This will be a sort of long post, because I want to try and get my impressions of my first race of this scale down and share them. I saw a lot of different numbers tossed around on how many people were involved, but when I went to get my results, it appears that just under 8000 runners ran the race. That’s more by four time than the largest event I’ve previously entered. There were a number of elite runners, and the start was done using corrals. I have no idea how many there were. I was supposed to start in #10, but I ended up in #13. The lines for the facilitiies were really long, and my hotel was just across the street, so I cut it close and ran back. Glad I did. They were already moving the corrals forward when I slipped in through the #10 gate.
Before the race, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow badassrunning.com member Joseph Leon Guerrero, as well as Katrina Gay, whose challenge back in May – the 5K a day in May challenge – helped me get my miles up over 100 a month, and introduced me to a whole team of dedicated runners and great people that have become friends.
Left to right – myself, Joseph, Katrina, and Tabatha Navarra
This was my first chance to meet any of them in person – except for Roland Curit, who served with me in the US Navy back in the day. The thing that makes it all fun, and possible, is the community – the opportunity to share something you are passionate about with like minded others. Not everyone loves running, I can tell you – and fewer still like to hear me go on and on about it (my wife is a saint, and my daughter only gives me occasional eye-rolls).
I think they released each group of runners 1 minute apart. We had announcers from FM 99, WNOR, one of the local rock stations, and they were pretty entertaining, but everyone was focused. I set and started my “Mapmyrun” app to record my miles, and got my Garmin 310x read to go. Finally it was our turn, and we were off. For the first mile, I think almost that far, anyway, it was hard to break away from the group, and they were running slower than I wanted to run. My normal pace is right around 9:30 per mile. They were running 11:00 and you had to be very careful not to bump people, trip people, etc. Once it stretched out, I picked it up, and started moving up.
The weather was great at the start. It was in the upper mid 70s – overcast a little – and my hope was this would continue through to the finish, since I expected to be there by about 9:30. What I didn’t count on was the humidity. Here is where my lunch time training has come in handy. I have been running in 85 degree weather with high humidity since July, and I was pretty much used to it. I drank at every water stop and every gatorade stop, and I sipped my own supply as I went. I’d carried a washcloth from the hotel to keep my face wiped…that was soaked by mile five, along with all my clothes and my hat…but I felt strong.
I think I spent a little too much time walking through the water stops, but honestly, there were so many people that if you tried to run through you were a danger to yourself and others. I kept my pace as steady as I could.
Having the bands there was amazing. At one point, according to my garmin, I ran a stretch that was a 7:21 mile pace. I’m sure it was crossing in front of one of the live bands provided, though I don’t know which one, or which song. I swear I almost danced when the music was loud.
There is a bridge you run over, once on the way out, once on the way back. When I hit it on the way out, there were two girls next to me. Nice tattoos, and looking strong. They sort of looked at each other and said “kill it” and took off up that hill. I followed, and it was a good move. It cleared out a lot of the people in front, and at the top, I still felt good. I did the same thing on the way back, and it was a real motivator to be running hard then – at about 12 miles – and make it to the top.
I passed couples. I passed a lady with a shirt that said “if you are reading this you were just passed by a pregnant lady” and I congratulated her. Same with another lady whose shirt said “If you’re going to pass me, at least wish me a happy birthday,” and I did…so did everyone.
At about mile 9, I started getting twinges in my right calf as if it might cramp. I fear the cramp. I know it would have put me down, and likely out. I eased up. At one point, when it threatened again near mile 12, I walked a bit, and of course that is when my son and his buddy showed up to take my picture. I had them run on a head, and got going again… Despite the water stations and the short bouts of calf-babying, I managed to keep on pace for a new PR.
The end was amazing. Signs, cheering familes, clubs, churches, any group you can imagine was there – all of the encouraging the finishers, fast and slow. The winner passed us all on the way back at about 5 miles in. He finished in just over an hour…amazing. He was absolutely flying over the course at slightly over 5:00 per mile. I can’t imagine running that fast, but I can imagine what it feels like, because I think it’s probably not that different from being a come-back kid, 54 year old man who couldn’t finish a mile and a half one year before this race without walking – and finishing 13.1 miles with a personal record. I finished at just over 2 hours and 27 minutes. My previous best in an official race was 2 hours 32 minutes and some changes. Every time I run that distance, I feel stronger and faster, and I hope that’s true because I’m on my road to the full marathon next March. It feels more like a dream than reailty.
Highlights: the organization was absolutely amazing. The EXPO was huge, with representative shops from Brooks and a lot of other big name running manufacturers, power bars, snacks, gel packs – you name it. There was a lot of emphasis on charity and helping others with your miles. There were dogs – and two of them ran the race (well rode the race) pushed in a stroller. The support was fantastic. There was a girl who went down on the track, not sure why, and she was immediately surrounded… people got out of the way, helped, let the ambulance in – everything was handled professionally and perfectly to allow those of us there to run … to run. At the finish there was food, drink, every sort of refreshment you can imagine, and plenty of it. The city continued the hospitatlity, church groups handing out icy water and more snacks on the street outside the gates.
I know there was an amazing afterparty – TRAIN played the beach, and I wish I could have seen that, but it’s a holiday weekend, nearly done now, and I mssed my family. I got my run. I got my finisher’s medal. I got my personal record, and I got to meet some amazing people – some of whom I consider my friends, though I only know them from running – and on-line conversations – and challenges.
I would love to do one of these again one day, but a race of this magnitude is a big commitment of time and money. Most of my running is solo and personal, but the friendships it’s brought me, and the excitement and intenisty of competetive runs are sort of my gauge progress. When you finish a race like that – you know you have accomplished something. I shared that feeling with 7,000 plus other runners, and that makes it special.
Next race? The FREEDOM RUN – 9.11 miles on The Dismal Swamp Canal trail – where I ran my first 1/2 last fall. More info by clicking HERE – come run with me.