Monday, December 26, 2022

Magic City Half Marathon Race Report


The final race of our "southern swing" was the Magic City Half Marathon. This race had a lot going for it -- the 5K option is Birmingham's "Girls on the Run" graduation 5K, so huge thumbs up to them for that. It also starts and ends at a baseball stadium, so there was plenty of bathrooms and we could have gotten undercover if the weather was bad. But the weather, though cold, was lovely!

We got into Birmingham on Saturday afternoon; tired and achy from the morning's race in Meridian, MS. We drove out to funky Avondale to pick up our race packets at a very nice brewpub with a huge outdoor space. Had it been warmer (and we been less tired), we might have lingered. 

Then to our big chain hotel -- Home2Suites by Hilton -- where we had a warm, friendly welcome one might have hoped to have in a fancier hotel. (I'm looking at you, Threefoot Meridian...). 

That night we stretched our legs a bit, seeing the Birmingham Barons stadium lit up, and the groovy "rainbow underpass". The lights on both change colors slowly, and it looked amazing.

Also, look how cute this sign is! I sure hope that her tail wags and her eyes move when they hit a home run. 

The next morning we bundled up (c-c-c-cold again) and headed to the start. This was a bigger race, and one we thought we would really enjoy as the course was simple -- just two loops with long straightaways. 

We lined up -- towards the back, of course... but notice how bundled up people were!

And then we headed out, past the replica "Magic City" sign. No, I didn't know that Birmingham's nickname was the Magic City either. 

The original sign used to stand in front of the train station, but deteriorated and was torn down in 1952, and sold as scrap. 

Postcard from Birmingham Public Library

But when the Rotary Trail was built, a replica was included. Not quite as pretty, but a nice nod to the history!

ANYWAY, there I go again getting distracted. I got distracted a lot during this race because, well... it was a little boring. 

I thought the long straightaways would be nice, relaxing. But in the end it just felt like we weren't moving at all. A loooooong way out along the train lines, an odd little lollipop loop in an industrial area (that we saw a huge number of people miss / skip, BOTH laps), then a cut over to Avondale, and then a looooooooong way back to downtown. Then around the outside of the stadium, and back out again. 

The aid stations were frequent, well staffed, and well stocked. One was staffed by what was probably a track team? Cross-country team? Who were upbeat, dancing, and making "runner tunnels" for people to run through and high five. 

At some point we caught up with the back of the 5K pack, including a pair who were dressed as the tortoise and the hare, which made us smile. 

Towards the end of our second lap we passed a lot of folks who were fading, so we did our best to cheer them up and keep them moving. 

The best part, of course, was running down the steep ramp to get on the field at the stadium, and run around the warning track to home plate and the finish. I think there were shoutouts by an announcer, and some pics on the jumbotron. And then we were done. 

After the race, sitting in the stadium, drinking a beer and snacking on pizza, we met a woman who had finished her 50th state THAT DAY. She told me that "you'll speed up at the end", and that she ran 17 STATES in 2022. I guess with so many races canceled in 2020-2021, she had a lot pent up! 

We headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and have a nap, but we didn't have to rush out as we were staying one more night. Why? To make sure we had the chance to visit THIS GUY:

We passed through Birmingham in 2016 en route to Tupelo with Wil's folks, but sadly Vulcan was undergoing restoration so we couldn't visit. You can take an elevator up to the base of the statue and there's a nice view (and I don't mean of Vulcan's bare bottom, ahem...):

There's also a museum (we saw an exhibit about soda pop), but let's face it, the big attraction is the big guy!

But this was supposed to be a race report, so let's wrap it up. The medals were handsome and large -- I love the "stained glass" in it:

Magic City Half Marathon
14:49 pace

Most importantly, this was STATE 41!


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