I thought that my fifth half was going to be the City of Roses Half in Cape Girardeau, MO on Sept. 18, but I caught wind of this race sponsored by McKendree University, a small liberal arts school in Lebanon, IL. I'm cheap, so the $30 price tag appealed to me and I signed up. Here are my observations from today's race, which I finished 13.1 of in 2:08:50 (more on that later).
1) Sometimes you get lucky and the weather loves you.
I had feared I might be running this in the rain--not just rain, but thundershowers. It didn't happen.
2) It's a small-town race--don't expect a medal.
This race only gave medals to the top finishers in their age groups, and the age groups were huge (39-50?). If you run a race this small, don't expect a finisher's medal. Everyone who pre-registered got one of those wicking T-shirts and one of those 13.1 decals you can put on your car (even though this race was 13.25 miles, not 13.1--more on that later).
3) Okay, so there's a 5K too.
The 5K and the half started at the same time. In order for both races to share the same finish line, the half was slightly longer than 13.1. It was 13.25 miles. A volunteer was positioned at the precise spot of the race that was 13.1 shouting out times, so that's how I know my 13.1 time. I didn't note my time on the giant clock at 13.25 because I was too busy looking for Jon (husband and runner support). [Update: my time for 13.25 miles was 2:10:45]
4) Speaking of volunteers, college kids make great ones.
Lots of volunteers at this race (someone joked that there were more volunteers than runners). I don't know if that was actually true, but there were a lot of McKendree University students, faculty and staff members helping out with the water stations, calling out times, giving out GU, etc. They were sweetly enthusiastic, and many of the runners made sure to thank them as they grabbed water cups. One advantage of a small race is that you don't have to fight to get to the volunteers with the water and the gatorade. I took in water or Gatorade at every single water stop.
5) Speaking of GU, it's awful. Take it anyway.
In my race in Collinsville, IL, I didn't have enough fuel in my system and I bonked on the course at mile 12. I got a PR, but paid for it--recovery was not fast. This was not going to happen today, especially since I am running City of Roses next week. I choked down two Power Bar Energy gels pre-race (slightly less gooey than GU), and during the race, when the volunteers handed out GU, I tucked mine away and ate it during mile 12. Nasty, yes. But did I finish the race strong with no bonk. Yes.
6) This race was hilly. So glad I trained on hills.
This race had a portion called "Hill Country." It began at 8.68 miles and continued until around mile 10. I didn't attack the hills. I kept a steady pace and tried not to let my form deteriorate (small steps, minimal arm swing, and head/torso up). There was a sign that read "You are now leaving Hill Country. Congratulations!"), followed by another sign ("Actually, this is the last hill"). I read it out loud and laughed.
7) For me, doing halfs is about pacing, not racing.
I try to keep a consistent pace. When people pass me, I don't try to catch them. But I do try to keep them within sight, which generally keeps me on pace.
8) Compress me, my love.
I had on compression socks under compression tights. Maybe a little much, but my legs feel pretty good overall. I also avoided blisters with some cocoa butter on my toes.
9) Music or not?
No music. Oh I had earphones on, but didn't play my music. At the pre-race briefing, the race director reminded the runners that this was NOT a closed course. We were running on small one-lane roads, and many drivers had no idea there was a race going on. I actually yelled "CAR" at one point, which I've done during 5Ks but not during a half before. I took what the race director said to heart and didn't listen to music.
10) Halfs always seem to end coming uphill.
I no longer panic when at the end of a half the elevation rises again. Race directors have sadistic little hearts and they want you working hard at race's end. So when I felt a rise at the end of this race, I just kept on chugging.
11) I could never do a marathon and be happy.
People ask me if I'll do a marathon. A very friendly woman runner told me before I did this half that once I did a marathon I'd be hooked. I'm keeping it open as an option, but I love how I can finish a half in about two hours and change, and then go do something else (get lunch, see friends, go shopping!). My goal is to do 13 halfs before the end of 2013. After that goal is met, I will think marathon. But I know if I never do one, I'll be perfectly happy.