Exactly five weeks after my Mercedes Half Marathon, I was scheduled to run the Publix Half Marathon. I wasn't sure how to handle training considering the fact that the races were so close together (for a newbie like me), and I'm pretty sure I ended up undertraining for the Publix. In the five weeks between the Mercedes and Publix half marathons, I ran exactly 70.43 miles - that's an average of 14 miles per week, and I only hit double digits one time. So again... I was a bit under-prepared. But, I decided to look at the glass as half full.
Bad news - I was undertrained. Good news - I was well rested. Bad news - I only had one double digit run during those five weeks. Good news - that run was a full 13.1 mile preview of the course. Bad news - I ran it at almost twelve minutes per mile (a bit slower than the 8:20/mile average from my prior half marathon).
So here I was on the morning of my third half marathon, well rested and under-trained. The energy around the race was amazing because it served as a reunion of sorts for my new, but exponentially growing run group - Black Men Run. We were expecting around 100 members or so from around the country to show up. Judging by this pre-race picture, I think we were right around that number.
Just as with my last race, I ran into a few morning meal hiccups on race day. I had my pizza the night before (as always), and the morning of, I decided I would grab a dry bagel (my favorite pre-race meal) from Starbucks near the start line. One problem - that Starbucks was closed, as was every other Starbucks in a 3 mile radius! So here I was less than an hour from start time scrambling around like a mad man with an empty stomach, and the only place open was....
yes, Waffle House!
Okay calm down, it was only dry toast and water. But the running joke that day was that I ate syrupy waffles and sweat tea right before the race start. Haha! I'm not that crazy. Anyway, I was running a little late so I had to hustle to find bag check, search for my corral (H) and get to the start line before the race started. There were barricades everywhere, and I ended up having to hop over one to get into the race (in corral G), one ahead of where I was supposed to be. Close enough! Five minutes later the race starts and a wave of people take off on a journey through the hilly and humid streets of Atlanta.
Maybe I'm prejudiced, but this course was a gazillion times more scenic than Birmingham. I'm talking night and day here people.
Speaking of night, it was pretty darn dark when the race started! The race started in Downtown Atlanta and quickly ran through my alma mater (Georgia State Univesity!) before hitting some of the beautiful East Atlanta neighborhoods (Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points, Virginia Highland, etc.). even with the race starting in the dark I was able to re-fall in love with the city that I've called home for the last thirteen years or so.
The first 7 miles of the race are full of relatively mild and gradually rolling hills (although people from flatter areas may scoff at the words "mild" and "gradually rolling"). But, I consider rolling hills perfect - just enough to allow me to use different leg muscles and not get bored. Plus with all the beautiful views and great crowd support, you won't even notice the elevation changes.
Shortly after leaving Little Five Points (probably my favorite crowds, though they were great pretty much throughout), you hit the Poncey-Highland neighborhood (around mile 7) and the course turns downhill and fast for two straight miles. And when I say fast, I mean f.a.s.t... I was booking through this section of the course. But naturally, as with any loop course, what goes down...must come up.
Enter Piedmont Park! Don't get fooled by the beautiful and large park. Despite the top notch views, this is the part of the course that separates the boys/girls from the men/women. This is where your training (or lack there of) will show itself. From mile 9 until you cross the finish line, you are mostly going uphill.
But, of course, I knew this, and I work/train in this area often; So while it was hilly, I felt prepared (despite my lack of training). I pushed through these last 4 miles or so with strong strides and my head up while passing by many people who were not as fortunate. Coming through Piedmont Park and the Georgia Tech campus, there were walkers shouting curse words abound "another hill!!" "Omg!"
Once you leave the Georgia Tech campus around mile 12, all the beautiful scenery that accompanied the course for the first 12 miles evaporates just...like...that. You are all by yourself. Running the last mile through an old industrial (mostly abandoned) area, with no crowd support, and going uphill of course. But, knowing I only had a mile left helped me ignore all of that and push through. I couldn't wait to get across that finish line...and about eight minutes later, I did!
Half marathon #3 in the bag! Finish time - 1:50:58.
Not a PR, but not bad either considering that I vastly under-prepared, was running on Wafffe House fumes, and covered a far more difficult course than the Birmingham half marathon from five weeks prior. I consider this a win.
'til next time...