Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon Recap (5/26/13)

The decision to run this half was a last minute one (well, two weeks out) for me pretty much based solely on logistical ease. The facts that it offered free on-site parking and was only about a 20 minute drive from home (and right on the Metro for B & the girls since Audrey’s obsession is the train)  were really the only factors I needed to make a quick decision to register. Good thing it was easy to get to because it was not, um, the most well-organized race I’ve done.

First of all, they had early packet pick-up on Saturday but they didn’t give timing chips at packet pick-up; instead, they made you come the next morning before 7am (start was 7:30) to pick up the tags to attach to your shoe. What was the point of early packet pick-up, then? So annoying to have to worry about that on race morning! If I had known, I wouldn’t have made the extra trip out there and would have just picked everything up this morning. Also, ew…little plastic timing tags attached to your shoe can be enough to drive someone batty during a run. No one seemed to be able to answer my questions about the course route, either. That was sort of frustrating because I did want to know which mile markers had port-a-potties, first aid, etc.

The course wasn’t really my favorite. It started & finished at the US Patent & Trade Office, and we ran down Eisenhower St, over a steep bridge/hill at Hoffman Theaters, past the Van Dorn metro station, and into a park/neighborhood  that we looped twice, and then back again. The park itself was pretty (and shaded, whew!), but everything else was just eh. Looping the park/neighborhood was really confusing, too, and involved lots of turn-arounds, etc, including an “on your honor” one at mile 8 & 11. If it was your first loop, at mile 8 you had to turn left at a street, but if it was your second loop and you were approaching mile 11, you had to turn right. No one was tracking people at all, so it would have been really easy to turn right after only completing a loop. Part of the route was on the road, part of it was on trails, and part of it was just on grass. I didn’t really like that, either.

My main goal for this race was to pace myself better at the beginning and to run a pressure-free half marathon, especially since I have another one coming up this Saturday. I started my first three miles around a 9 min/mile pace, and I was proud of holding back! At NWM, I spent the first 5-6 miles running at 8:20 min/mile or so pace, and that was not sustainable and ended up exhausting me for the rest of the race. My goal was to avoid that this time! I also wanted to make sure I stayed hydrated which has been a weakness of mine; however, today I stopped at almost every water station. Overall, I felt great during the entire 13.1 (albeit, bored at some points), and I ended it with no pains anywhere (except a huge blister on my toe, random); that is unusual because I’ve limped away from the other two halves I’ve done! I still felt strong after mile 10, and I didn’t struggle during those last three miles like I did in previous halves.

Because this race was smaller, I ran by myself for a good part of it. There were people ahead, and people behind, but not really anyone on top of me. This almost gave it a “Sunday morning run-around-the-neighborhood” feel. It also allowed me time to reflect on things, and this was the first race where I felt myself get a little emotional. I had told myself that I was going to try to reflect on Memorial Day (and its profound meaning) during this race. Around mile 5, I had this moment where I felt the gravity of our military’s sacrifices & was able to think of those we have lost, including my high school classmate, Lance Cpl Brad Arms, who died in Iraq. I also started thinking about my friends in Buffalo who were running the Buffalo half, and the people of Boston (including my friend, Annie) who were running their own half marathon to honor the bombing victims. Something about the thought of how we were all running this morning, even if it was in different places, was really powerful to me. The solidarity of the running community is awe-inspiring.

One of the other perks of it being a smaller race was that Brian and the girls had a front-row seat close to the finish line, and we were all able to clearly see each other. There is nothing quite like being able to quickly stop and give your sweet girls a big enthusiastic hello (and have it reciprocated!) right at the end of a long race! Although, I did end up thinking the finish line was a few feet closer than it actually was & stopped before I realized I needed to keep going – oops! Another fun thing was that this was the first time my name was announced while crossing the finish – sort of made me feel like a superstar! 😉

End result was 1:57 (8:52 min/mile) something I am really happy with because I feel like I accomplished my goal of pacing myself, and just enjoying the experience. It’s not a PR for me (NWM was my PR half), but I didn’t go in with that intention. Like I said, I have another half on Saturday, so I couldn’t kill my body this time around! Next week’s half marathon is Virginia Wine Country Half. Not sure what my goals are for that one, especially since there is a wine break at the half-way point!  I probably won’t worry too much about time on this one, and will more than likely use this race as a literal toast to a full, busy, and completed spring racing season!

Stats:

332 out of 974 (total)

60 out 218 (age division)

127 out of 544 (women)

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Filed under Fitness, Races, Running

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