Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra – November 19, 2016 (Rocky Mount, VA)

Usually on the weekend before Thanksgiving we travel to Texas so I can do one of the UltraCentric races in Grapevine, TX. This was the first year that our plans changed and we decided to stay local. It turns out that ‘local’ has many definitions. Virginia is several states away from Florida and too far to drive in one day so we ended up spending one night on the road both going and returning. Despite the distance, it was a good alternative to UltraCentric, especially when I learned that UC was canceled because the RD was ill.

We left on Thursday morning and drove as far as Greenville, SC. Our hotel was a pristine Holiday Garden Inn and we both had a good night’s sleep after having lunch, with a birthday burger for Darcy, at Red Robin. We made it to Roanoke, VA, by afternoon the next day. The race itself was at Waid park in Rocky Mount, VA, but we decided to stay in Roanoke at another Hilton Garden Inn, about a 45 minute drive away. There were closer hotels but not any that matched my loyalty programs. That turned out to be a wise decision because those other hotels had a ladybug problem that would have definitely caused me problems (not so much the ladybugs, but the possibility of perhaps other less friendly bugs).

We drove to packet pickup at the park on Friday afternoon and met up with friends Joyce and Ray. Joyce had done this race before and was very familiar with it so she walked the course with me to help allay my fears of getting lost. It is a 1.1815 mile course, and I usually like courses that are at least 1 mile in length so it’s easy to keep track of the miles. The shirt was long sleeve tech, so I promptly gifted it to Joyce. I had other friends doing this race as well – Judy from GA was there as were Don and Marion from Montreal, Canada. Later, when the results were published, I would find out that both Joyce and Marion set age-group records. What is even more amazing is that Joyce has completed over 100 miles in two 48 hour events within the last month and has another 24 hour on Thanksgiving weekend. Her stamina and persistence is astounding.

Me, I was not so lucky. I had a major problem as we stood waiting for the race to begin at 8 am on Saturday morning. Suddenly I felt a painful spasm in my lower back that caused me to turn to Darcy, who was standing by my side, and exclaim to him that my back just seized up. I am not sure if it was anxiety, the cold weather, or a combination of both, but my back continued to bother me throughout the day and into the evening. As the wind picked up and the temperature fell, I began to feel miserable. Because of the 45 minute drive to and from the race site, I had told Darcy to pick me up by 10 pm. I knew I would never be able to tolerate the early morning freezing cold that was predicted. However, by 7:30 that night, my back was worse and I decided to call it a day. My minimum goal was a 50k so I could count it in my Maniac statistics; I managed to do just over 36 miles, pretty pitiful for what was supposed to be a 24 hour event, but it still counts.

We headed back the next day, spending the night at a pleasant Fairfield Inn in Commerce, GA. We left early the next morning and arrived back in Florida by early afternoon. It was a long trip and my back is still sore, though I somehow managed to plod through the local Turkey Trot 5k with a personal worst on Thanksgiving morning. Today my back is better, thanks to my trusty old heating pad; evidently heat is helping to alleviate the spasm and relieve the pain.

Crooked Road is a good race on an easy-to-remember two-loop course. It’s mostly flat cinder-covered dirt so gaiters are a must. There is one fully-stocked aid station that offered hamburgers at lunch time and pizza at dinner and lots of goodies throughout. The RD and volunteers are welcoming and extremely helpful. The price is very reasonable; if you sign up early, it only costs about $40 plus processing fees. And it is a good idea to sign up as soon as the decision to do the race is made because it fills up fast. The only problem is the cold weather. The wind chill during the wee hours of Sunday morning reached was 22 degrees. That is way too cold for this Florida transplant! As long as walkers can tolerate freezing weather, this race is a fine choice.

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon – November 12, 2016 (Fort Oglethorpe, GA)

This was a fun race. At one time, I had considered signing up for the full marathon here but I had reservations because of the 6-hour time limit. Even in those years when I could easily finish a marathon in under six, I was hesitant because so many things can interfere with doing well in a race.

