Let’s be honest. After the Shamrock Half Marathon, I was hooked. The problem is the expense of races and traveling. I can’t just sign up for them left and right at every whim on a teacher’s salary.
Then came the Charlottesville race. I had a coupon code for a FREE registration, and I jumped at the chance. I prefer races that offer a tech shirt, finisher medal, and an interesting course, and Charlottesville had all three: a short-sleeved, fitted tech shirt, the promise of a medal, and running through the grounds of my collegiate alma mater, the University of Virginia. For free. Not to mention running past TJ’s Rotunda, down Rugby Road, past my former sorority house (my experience there was short-lived), through gorgeous rolling countryside, and back to the Downtown Mall.
Sign me up.
Packet pickup took about 10 seconds and was very organized. I got my parking stub validated by a bartender who was working the ice rink that night and happened to be validating parking for runners. (Did I mention that the Expo was ON the ice rink? I didn’t know you could cover ice, but they used thousands of little plastic puzzle pieces to cover up the arena.)
The next morning, the starting line was easy to spot – an archway of bright blue and white balloons. I found my friend, and we huddled together in the freezing cold. The start was very informal – it began five minutes late and with a cheer from the crowd! There were NO corrals, and the Half Marathon and Full Marathon runners all left at the same time, together. I was a little disoriented, but took off with my hubby and brother-in-law at the sound of the crowd, running uphill from the start. The boys soon left me as they wove in and out of runners to get closer to the front. I maintained a steady pace, ignoring my Galloway interval notifications every seven minutes because I had read somewhere that walking wasn’t allowed. Taking in the beautiful Rotunda (the view a bit tainted this time by construction scaffolding) and the painted sabres on the street, the first several miles flew by.
Remember when I mentioned the gorgeous rolling hills as part of the draw of this race? They seemed to go on forever, and as soon as I found the top of one, another would start. The course seemed to go on like this for miles. Luckily I was entertained by a joggler (jogging/juggling) running the course who, I think, had also been at Shamrock. My in-laws seemed to know him. Now I’d consider myself a pretty good juggler – I was in a juggling club in high school and started one at the middle school where I worked. But to run 13.1 miles juggling four balls? I can’t fathom it.
I was inspired by some very courageous runners around me, including a vet who lost both legs in a landmine accident overseas who was running on prosthetics. Before the halfway turnaround point, my husband passed me as the course doubled-back on itself.
To prevent having to stop for a potty-break on the course, I had done my research and avoided coffee and shot blocks that morning and limited myself to a Gu packet, which I slurped just before the water/Gatorade station. Waiting in line for the portapotty at the Shamrock Half Marathon had added 6 minutes to my finishing time, and I avoided that this time. Score!
When I saw mile marker 11, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t many cheering spectators, and I had to rely on my own motivation to get me through to the finish. I began to panic when mile marker 12 never came around and I got to a fork in the road directing me left for the full marathon and straight ahead for the half.
I had been running for what seemed like forever. Watching my RunKeeper app, I knew I wouldn’t make a PR if I hadn’t passed mile marker 12 yet!
Finally though, a lonely spectator yelled, “Just a couple blocks left!” I didn’t believe him, but as I rounded a corner, the finish line was there to greet me. I guess I had just missed seeing the 12th and 13th mile markers, and with a surge of relief, I flew through the chute, grinning at the photographers as my name was read over the loudspeaker.
Now I will give Charlottesville credit for their post-race food: pizza, cookies, bananas, apple wedges in peanut butter, chocolate milk, and a Starbucks caramel frappuccino. As a nursing mommy who just finished running 13.1 miles….yum!
I still stopped at Five Guys for dinner, though.
The Charlottesville hills must have done my knee in, because I had to grab a knee brace at home to tackle the stairs, but other than that, I felt good, and was ECSTATIC that I somehow managed a PR, which I then used three days later to get a better corral placement when I registered for the Disney Marathon!
What is your favorite post-race food? What entices you to sign up for a race? The charity? The medal? The course itself?