Posts Tagged ‘Higbee’s’

“A Christmas Story,” adapted from a [Jean] Shepherd book of such stories, this one about a kid’s campaign to get a Daisy air rifle for Christmas, is not charming and doesn’t evoke true childhood. It’s bizarre and boring.
– Ernest Leogrande, from a 1983 review in the New York Daily News

In a way, this is Norman Rockwell as filtered through the pages of “Mad Magazine” or the “National Lampoon.”
– Roger Ebert, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (1983)

Inflatable Ralphie in pink bunny suit

Sorry Ernest, but Roger (as usual) wins this round… spot on Mr. Ebert, spot on.

Welcome back to the blog! Between our travels and all the exciting things happening at RaceRaves, I’ve fallen a few races behind and have some catching up to do here. But since timing is everything and the holiday season is upon us, I thought I’d add my twopence to the festivities with a pictorial “Cliffs Notes” version of last weekend’s A Christmas Story 5K/10K Run in chilly Cleveland, Ohio (where the movie was largely filmed).

I’ve loved everything about A Christmas Story since I first saw it as a teenager growing up in Texas in the mid 80s. So this was a bucket-list race of sorts for me (Boston ✅, Big Sur ✅, Antarctica ✅, and now A Christmas Story Run ✅), one I’d been eyeing from sunny SoCal for several years now. Finally this year, with no marathons, ultramarathons or other obligations on the docket for December, the pieces fell into place and we were able to clear our schedules for a weekend on the industrial, wind-swept shores of Lake Erie.

(Forgive me if some of my photos seem a bit foggy, a side effect of the freezing temperatures… my iPhone, which like its owner prefers warmer climes, battled the cold all morning, losing nearly all of its battery life and restarting on the fly mid-race. 🥶)

For more color(ful) commentary and for readers who like a thousand words to accompany their pictures, my review summary follows at the end of this post. And no matter your celebration — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day, or a visit from Krampus — here’s hoping a major award comes your way this season.

Happy and healthy ho-ho-holidays, everyone!


Before the Race (Friday)

View of Lake Erie from Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Tower

View from the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Tower: Lake Erie, FirstEnergy Stadium (left, home of the NFL’s Browns) and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (right, distant white bulidn with slanted pyramid)

Holiday lighting in Cleveland's Public Square

Holiday lighting in Public Square and atop Tower City Center

Jack Casino (aka Higbee's Department Store) holiday storefront

Higbee’s Department Store in Public Square is now a casino but retains its festival holiday storefront

At long last we had the pleasure of meeting Cleveland’s Happiest Runner, Lorelei S.

Mike Sohaskey & Katie Ho with Santa at A Christmas Story Run

At packet pickup we met the big man, the head honcho, the connection — Santa himself!

A Christmas Story House & Museum sign

Ralphie's house from A Christmas Story in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland

Ralphie’s house in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland… the fictional house in the movie is located on Cleveland Street, the street on which author Jean Shepherd grew up

Living room from A Christmas Story house

Living room with leg lamp, bowling ball, Red Ryder BB gun… and overloaded electrical outlet (click on photo for higher resolution)

Collage of A Christmas Story House interior

Scenes from A Christmas Story House (clockwise, from upper left): kitchen; the Old Man’s overloaded electrical outlet; unpacking the Old Man’s Major Award; console radio on which Ralphie and Randy listen to “Little Orphan Annie”; bathroom sink with (drool-covered?) bar of Lifebuoy soap; reading the classics in Ralphie’s bedroom; Ralphie’s Christmas theme; “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie!”; the leg(endary) lamp

The only room in the house where a boy of 49 could sit in privacy and decode Little Orphan Annie’s message

One of the many interesting factoids to be learned at A Christmas Story Museum

Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle

One of six “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” custom manufactured by Daisy for the movie


Race Day (Saturday)

Two Black Barts + one evil elf at A Christmas Story Run

Two Black Barts + one evil elf = a strong start to the morning

Did I mention it was cold?

A Christmas Story Run start line outside JACK Casino fka Higbee's

The crowd gathers in anticipation outside JACK Casino fka Higbee’s… so many pink bunny suits!

