious about teaching or learning anything in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend that you sign up on CommuniTeach and check it out! I also find the @CommuniTeach very useful to follow, and there is also a Facebook site.


I mentioned to Ben that I’d been reading about him from the links that he’s posted. I’d just learned that he played melodica, and I said that I have a melodica too, but have not been playing it. I said I was also learning accordion recently. I asked him about ukulele, since he had mentioned it somewhere, and he suggested that a bunch of us find a way to teach ourselves together. I pointed out that unfortunately, I was already focusing a lot of my musical time on playing recorder and for now my ukulele goals are on hold. He couldn’t believe I played recorder, since he hates the sound, ha! I happened to mention that I had too many instruments I didn’t play, such as a trumpet. He got excited, because he needs a trumpet to play, and I offered to lend him mine. So we decided that he could meet up at my place to pick it up.

We looked at the posted race results and Ben couldn’t find himself listed. He was pretty bummed about that. It was his first race! It turned out that he had not attached the race chip to his shoe, but it was still attached to his race number on his shirt. Oops. Nevertheless, in case anyone ever doubts it: I hereby declare myself as a witness to Ben Paul having run his first race today in Shadyside!

Trumpet finally finds a happy player!

Here’s Ben with my trumpet. Enjoy playing it, Ben!

Ben Paul with Franklin's trumpet


It started raining outside just as Ben left with the trumpet. I am so grateful that it did not rain during the race! I was prepared to deal with it (I have run cold half marathons during which it rained the whole time), but it would not have been so much fun.

(Update of 2012-10-06)

The following year, sadly, I did not do Run Shadyside again, because of a schedule conflict with the Fineview Stepathon that I did instead. We’ll have to see what the schedules are for 2013.

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