Today I ran my final half marathon of 2011, the Saint Louis Track Club 32nd Annual Half Marathon, in a new personal best of 2:04:14. Here are my observations from today.
1) It's great to walk to a race.
Jon (husband and runner support) and I had a room at the Sheraton Clayton Plaza, which turned out to be within walking distance of the Center of Clayton, where the race was headquartered. It was great to get up, shower, put on my outfit and walk through Shaw Park to get to the race start. I was there very early because I was so close.
2) This race did not have great swag.
But it had one thing everyone loved: the snazzy blue long sleeved tech shirt that every participant got. It's a tacit rule among runners that you don't wear the shirt of the race you are running during that race. You can wear last year's shirt, but some runners think it's an amateur move to wear the current shirt on race day. This race was a big exception--lots of people had that shirt on because it was a great looking shirt, especially on women.
3) This race benefited a charity, but I wouldn't call it a charity race.
Proceeds from the race will go to the Special Olympics, but they weren't a sponsor. The Saint Louis Track Club just gives them race proceeds, which is very cool of them. If I lived closer to Saint Louis, I'd join. Heck, I'll probably join anyway, since they are the closest big city running club to me, and their members get discounts. They even had me marked down on my race bib as being from "Carbondale, MO," instead of Carbondale, IL!
4) This was not the Rock-n-Roll anything.
I'm cheap, so I am not looking for a race with bands on every corner and throngs of cheering supporters. Those Rock-n-Roll races have their place, and their place is not in my pocketbook. So while there were few people cheering the runners on at this race, the ones that did were hella enthusiastic. As were the volunteers--Saint Louis Track Club members, I surmised. There were no musical acts along the route, so I had my mp3 player on.
5) This race had the great scenery of Saint Louis.
Saint Louis is a city I know well, but not on foot. I really wanted to run this race because it would take me into Forest Park (the race was an out-and-back from Shaw Park/Center of Clayton/Clayton High School to Forest Park). We also ran past Washington University at Saint Louis, and coming back on the race route in front of Wash U was the only significant elevation. It was not at all a hilly route. But since it was an out-and-back, I knew we'd be coming back at an incline, and worked my way through that mile with patience.
6) My first sighting of a true elite runner.
The winner of this race was Kenyan runner Sammy Rotich, who now lives in Iowa. Why Sammy was doing this race and not the NYC Marathon (also held today) is beyond me. But it was more than awesome to see him headed back to Center of Clayton as I was on mile five or so. All I can guess is that he really likes halfs. Here's an article about Sammy:
7) Race and running:
Runner's World just ran an article about why more African-Americans (as opposed to African-born runners from countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia) aren't doing running events. I'm still digesting that article and coming up with what I think on the topic, but I didn't see a big black presence at this race. It may be that Clayton, as a tony STL suburb, feels alien to folks not from it. St. Louis can be quite segregated, and that may have kept people from coming to this neighborhood. This isn't an expensive race, so that should not have been a barrier.
8) Gender and running:
Lots of women, though, were participating in this race. Lots of women were also doing the half marathon walk. It was a little disconcerting to run past many strolling people in the midst of so many runners (the half marathon walk started a half-hour prior to the half-marathon run). But I loved seeing racewalkers (not those out for a casual stroll, but those who walk as fast as many people run)--they were cool.
9) My final stats:
chip time: 2:04:14 (new PR for a half)
chip pace: 9:29
finishing place overall: 629 out of 1174 runners
finishing place among female runners: 222 out of 596
finishing place among female masters (over 40 women runners): 79 of 225
age division place (F 40-44): 32nd of 72
No more halfs for me this year, but I'll have some shorter length races to finish out 2011. This was a great race and I hope to do it again next year--save me a room at the Sheraton!