There certainly are many marathons in May, and the first weekend in particular seems to have a lot of choices. Last year I did Pittsburgh and a year earlier the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, but this year I chose Rhode Island for the simple reason that I had a conference scheduled the week before right in downtown Providence. It seemed logical and certainly convenient to attend the conference (the American Society for Indexing – I am a new freelance back-of-the-book indexer) and then stay a day longer for the marathon.
So, I flew in on Wednesday to the compact little T. F. Green Airport in Providence (it’s actually in neighboring Warwick) and met my sister Margie at baggage pickup. She had driven down from Massachusetts so we could visit before the conference began. I don’t think we stopped talking for the day and a half we spent together; it had been almost 2 years since we had seen each other last and talking over the phone simply doesn’t substitute for a face-to-face visit. She left around noon on Thursday, just about the time my software workshop began. From that point on, I was immersed in seminars and meetings and barely had time to walk outside for some fresh air. The conference was held at the Hilton Providence, one of the race host hotels (although the main host hotel was the nearby Westin). The Hilton turned out to be a good choice, for my room was clean and tidy, the bed comfortable, and the staff accommodatiing.
The Hilton was also close to packet pickup at the convention center . On Friday afternoon, I walked over to get my bib (with chip attached) and tech tee shirt (made of a slippery blue material). There was not really an expo – just a few local vendors, Cox Cable (since they were the sponsors), and some charities. I picked up an extra map of the route and spoke to one of the knowledgable volunteers about how the course would be marked and exactly where it would start and finish. I was reassured that the start/finish line was just a short walk from the convention center and I knew that there would probably be plenty of folks from the hotel whom I could follow to the start. The course would be marked with orange tape on the roads and signs with arrows. There were also volunteers at every important turn.
On Saturday afternoon, as conference attendees began to leave, runners started to arrive. I did my usual pre-race preparations, getting my clothes ready for a cool morning with later sunshine, ate a light supper, and then to bed. Woke early and left the hotel around 7:30. The race was scheduled to begin at 8 am. Along with the full marathon, there was a half as well, and we all began together right on time. Just after the second mile, the half marathoners split off, heading north, while we full marathoners went over the Henderson Bridge to East Providence. As usual, the half marathoners vastly outnumbered the full , but even so there were almost 1200 full marathoners. The course is primarily a road race, although we spent quite a bit of time on several bike paths as well. While this meant we had to dodge both cars and people on bikes, I thought the drivers and bikers to be extremely well –mannered and polite. Many of them honked and cheered us on and all kept a decent distance from us.
The only real complaint I had was about the poor condition of some of the roads – lots of potholes and tripping hazards. Fortunately, I managed to avoid falling. We passed by several golf courses and country clubs, a few cemeteries, and then through several attractive neighborhoods; for a number of miles, we wandered along the Providence River and finally, around mile 24, crossed another bridge back into the downtown area and the finish line. A volunteer circled my neck with an attractive medal and lanyard, handed me a bottle of water, and pointed me to the food. There were boxes of different varieties of pizza and some bagels shaped like crullers. I took a couple of cheese pizza slices and found my way back to the hotel where I bought a bottle of orange juice in the little shop. I had a strong craving for oj, not sure if I needed the vitamin C or the natural sugar or just a little bit of Florida but it tasted great.
One important thing I learned – it is not a good idea to sit at a conference for 3 days before a race. It’s one thing to taper but too much sitting is not for me. My muscles were stiff as the race began and it took me fully half the race before I felt like I finally had my usual rhythm and pace. Still, I finished in a respectable 5:47:09, well under the 6 hour time limit. I did notice that a number of participants (there were about 50 people behind me) clocked in well over that limit, with the last person finishing in about 7 ½ hours. It was a good race and I’m glad I had a chance to do it.