So, to make things a lot less stressful for me, I signed up for the half marathon and built in some time to explore the historic park after the race. We drove up on Friday morning, arriving around 2:30 in the afternoon. I had already checked in to the Hampton Inn at Fort Ringold, GA, so we were able to settle in until time for packet pickup between 4 and 8 pm at Fort Oglethorpe Baptist Church, about 7 ½ miles from the hotel and a short walk from the race start and finish.

There weren’t too many unique restaurants in the area so we decided to have an early supper at a nearby Applebee’s. After eating, it was time to unwind and relax in our hotel room. Both half and full races were set to begin at 7:30 Saturday morning (followed by a 5k at 8 am) so I set my alarm for 4 am. That would give me plenty of time to digest breakfast and make our way to the start, about 8 miles away.

It should be noted here that the race organizers had arranged for shuttle buses to stop at participating hotels at 6 and 6:30. Although the Hampton Inn was one of those hotels, it turned out that the 6:30 bus completely missed our hotel and left some runners stranded. Since I often take shuttles when they are offered, that would have left me in the lurch but because of the expected cold weather I had asked Darcy to drive me so I could stay in our nice warm car until I absolutely had to get out. As we made our way out the door of the hotel, my friend Mellody called out to me and explained the situation. We were happy to have her join us for the ride.

The weather was perfect – a cool 48 degrees at start, around 65 at the finish – but I was still glad to have the warmth of the car since that is chilly weather for me. Finally both Mellody and I had to find the portapotty line. Then, right on time, a cannon heralded the start of the races and we took off. The course, which winds through the historic battlefield with numerous monuments to fallen soldiers, is mostly paved and shaded – there is only a brief foray across grass and dirt for the first and last mile.

Aid stations were set up every couple of miles, with bananas, orange slices, gels, water, and Gatorade, offered by cheerful volunteers, many of them youngsters. The racers as well as the volunteers were friendly and enthusiastic. For first 8 miles or so I kept pace with Deborah who helped make the miles fly by as we chatted. She was fast, though, and after the halfway point she took off, finishing about 15 minutes ahead of me. Mellody was doing the full and trying hard to make the 6-hour cutoff time. We saw each other around mile 7 and then she too took off, whizzing past me. I was sure I could finish in about 3 hours but I was relaxed about it – half marathoners had the full 6 hours to complete the race, so stress was minimal.

In fact, I have nothing at all to complain about and can honestly write that I enjoyed the course immensely. Full marathoners had to repeat the loop again, with a few extra sections, but I was relieved and thankful I had signed up for the half. It was a relief to not have the burden of a strict time limit. My mind and legs were very grateful. Even though I tried my best and left everything I had out on the course, I was happy I only had to follow that loop once.

I crossed the finish line in 2:56 (I am nothing if not consistent!) and was given a medal which – this year – commemorated the state of Florida and its soldiers. There was hot soup and pizza and fruit at the finish. We also received a neat souvenir blanket, much nicer than the usual foil sheet. I felt so good that Darcy and I decided to stop at the Visitor’s Center and watch a movie about the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. We then had a satisfying lunch at O’Charley’s to celebrate. All in all, a very good day.

This half marathon is definitely recommended for walkers, and if you are fast, you might enjoy the full as well.

Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon (November 5, 2016) – Gainesville, Florida

This was my very first race, way back in October of 2005. I realize it is somewhat unusual to do a half marathon for an initial race but I didn’t know any better, so I trained assiduously for several months by power walking around a 3 ½ mile loop in a nearby neighborhood. When I could complete this loop four times in under 3 hours, a total of 14 miles, I felt reasonably confident that a half marathon was within my reach. In 2005, the race course was held in the historic town of Micanopy, about 10 miles south of Gainesville.

A few years later, the race was moved from the streets and roads of Micanopy to Boulware Springs Park, along the paved Gainesville-Hawthorne bike trail that crosses Paynes Prairie. The newer course is a pleasant, partially shaded, out-and-back that is used primarily by cyclists.