View of the start line at A Christmas Story Run 2019

View of the start line and ginormous inflatable leg lamp… according to the PA announcer, “They didn’t give me a starter’s pistol, they said I’d shoot my eye out!”

Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians

Passing Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (home of the Cavaliers) and Progressive Field (home of the Indians) in mile 1

Crossing Hope Memorial Bridge in mile 1 of A Christmas Story Run

Crossing Hope Memorial Bridge overseen by the Guardians of Traffic, mile 1

Being chased by a bevy of Black Barts in mile 2

Respect for the color coordination of Beats and bunny ears

On the W 14th St overpass, mile 4

View of Downtown Cleveland from Hope Memorial Bridge in mile 6 of A Christmas Story Run

View of Downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River from Hope Memorial Bridge, mile 6

Mike Sohaskey in front of Welcome to Cleveland sign

OK, maybe ONE last picture…

Mike Sohaskey finishing A Christmas Story 10K Run

… before reaching the finish line

Katie Ho crossing finish line of A Christmas Story 5K Run

3.1 miles away, Katie crosses the finish ahead of a pink bunny and a holly jolly leg lamp

Santa welcoming runners at A Christmas Story 5K finish line

Santa welcomes runners to the 5K finish line

A Christmas Story House after 5K

That post-race line is why you want to visit A Christmas Story House before the race, if possible

Overall and age-group winner leg lamp awards for A Christmas Story Run

Overall and age-group winners earned a major award of their own

Enjoying our Ovaltine after A Christmas Story Run

Naturally, we were sure to drink our Ovaltine after the race

20-foot-tall inflatable leg lamp at start of A Christmas Story Run

This year the organizers debuted a 20-foot-tall inflatable leg lamp at the start/10K finish

BOTTOM LINE: Can a race be described as magical? For those of us who grew up loving the movie A Christmas Story, this may be as close as it gets. From the many inspired costumes (Katie and I dressed as Black Bart, but there was no shortage of pink bunny suits), to the 5K finish line/10K turnaround at Ralphie’s house on W 11th aka “Cleveland Street,” to the post-race Ovaltine that warmed me from the inside, A Christmas Story Run is a terrific start to the holiday season. As someone who runs mostly marathons and ultramarathons, it’s rare to see so many happy runners on race day — everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and no one ended up in the medical tent after shooting their eye out. Even the early December Cleveland weather, clear and cold with little to no wind on race morning, was perfectly… well, perfect.

Every year has had a theme, and 2019 was the year of “OH FUDGE,” as in the PG-rated version of the phrase Ralphie lets slip one night while helping his Old Man fix a blown tire in the cold.

(Speaking of costumes, my favorite was one that passed so quickly I missed my chance to snap a picture. A boy walking with his mother in the opposite direction on the Hope Memorial Bridge was dressed as Ralphie post-soap poisoning — same hat, same coat and same dark sunglasses, all of it accompanied by his trademark walking cane. It was an inspired costume, the only one of its kind that I saw… and though I reacted too slowly to memorialize it on camera, luckily I was able to appreciate him in the moment.)

The course itself offers a pleasant tour of downtown Cleveland and the adjacent Tremont neighborhood, the two of them connected by an out-and-back across the Hope Memorial Bridge with its monolithic “Guardians of Traffic” sculptures. The towering statues, which face both directions on the bridge, symbolize progress in transportation but seem oddly out of place in the Midwest with their winged helmets (reminiscent of the Greek god Hermes) and Art Deco styling. Appropriately, 5K runners finish at A Christmas Story House & Museum while 10K runners turn around and make the return trip — with slight variations — to Public Square.

Honestly, my only race-day regret was that we couldn’t run farther — at 6.2 (or in Katie’s case, 3.1) miles, this was only my second official 10K in two decades and my first in the past three years. That said, if there’s any 10K or 5K worth traveling for, it’s this one — coming from temperate Los Angeles where winter means occasional rain and fewer beach volleyball games, A Christmas Story Run was a wonderful way to kick off the holidays, and I can easily see us returning to chase another “major award” in the 216.

