Respect the Half Marathon – Atlanta 13.1 Marathon
Race day came and I decided I would take Marta. There was one train early enough to get me there on time, and it was a mile to the start from the station. It seemed so much easier than the prospect of driving…but we all know I hate driving.
So I packed a drop bag (um, why have I not done this before? It was awesome) and off I went. With oatmeal in a cup. Of course the Marta was only running on one track and so it was late. Sigh. But I saw some fellow runners on it, which made me feel less spazzy. Still we got there with very little time to spare – especially when you’re me and require many multiple bathroom stops pre-race and there are crazy long lines at these busy road races. I hopped off the Marta and sprinted the mile to the race. I couldn’t figure out all of these people leisurely walking to the start. I guess they didn’t have to go to the bathroom.
I got there and dropped off my bag. As expected the bathroom lines were outta control. I was able to make it through once. This seemed woefully inadequate, but would have to do. At least it was only 13 miles. Although coping a squat on the side of the road was probably not a realistic option. Another plus of trail running 😉
I ran to the start corral with less than a minute to spare and frantically looked for the pace groups. My PR in a road half is about 1:42. I thought I’d start out chasing the 1:40 and see what happened.
I sort of found him and set off chasing him. Within the first quarter mile of the race, some dude in front of me drops his Five Hour Energy. I see this and I think someone is going to break an ankle on that thing rolling down the pavement so I dive down, get it, bounce back up and sprint to the guy and give it to him. As I keep on running past (chasing the 1:40 pace guy) the Five Hour Energy guy’s friend makes fun of him for a girl picking up his energy drink, returning it and then chicking him. As he should. Come on man, this is a half marathon, not an eight hour work day. What’s with the Five Hour Energy. But I digress.
So I’m following the 1:40 pace person and I’m not too far off. There are some chicks inbetween me and the pacer guy so I just try to stay with them. I’m feeling good. It’s dark at the start so that was kind of freaky. I just kept expecting to trip and fall since I’m always miss graceful. But alas, I made it until the sun was out and I could see.
The race runs through the Brookhaven neighborhood in Atlanta. The start of the race is about 7-8 miles from my house right down Peachtree. So for long runs, I often run down there, past there and back to my house. So parts were not unfamiliar. After some time we turned back into neighborhoods which was some new scenery. I was just enjoying mindlessly running chasing the pacer
Some time around mile 4 or so, we looped back out on Peachtree to go past where we started. I was feeling really good and enjoying the race despite ever increasing heat and humidity. OK mostly humidity. Damn humidity. Ugh. Then out of nowhere the 1:40 pacer guy veers off course! And I’m like, wait, don’t go, please! I need you! I don’t know what his deal was, but I’m guessing he needed to take a dump or something? Who knows.
So then just like that I’m totally on my own. And let me tell you – I suck at pacing. My strategy is usually as fast as I can for as long as I can. No pacing there. It’s all out or die. Or if it’s a long race or a hard trail, then slow and steady. But out here on the road…I got no strategy. So I pick up on the ladies in front of me and just follow them for a while. But I’m feeling good so I pass them and I keep on keeping on. Eventually I get to this guy who is running with this tall guy. The tall guy keeps running ahead then stopping and coming back or running in place waiting for the other guy and shouting motivational phrases the whole time. I guess he was the other dude’s coach or something? I don’t know, but I now join the coach and his runner as well.
We went through this cute little section of the PATH trail in Dunwoody and at this point I realize the 1:40 is definitely happening for me, and I’m so excited!! It was a fairly hilly course and there was a big hill towards the end, although just where escapes me now as I write this in retrospect.
Let me tell you – the volunteers and aid station workers and spectators were awesome. Lots of fun signs, bands, djs, music, and just fun happy people. Really loved the vibe. And in my usual form I just took the time to really really enjoy the day and settle in. I smiled ear to ear the whole race and was just grateful for another awesome day in the sun moving forward on my own two feet. It was a great experience.
I got to the home stretch and realized I was about to break 1:40 significantly! I finished in 1:36 which is crazy fast for me. I was pretty pumped and really happy with myself for sticking it out the whole race. A six minute PR. Not bad, not bad at all.
Following the race I took some pictures and perused the vendors. There were some giveaways at Big Peach so I went there and got a raffle ticket. You had to be present to win so I loitered around while waiting for Chuck and Kim. I realized Big Peach had a super nice new bathroom that no one was a using so I hurried and got my drop bag and snuck in there to change. It was glorious! Clean and wonderful and even had a shower. I was tempted, but I didn’t. I did change and go to the bathroom. I really wanted to loiter around the nice bathroom some more, but I knew people were waiting so I hurried out.
Now, I know I run a lot. But what I don’t do is run hard and fast a lot. And let me tell you, going into this race I thought, it’s just a half marathon. No big deal. What’s 13 miles after what you’ve done this summer. But what did I learn? Respect the half marathon. When you run only 13.1 and when you run them at almost as hard as you can, your body gets mad. And mine was no exception.
I exited the bathroom and the Big Peach and some obstacle race had a booth set up outside. They tried to convince me to do some sort of challenge which involved pushups, kettle bells, and box jumps. Suddenly, my stomach did something crazy and I was like, dude, I love push ups but I gotta go. I ran over to the porta potties because there was no line (thank god). I dug around in my drop bag like a crazy woman and found some baby wipes in there. Oh my goodness, let me tell you these baby wipes were like mana from heaven at this point and I had never been so happy to see something. Sigh. Yeah, my body was not happy about moving so fast for so long in such humidity.
I got that all taken care of and squared away and went back to Big Peach to wait for the raffle and Kim and Chuck. The obstacle race people got me and I stupidly agreed to do their challenge. Push-ups no problem. However, kettlebells and box jumps post-half marathon sucked. Ugh.
Chuck came over shortly thereafter and he had a PR too! Yay! Go Chuck. Kim and Chuck are a super cute runner couple so Chuck had taken sufficient supplies for both he and Kim to ensure she’d have what she wanted when done (so sweet!). After some cajoling I convinced Chuck to put their fuel in my bag and we went to the finish to cheer Kim in. While we waited, Chuck called Kim on her iPhone and encouraged her along. This was beyond sweet. Every runner wife’s dream. Sigh.
Kim came in also having a PR! Which was awesome. We got some pictures in and they dropped me off at their car.
I was delighted to find the Pittsburgh mug in their back seat (Chuck is a fellow Pittsburgher!)
All and all for the day it was a pretty good one!
Another awesome day to stop and smile in the sun and appreciate the fact that I’m still moving forward on my own two feet. A good day indeed.