I returned to Gainesville to do this race because I had other reasons to visit the city. In addition to a doctor’s appointment, Darcy and I visited the Serenity Garden at Cofrin Nature Park to have a brick placed in the garden in memory of our son Ben’s passing 2 years ago. That was on Friday.

The race was Saturday morning, with packet pickup beginning at 7. It was chilly and I overdressed to keep warm as I waited for the 8 am start. Mosquitos were active and biting despite the cold and I spent a good portion of the morning trying to brush them off my legs. Both the 5k (with 51 people) and the half marathon began at the same time. During this year’s race, I saw no pedestrians or dog walkers, only runners and bike riders. This made it very lonely for back-of-the packers like myself. Most of the 237 participants were fairly fast runners, although there was an official run-walk 3-hour pacer; she finished just ahead of me, in 2:56, leaving me to cross the finish line in 2:57, officially the last person (known affectionately in racing parlance as DFL).

While this remains a significant race to me for purely sentimental reasons, I doubt I will do it again. The timing clock was stopped at 3 hours but there was no mention of a time limit on the race web site. I knew that there was one young woman who was behind me when I made it to the 6 ½ mile cone at the turnaround but she was not listed as finishing. That would have been a major disappointment to me. At the time, I had no idea that the clock was stopped just after I crossed the finish line. It was only when I scanned the results that I realized what had happened. For that reason I would not recommend this half marathon for walkers; it would be necessary to maintain a pace consistently under 13 minutes to meet the time limit and it is very lonely for long stretches, especially the last 8 miles or so.

The Endless (Endless!) Mile – Alabaster, AL (October 22, 2016)

Originally I had planned to do a 100 miler in Georgia this weekend but I became more and more nervous as the time drew closer. In part this was due to my concerns of trying to complete 100 miles at one go while still having foot problems. I had also learned that this race would be on open city streets and I was worried about traffic and getting lost (there were other distances offered and each race followed a different route – that meant I couldn’t just blindly follow the people in front of me because they might be running alternate races). This increased the potential for getting lost to a much higher level.

Then I heard from friends about the Endless Mile in Alabama. This was a new race series to be held on a one mile paved course in a park with real bathrooms. It sounded good to me, especially once I learned that my friends Joyce and Ray would be there. Joyce had signed up for the 48 hour while I (wimp that I am) registered for the 24 hour. Other friends were there as well: Patsy and Andy from California (Joyce’s sister and brother-in-law) and Phil were also signed up for the 48 hour. I think the major inducement was the 100-mile buckle, promised to everyone in any of the races who finished at least 100 miles. Looking back, I probably could have done 100 miles in 2 days – I’ve done it several times – but I preferred the 24-hour option, especially in a race I hadn’t done before. There was also a 12-hour option and my friends Cheryl and Judy had signed up for that. It was fun to have so many people I knew at this race.

Darcy and I left for Alabama early on Friday afternoon. After a 5-hour drive, we arrived in the small town of Alabaster, found our Hampton Inn in neighboring Calera, and checked in without a problem. Our room was small but immaculate. Because it was too early for packet pickup, we stopped at an Olive Garden for lunch.   Then it was on to Veterans Park, about a 20-minute drive from our hotel.

The 48-hour race had already begun, with racers toing the line at 9 on Friday morning. We found Joyce and Ray’s impressive new tent and canopy and a few minutes later I saw Joyce run across the timing mat. We walked a lap together, a good idea for me so I could familiarize myself with the circular course and for Joyce so she could take a much-needed walk break. I stopped at the aid station where I then collected my bib, timing strips, and a nice long-sleeved cotton-poly shirt. The timing technology used in this race was one I was unfamiliar with. It consisted of two small rectangular plastic strips that racers had to pin to each side of their outer garment at hip level. I thought it might be a problem with some of my clothes (the strips could not be covered) but it turned out to be a non-issue and during the race I usually forgot about them. Every time we went across the map we could hear an audible tone and then could see our name and lap number on the computer screen a few feet past the mat. It all worked seamlessly.

