What a relief to do a half marathon rather than a full marathon or ultra! I began my racing career with a half marathon 9 years ago and still have a definite preference for that distance. However, once I discovered full marathons and ultras, I was caught up in trying to do as many of the longer distance races as I could, with my total now 211 and counting. But every time I have the good fortune to do a half, I am reminded of how much fun the shorter distance can be. In fact, I am now making a resolution to do more halves in the upcoming year. Yesterday was #30 and my goal is to reach 100 over the next decade.
So, in the midst of a full panoply of fall races 26.2 or longer, I decided to pick up this race in the residential Southwood neighborhood of Tallahassee, Florida. It was not too far from home so the driving distance was reasonable and I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel. The company that puts on these races (20 in the southeastern United States this year) does a fairly decent job in finding local routes, setting up the courses with signs and volunteer staff, and contributing a percentage of the race proceeds to various community charities. Somehow they manage to pull it off, at least here in Tally.
Packet pickup was at Capital City Runners, a local running store, on Saturday and at the race site on Sunday morning between 6 and 7 am. In addition to the half marathon, there was a 5k and 10k. The half and 10k both began at 7:30, the 5k 15 minutes later. I stopped at the store on Saturday morning and picked up my bib with chip on the reverse plus a short-sleeved green tech tee shirt. The shirt never even made it into the house; I simply added it to the pile of clothes in my garage that is destined for Goodwill.
On Sunday morning, there was plenty of free parking in the business lots surrounding the race start so I was able to find a good spot and then made the first of several stops at one of the half dozen portapotties set up around the start line. There were not a lot of people milling around, especially considering that there were 3 races, so I was a little concerned about whether I would be last and alone for most of the race. I worried needlessly. There were several people that ran or walked (or some combination of both) at about my pace and we exchanged pleasantries as we leapfrogged around each other. The atmosphere was friendly and low-key, at least at the back of the pack.
The course took us through the pleasant residential neighborhoods of Southwood, around a paved nature trail, and then out to Capital Circle Highway for a long out-and-back stretch. That last bit was probably the most difficult part of the entire route, although the paved walkway was wide and in good condition. It was just that it came at the end of the race, miles 8 through 12, and there was not much to see. As I made my way on the outbound stretch I saw a sign that said “Tallahassee Regional Airport 6 miles.” Hmmm. a marathon would make it possible to go all the way to the airport and back, so it would be easy to add a marathon here, although it would be pretty boring!
There were aid stations about every 2 miles, each stocked with water and Gatorade. I had brought an energy bar with me and that along with some water was sufficient to get me through 13.1 miles. Although the weather was cool, 50 at the start, it quickly warmed up, and I pinned my hat and mittens to my jacket, tied my jacket around my waist, and rolled up the sleeves of my two tops. If this had been a longer race, I would have overheated but I was just slightly warm when I crossed the finish line at 2:50. My goal had been to finish in under 3 hours, so I was happy with that time. It had been a while since I had pushed myself during a half marathon (in Ft. Worth this past February I had to go carefully because of snow and ice) and I was tired during those final miles. If I plan to do more half marathons, I really need to plan a better strategy to conserve energy at the beginning so I can push hard during the second half.
The medal was large and colorful (predominately green, the color of race sponsor Publix) on a lanyard imprinted with the Race 13.1 logo. For refreshments, there were bananas, mini muffins, chocolate milk, and pizza. I walked to my car to drop off my jacket and a few bottles of water and then returned to the finish line to watch the last of the racers and to check my chip time. The awards ceremony was going on so I sat down to wait until I could get to one of the computers. Lo and behold, when my age group came up, the announcer called out my name; amazingly, I had won 2nd place and received another medal.
As I made my way to my car to head home, I met one of the runners who had been back and forth with me for most of the race. CaTrina was from Alabama and had driven up to Tally just for this race. She was also a Half Fanatic so we spent a pleasant 20 minutes or so discussing various races. Then it was back home for a shower and some rest.
Half marathons are so neat – I had no blisters, no real discomfort, just a good feeling of fatigue and accomplishment. And this race was a nice addition to my roster, one I will definitely do again next year.