Monday, April 16, 2012

Run Raleigh Half Marathon Race Report

Recipe for an angry hamstring:
  • 1/2 marathon
  • 4 hours driving from state to state

Combine these two ingredients, then let sit overnight.

The next morning, add in another:
  • 1/2 marathon
  • 1 hilly course

For extra flavor, mix in one stumble over a tree root, a pinwheeling near fall, and an immediate limp. Please note: this is optional and only recommended for advanced chefs.

My “race strategy” for the day was to run for first 5 miles, then take it easy and recover the last 8. I was going to be strong and brave and not fret about people running past me – I was thinking about the long term.

before the start
Things went fine this morning – got up, had some bread and cheese, and then waffled on clothes. Capris or shorts? Sleeveless or short sleeves? Jacket?

But in the end I went with capris and a sleeveless top, and no jacket. I stood on the balcony for a few minutes – it was muggy and not as chilly as yesterday. I walked the few blocks to the start, milled around for a few minutes, and then felt thirsty. What? No water at the start? Wow. Luckily the guy at the running store let me go back to use their drinking fountain. Still, kind of weird not to have any water.

White Memorial Presbyterian Church
(historic postcard - trees are bigger now)
We started by running up a slight incline – hamstring felt a little tight, but I figured I could just run till it got warm, or loose, or whatever. We ran a funny “lollipop loop” around a pretty old church. On the way there, we were running past some big mansions. As I fumed about their right-wing political signs out front (yeah, I get it, you’re the 1%...) I tripped over a bump in the road from a tree root. In order to stay upright, I executed an amazing maneuver involving a stutter step, a twisted ankle, some select cursing – but managed to avoid falling. Of course, I also managed to make my hamstring hurt even more. Whee.

Anyway, I limped my way toward the church, thinking “wow, how pretty! It’s like a little English church, but we’re not in New England.”

I assure you that it was only a couple of seconds before I laughed at myself. Honest. Hadn’t I spent part of yesterday’s drive laughing about the city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg? Oh yes.

Okay, back on track here…. But in a lot of pain. I thought that maybe I just needed to gently warm up a bit more – so I slowed to a brisk walk somewhere between miles 2 and 3. A lot of folks passed me, which was hard to bear, but as I always say, you have to run the race you have, on the course you have, in the weather you have, and in the body you have on the day. Today was not going to be a very good day.

Welcome to Downtown Raleigh
I’ll say this about the course – it was pretty. After the side trip to the church, we ran past a university (Brownstone, maybe?), and then down down down a hill. We passed a big sign – “Welcome to Downtown Raleigh” -  but there were no buildings in sight. Kinda funny.

"Downtown Raleigh" -- immediately after the sign

Down, down, down some more, past a “correctional facility”, and then into a big park, where we followed a trail on boardwalk through a genuine swamp. I was nearly alone at this point, which was a little nervewracking… I kept worrying that I would somehow make a wrong turn or get lost in the wilds of Raleigh, NC.
swamp -- for real

nice boardwalk to run on

But the trail was pretty, shady, and cool, so I just enjoyed it…. Until we came to a dark tunnel. Luckily the organizers had put in temporary lights so it wasn’t pitch black – but it was spooky dark. I was glad that I suddenly had a few other folks nearby!

spoooOOOOOOooooky (and much darker in real life)

The rest of the course passed pretty unremarkably – the water stop volunteers got goofier and goofier – in a great way – as they got tired and punchy. This race had great volunteers.

Eventually we headed up the big hill we came down early in the race – that I ran down, thinking “use the hill” and concentrating on not tripping again. I wasn’t sure quite where we were on the course, which brings me to my biggest criticism of the race:

There were no mile markers.

Now, sure, I had a GPS on. And after mile 8, the water stop volunteers told everyone the mile. But still. Mile markers make a difference for people. If nothing else, it helps them know they are still on track. It just seemed like a really obvious mistake. I don’t need clocks or anything fancy …. I just want something saying where each mile falls. Not having that seems amateurish.

somewhere pretty on the course... not sure where, of course...

All of a sudden I was at the turn by my hotel. For the most part, the volunteers and the police officers were fantastic in keeping the road clear for runners. But when I approached the intersection, neither the cop nor the volunteer seemed to notice me. Sure, today I was slow and late. But the course was supposed to be open for another half hour. I ended up standing on the corner, and then shouting “Which way?” twice before the volunteer noticed me. He said “just down the street and then you’ll see it”. Yeah, sure, but perhaps you might want to stop traffic so I could cross?

Anyway, I crossed the street, went down the road, and then spotted the finish line. I considered running to the finish, but that seemed disingenuous. All I wanted to do was get done in under three hours, and that was well within my reach. So I smiled, thanked the people who were cheering, and strode across in 2:58

Got my handsome medal, some water, and some potato chips, but didn’t see much else to hang around and do. Never spotted the advertised “beer tent for runners”, but all I really wanted to do was shower. So I headed back to the hotel.

Not a race I could recommend to others – really, mile markers. Really. But it’s another state checked off… That makes 12!

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