Since the 24-hour did not start until 9 on Saturday, I had a chance to sleep in a little. While I prefer an earlier start to races, I welcomed the extra shuteye. After a light breakfast, we drove to Veterans Park and I set up my chairs, drop bags, and ice chest under Joyce and Ray’s canopy. Nine am approached quickly and the RD used an air horn to signal the start of the 12 and 24 hour races. Off we went, following the partially shaded loop around the park. Turns were marked with signs and chalked arrows on the pavement. I never did get lost, a definite plus in my book. However, I did find it hard to cut the tangents on the rather circuitous course because of all the wiggly turns and the need to dodge pedestrians, dog walkers, and others just out for a stroll on a beautiful fall weekend. While that tended to slow racers down a bit, mileage wise, it was certainly enjoyable to dog and people watch as we went around and around.

It was a tough race for me, despite the nice paved course and heated restrooms. The weather was cool during the morning and probably reached the mid-seventies during the day. The night, however, was much colder than I had expected. For the past six months, I’d been racing in extremely hot weather so the cool weather in Alabama came as an unwelcome surprise. Luckily I had packed a couple of jackets, a hat and gloves, and hand warmers but these were most definitely not enough to carry me through the 37 degree nighttime temperatures. I was freezing! One kind runner loaned me a heavy coat and Joyce and Patsy fitted me out with a warm blanket to hug my waist and legs, but I was still cold to the bone

In addition to the weather, I had problems once again with blisters on the balls of my feet. Unlike previous races (when these blisters developed after 65 miles), these blisters began to trouble me early on. By the time I had reached the marathon distance, I began to feel the acorn sized tender bumps develop on both feet. I changed shoes and put on heavily padded socks instead of my thin Injinjis but nothing helped. At one point during the night, when it was very quiet and everyone seemed to be taking a break, I put in my earbuds and listened to songs on my Shuffle – that seemed to take my mind off the pain and the cold, at least for a few miles. But the cold persisted and so did the foot pain. By 5 am I had had enough. I entered the heated restroom and called Darcy to come get me. Then I huddled in Joyce and Ray’s tent under a mountain of blankets and waited for Darcy’s arrival. I had completed 56 miles. That was fine with me.

So what could I have done differently? Well, for one thing, I should have thought to bring a lot more warm clothes with me. Late October can be cold, even in the south. I think if I had had mittens instead of gloves, my warmest jacket instead of a lighter one, and some scarves and hoodies, I would have been able to last a little longer in the cold. As far as the blisters go, my podiatrist assures me that custom orthotics would resolve my gait problems by helping to cushion my forefoot. The orthotics are on order and haven’t arrived yet so that issue has yet to be resolved.

The timing system worked well and I didn’t have any problems with it. The one aid station cooked up a variety of different meals during the day. It also had water, Gatorade, and plenty of sweet and salty snacks plus peanut butter and jelly quarters and bean and cheese quesadillas. Around 10 pm Saturday night, Domino’s delivered some pizzas and they were a godsend to me. Yum! People were extremely friendly and welcoming and the volunteers excellent. Everyone who completed 100 miles received a special buckle (17 people, including Joyce, Patsy, Andy, and Phil achieved that accomplishment) and I think there were medals for the rest of us. Truth is, I left before getting my medal – I was so cold that I only wanted to get into a warm car and back to a warmer hotel room.

Endless Mile did seem endless to me, but overall it was an excellent race, despite the cold and blisters. Recommended for walkers of any speed.