And about the 216… Cleveland gets a notoriously bad rap; in fact, Google “Cleveland tourism video” and you’ll see what I mean. Sure, the city may not strike most folks as an obvious holiday destination, and yes it may have set the Cuyahoga River on fire… 13 times. But straight up we had a tremendous weekend exploring downtown Cleveland and particularly the area around Public Square, including Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (home to the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, through ironically LeBron James now plays in our own hometown of Los Angeles) and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Throw in the charming A Christmas Story House & Museum, the world-class Cleveland Museum of Art (which we didn’t have time to visit this trip), plus eclectic dining options and a surfeit of craft breweries, and you’ve got more than enough to entertain and educate even the most dubious out-of-towner.

Post-race visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

PRODUCTION: What’s not to love about a race that starts and finishes alongside a 20-foot-tall inflatable leg lamp and a jumbotron broadcasting A Christmas Story? Though the crowds at the start line outside the former Higbee’s Department Store in Public Square were tightly packed, the start itself flowed smoothly, and I was able to run comfortably in no time despite lining up with a significantly slower pace group as I took my time shooting photos of the festivities. (Yes there were pacers, which impressed me for a 5K/10K, even one with 5,500 runners.)

Given that the race also offers a “Running of the Bumpus Hounds,” kudos to the organizers for staggering the start times into four waves for runners (9:00am), runner with dogs (9:10am), walkers (9:15am), and walkers with dogs (9:20am).

Signs along the course offered cool trivia about the movie, e.g. one of the kids in Ralphie’s class at Warren G. Harding Elementary School can be seen wearing a wristwatch depicting The Dukes of Hazzard, even though the movie was supposedly set in the early 1940s. And apparently none of the actors knew about the singing in the Chinese restaurant ahead of time, as evidenced by the fact that Melinda Dillon (who plays Ralphie’s mom) couldn’t stop laughing on camera during the scene.

The post-race gathering at the 10K finish line in Public Square featured several tents offering pouches of Oikos yogurt, bananas, bottled water, and of course rich, chocolatey Ovaltine! Also available 3.1 miles away at the 5K finish line only was The Old Man’s (outdoor) Beer Garden, a seemingly odd addition to a 5K in December (and besides, wasn’t the Old Man only shown drinking wine in the movie?). Shuttles waited near the 5K finish line to transport runners back to the 10K finish in Public Square, so that Katie and I were reunited relatively quickly.

Friday packet pickup at the Renaissance Hotel in Public Square was quick and easy. And on Saturday morning, the Renaissance doubled as a warm shelter for all runners before and after the race, which proved a welcome retreat once the sun ducked behind the clouds and the freezing temperatures began to bite at my sweaty running clothes. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

With more than 5,500 finishers this is no small-town holiday run; at the same time it does sell out, so register early to secure your spot (we registered in early November for $55). As I write this, the race is offering an early-bird registration special of $35 for the first 500 registrants, which should be a no-brainer for any runner or walker who a) is a fan of the movie and b) lives within easy driving distance of Cleveland.

SWAG: This year’s finisher medal is a welcome addition to my wall o’ bling, depicting as it does Ralphie with a bar of Lifebuoy soap in his mouth accompanied by this year’s theme, “OH FUDGE!” emblazoned below the familiar logo of A Christmas Story. Not only that, but the long-sleeved red cotton tee is high quality and perfect for the season. As a bonus, any runner fast (and focused) enough to reach the podium or place within their age group won a “Major Award” in the form of a scaled-down leg lamp — none of the Old Man’s crossword puzzle prowess required. And free race photos were available almost immediately after the race, which was hands down the fastest I’ve ever received my photos. Thanks, Santa!

A Christmas Story Run 2019 "Oh Fudge" t-shirt and medal

RaceRaves rating:

FINAL STATS
Dec 7, 2019 (start time 9:00 am)
6.22 miles in Cleveland, OH (first race in Ohio)
Finish time & pace: 50:09, 8:04/mile (I probably should have tried to run at least my age = 49, but I was busy taking pictures… next time!)
Finish place: 157 overall, 9/85 in M 45-49 age group
Number of finishers: 1,400 (565 men, 835 women) in the 10K, 4,122 in the 5K
Race weather: clear & cold (32°F) at the start, partly cloudy & cold at the finish

But I heard Cleveland exclaim as we flew out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, see you next year we might!”