My spring racing season has ended. That is probably a good thing. In a period of 58 days I ran seven half marathons. I almost want to say that I over did it but in actuality, I really enjoyed myself. I saw many new places, met interesting people, and had many new running experiences. I thought I would share some of my observations as well as lessons learned.
I ran in races of all sizes, from 160 runners (Veterun Half Marathon) up to over 19,400 runners (New York City Half Marathon). Looking back, the Lincoln Presidential Half and the Garmin Half were probably tied for my favorite races – both of them had between 1,700 and 1,900 runners. The Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon, which had 10,458 runners, comes in close behind just because I discovered what a hidden gem Louisville is. I learned that I really enjoy the smaller races. There is something more relaxing about a race where you don’t have to do a lot of bobbing and weaving like you have to do on a packed course. I plan to consider the size of a race in the future when deciding which races to enter. Bigger does not always mean a better running experience.
It was still cold when I ran the races in March and even the first one in April. It rained during the other two races in April. Given a choice, I will take running in the cold over running in the rain anytime. Through experience I learned techniques to deal with running in wet weather. Unfortunately, I learned these techniques after I needed them. I learned that if you duct tape the toes of your running shoes, your feet won’t get as wet. I learned you need to wear extra Body Glide or Aquapor because chafing is a big issue when it rains. I learned new ways to put slits in plastic bags so they become more effective rain gear when running. I also learned to bring extra plastic bags to pack wet running clothes in for the trip home.
I like races where I can walk out the front door of my hotel to the start line and then walk back easily after the finish. Being close to the start and finish lines means I don’t have to bother with gear check. Plus I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic trying to get to the start or where to park my car when I do. Although I enjoy a point-to-point race, getting on a shuttle bus either to get to the start or to get back from the finish can be a hassle, especially if you are really cold at the finish. The course layout and how I can get to/from the race are other things I will consider when picking races.
Some runners enter races with the best medals. I have heard many runners talk about the medal for the Little Rock Arkansas Marathon. The full marathon medal is about the size of a dinner plate – no kidding. Me, I like the shirts (more practical). I get really disappointed when the shirt doesn’t fit me. It is like not getting a medal. So I like races where they either let you pick your shirt size at the packet pick-up or at least let you exchange it for one that fits (preferably not on race day when I don’t have it with me). It is also helpful when the registration process includes a size chart or at least identifies who the shirt manufacturer is (I can search the Internet and find out how their sizes run). The Garmin race was great – they let you pick the size shirt you needed plus the design was really cool with Wizard of Oz characters: Dorothy and a Flying Monkey. I won’t shame the races where I brought home a shirt that ended up on the donation pile because it didn’t fit me and they wouldn’t allow exchanges.
I learned how to be resourceful during a race. I didn’t have my cotton gloves with me during the Mini-Marathon in Louisville. My hands were getting very cold early in the race. As I ran down Main Street, I saw a pair of cotton gloves that someone had tossed lying on the road. I turned back and grabbed them. I held onto them for the whole race. I can’t say that I would have done that for lip balm but as they say, never say never. Desperation makes people do strange things.
I discovered that there are other runners with superstitions. There was a man I met in Louisville who wears the same shirt in every race because he did really well in one race. He wants to keep the good luck going. I still wear new socks for every race and the same running bra. I was disappointed to learn that it is common for runners to be less than honest about their estimated finish time so that they can get better corral placements. I don’t think that is considerate of the other runners who are probably faster than them.
One of my blog readers saw my post about the Garmin race and mentioned that the Santa Fe Trail went through Olathe, Kansas. I went back and looked at the pictures I took along the race course. One photo was of an outdoor sculpture called “Going West On the Old Santa Fe Trail” and was near where this reader had seen a Santa Fe Trail marker during a visit to Olathe. A little late but I connected the dots.
I try to take as many photos during a race as possible so I can share them with you. But taking pictures slows me down and my finish times have increased. I have decided that I will have to find a way to balance taking pictures with being competitive in a race. Truth be told, I would like to improve my half marathon time but I can’t do that if I stop every mile or two to take pictures. Some of the races that I have run have a big bell you can ring if you get a PR (personal record). I would like to ring one of those bells some day. I will have to work on that.
I am taking a break from races. I am back in training mode, preparing for the Berlin Marathon. I have started looking at the 2016 race calendar and which races I want to enter as I continue working on my 50 State Endurance Challenge. I have my eye on some fun ones. I have completed 20 states already and hope to complete 5 more this year. While some people say goals are for losers, this is one goal that I enjoy. I have gotten to see places I probably would have never visited and had a lot of fun in the process. Maybe you will decide to start your own 50 State Challenge. If so, I hope to see you at a race sometime!