Blue Mountain Beach Half Marathon (Santa Rosa Beach, FL) – October 9, 2016

As Hurricane Matthew blew through the Caribbean and headed towards eastern Florida and up the southeast coast, bringing disastrous flooding and strong winds to many communities, there was a good chance this race would be canceled. Although the race site in Florida’s panhandle was spared from Matthew’s fury, the race organizers were from the low country of South Carolina, and that was indeed right along the hurricane’s path. Fortunately, the race director was able to travel successfully to western Florida and all races (a 5k and 10 miler on Saturday and a 10k and half marathon on Sunday) went on as planned.

We drove to the panhandle on Saturday afternoon, arriving around 2:30 in the afternoon Central Time. Packet pickup began at 3 at Pandora’s, a local restaurant, so we spent half an hour exploring the surrounding area and walking to Grayton Beach along the sand dunes. One of the reasons I decided to sign up for this race was the low-cost option of a ‘retro’ registration. Participants who signed up for the retro version would get an official time but no tee shirt or medal. That was fine with me. I only wanted the official time and certainly didn’t need another medal and I didn’t want a tee shirt I would never wear. So for $45, I was in. That made packet pickup easy; I just got my bib (with chip on the back) and that was it.

Our hotel was about 25 minutes away, a very attractive and clean Marriott Courtyard. After checking in, we walked to the nearby Applebee’s and enjoyed an early dinner (although we usually prefer to eat in a locally recommended restaurant, sometimes convenience trumps taste – and Applebee’s has very good sweet potato fries, my favorite). We relaxed in our room while Darcy watched football and I knitted.

Sunday morning arrived and I woke a little before 3:30 am so I could have my breakfast and get dressed well before the 7 am start. Our plan was to leave around 6 so we could have plenty of time to check out the start. Only problem was that I had forgotten to change the time on my IPad to Central Time and so I woke an hour earlier than I needed to. That was okay; I just read until it was time to go.

Instead of my usual pre-race jitters I was fairly at ease. Funny how half marathons don’t stress me out the way longer races – or trail races – do. Still, I was a bit concerned about getting lost since this was a small race. I had no idea how very small the race was, in part because the 10k people were mixed in with the half marathoners and the bibs didn’t distinguish between races. We all started at 7 am and ran the first 6.2 miles together, across the timing mat at the 10k point, and the half marathoners continued along route 30A.

I hadn’t seen a map of the course although I had read the description on the website. But the street names meant nothing to me since I was unfamiliar with the area so I was surprised when we made a loop around the town of Grayton, headed down the highway for a couple of miles, and then made that same Grayton loop again. That brought us to 6 miles, with the timing tent just .2 down the road. From there we stayed on 30A until we took a left at mile 8 and went uphill towards a touristy residential beach area (though we couldn’t see the water at all because of all the 3 story houses) to the turnaround at mile 10. At that point, we retraced our steps back to the timing tent. There were only 92 runners in the half and I came in at #82, so I wasn’t at the very end but close. Still, I finished in 2:54:22, under my goal of 3 hours, so I was completely satisfied. Placing 2nd in my age group helped too.

Darcy met me at the finish line and we walked to the award ceremony and food and drink area at Pandora’s. There was fruit, granola bars, and little sub sandwiches (ham or beef) plus soda and water. As we got ready to leave, one of the volunteers asked me if I wanted a tee shirt. I explained that I was a retro runner but she replied that they had plenty of shirts and since the half marathon shirt was cotton and a pretty light blue, a gratefully accepted one.

Then it was back to our hotel so I could take a quick shower and take advantage of our requested late check out. As we drove home, Darcy asked me if I would do this race again (something he always asks me after a race) and I said ‘yes’ – I would definitely consider this race again. I think I was the only person who walked the entire way so it was definitely a little lonely along parts of the course, but now that I understand the course layout, I wouldn’t worry about getting lost. Most of the route is along a paved bike path and the rest is on paved streets. I was glad I wore gaiters because there was sand and some pebbles that could easily have penetrated my shoes so I’m sure they helped (though I didn’t see anyone else with gaiters on).

Recommended for walkers.

Run Around the World 24 Hour Race – Lebanon, TN (September 24, 2016)

This was the perfect ultra for me – a timed race on a paved certified one-mile two loop course with a fully stocked aid-station, cold water and ice, and an air-conditioned building with real bathrooms and showers plus a large gymnasium with benches and a clean floor to lie on. There were friendly people everywhere, not just the other runners but also friends and members who cheered on all the racers. The terrific volunteers anticipated every need; one especially vigilant young man would run up to me as I approached the aid station, fill my water bottle with ice cold water, and then hand it to me as I was moving on through. ‘No need to slow down, just keep walking and I’ll hand the bottle to you,’ he would tell me, understanding completely my desire to maintain pace. Even the weather cooperated; although it was very hot and humid during the day, I could always wander into the air-conditioning to cool off and rest while the evening hours brought cooler temperatures down into the mid-sixties.

It was a relatively long drive to Lebanon, about 9 hours. We stopped several times for rest breaks and breakfast and arrived in Tennessee around 2 o’clock. Our room at the Hampton Inn was not ready yet so we had lunch at Chili’s and then drove to the race site to check it out. We were greeted by Greg, a runner and volunteer, who explained the course (a lop-sided figure 8 that wound around Winfree Bryant Middle School and the College Hills Church of Christ) and told us where we could set up our drop bags and chairs. Just to make sure I knew where everything was, I wandered into the school and found the gym and the bathrooms. Satisfied and excited, I was ready to return to the hotel and get my stuff together for the 6 am start the next morning. I like starting early because I find waiting for races insufferably difficult, and this also meant we could leave early the next morning for home.

This event has numerous race options besides the 24 hour: 6 hour, 12 hour, half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 mile, and 100k. Both the 12 and 24 hour races begin at 6 am while the others start an hour later, except for the 6 hour which begins at noon. This means that the course is busy with people during daylight hours but is much less crowded during the evening. As it turned out, the number of people was never a problem because there was plenty of room on the course. There was also excellent line of sight and cones marking the transition points so it was impossible to get lost, a big plus for me. Each tenth mile of the course was marked so it was easy to figure out where we were at every moment. The course is well-lit and open only to participants and their supporters so there are no worries about traffic. I brought my headlamp and flashlight just in case but never had to use them.

Packet pickup began at 5 am on Saturday. Chips were attached to the bibs of racers and so had to be fastened on the outside of our garments. We also got short-sleeved technical tee shirts. I promptly gave mine away; I can’t see the point of even bringing home something I will never wear.

My friends Joyce and Ray were here for this race (Joyce was doing it for the third time) and they kindly let me put my chairs and ice chest under their canopy. At 6 am on the dot, we took off and my long day and night began. Yes, it did get hot and humid, but there was no rain and an occasional pleasant breeze. I knew that once the sun went down the temperature would drop. Around 3 in the afternoon, the heat began affect me, my feet started to swell, my shoes felt tight, and my legs ached. Ray set me up in the gym with a thick mat to lie down on and so I spent 30 minutes in blessed air conditioned comfort, with my feet elevated on a bench. By 3:30 I felt refreshed and, though I struggled with leg cramps while trying to stand back up on my feet, I was ready to attack the course again.

I never really took another break, although when Darcy came around 6 to bring me coffee, I did sit for a few minutes to eat, drink, and change my shoes and socks. Volunteers brought pizza in the afternoon and chicken sandwiches from Zaxby’s later in the evening. I had plenty to eat and no stomach issues, a nice change from my previous races this summer.

Around 9 pm, I could definitely feel the weather cool off – there was a time and temperature reading on the church’s electronic marquee so I could watch the drop in temperature as I passed by – but it never got uncomfortably cold. The evening hours were serene and peaceful, the moon a beautiful crescent that resembled a slice of orange candy, with the silence broken only by loudspeakers that blared popular music throughout the race. In fact, my only complaint about this race was the loud music that played nonstop. It was fine during the day but once nighttime arrived the music began to grate on my nerves especially as I passed by the several speakers.

My primary goal in this race was to complete a 50k so I could count it for Maniac statistics, but I really wanted more than that; after all, in my last 24-hour race at Dahlonega I managed 42 miles, so I thought for sure that I might reach 100k. It was beyond my dreams to reach 70 miles, something I had attained 3 years ago but had not reached since. My personal best is 86 miles back in 2011 at Across the Years. Mileage like that is no doubt unreachable for me now but I was hopeful that I could still manage somewhere in the 60-65 mile range. That’s why I was amazed when I got to 74 miles at race end. I placed second in the women’s 24-hour race and that was extremely satisfying!

Run Around the World is highly recommended for walkers – any distance would be a great experience. For walkers uncertain about whether they could finish a half or full marathon in 7 or 8 hours, they could take as long as 24 hours if necessary.

You’re Not Alone 5K – September 10, 2016 (Gainesville, FL)

It’s rare that I bother to sign up for a 5k race. The distance is too short for me to enjoy since it usually takes me 3 miles just to warm up and by that time the race is over. However, this 5k was special. September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day and this 5k race was sponsored by the Friends of the Alachua County Crisis Center to help raise the awareness of suicide and suicide prevention and to support people who have suffered a suicide loss. I shall always be grateful to the volunteers at the Crisis Center who managed to convince the Gainesville police to open up our son Ben’s apartment when he had been missing for over a week. His suicide was the catalyst behind the many walks and races I’ve done since in Ben’s memory and in support of suicide prevention.

So I had a personal reason for traveling to Gainesville to do this race. It also gave me a chance to visit the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden located in at the race venue, Cofrin Nature Park. In the words of the Crisis Center brochure that describes the garden “the Survivors of Suicide Garden offers a place of healing and solace for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide. The garden offers a natural landscape, sacred sanctuary and artistic symbols all meant to connect to those who are on the journey towards healing after losing someone to suicide.” It was very serene and peaceful.

The race itself was well done for an inaugural event. A concise but complete description of the course was given on the race website and included a map. I copied the directions on a small card that I kept with me just in case I got lost, but I never had to refer to it since signs with arrows were carefully positioned at all turns. There were two aid stations that offered water and both were manned by cheering volunteers. Additional volunteers were positioned at strategic places along the course – which, by the way, was all on city streets and sidewalks.

I arrived early, found a good parking spot at the church nearby (which offered its parking lot for the race), and walked to the park to get my bib and green cotton short-sleeve tee shirt. The race began on time and by 8 am we were all on our way. I can only estimate the number of participants since there were no official results; I would guess about 50-60 people took part. Most were runners but there were some walkers like myself. Despite the warm weather, I enjoyed the course and the occasion; it was great to do a race on asphalt again.

As I was waved back into the park at the 3.1 mark, I checked my watch and it was 8:40, so it took me approximately 40 minute to finish. We had been warned earlier in an apologetic email that there would be no medals (that was fine with me – I don’t need another medal) but there was plenty of food and drink, bananas and water and bagels.

Since this is supposed to become an annual event, I would respectfully offer a few constructive suggestions for future years:

  • Offer Gatorade in addition to water (September is still very hot and humid in Florida)
  • Use bibs that do not self-destruct when they get wet or sweaty
  • Have some kind of timing device – even just a few volunteers with stop watches – to capture finishing times for people as they cross the finish line (the Florida Track Club has a timing clock that it rents out but the club may be persuaded to donate its use for this organization)
  • Draw a chalk line on the ground for both start and finish lines
  • Set up mile markers to help racers pace themselves (these could be borrowed from the Florida Track Club as well)
  • Publish the results – names and times – on the web and on the Crisis Center’s Facebook page

This was an important race for me to do and I feel sure it will grow in popularity. It was definitely worth the 4 am drive to Gainesville. When I returned home and went through the good bag that held my shirt and bib, I discovered a thank you note addressed to me by name from the race coordinator thanking me for participating. That was a special touch!