Field: ~10,000 runners between the Full and Half marathon
Spectators: All along the course. The race also sponsors a cheer zone contest for charity.
Start/Finish: Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta, Home of CNN, The Aquarium, World of Coke, Georgia Dome, etc.
Course: Loop course through various Atlanta neighborhoods and historic areas including the MLK Center, the Carter Center, Piedmont Park, Georgia Tech, etc.
Schwag: Tech T-shirt from Mizuno, finisher's snack box and paper coat thing.
Other: This was the 10th anniversary of the race and the first year that the Atlanta Track Club took over organizing it. Along with them came their partner Mizuno as a title sponsor and official merchandise supplier.WeRunSocial meet up prior to getting my bib. It was fun to see some familiar faces (I hadn't seen Jen in forever) and meet some people I've only known from social media. Afterwards Jen and I head into the Expo to wonder around and see our good buddy Katie. The Expo itself was pretty small. The Atlanta track Club only officially took over the race in late December which isn't a lot of time for major changes, and I am curious to see what they do with the future of this race. Side note: I thought the did an excellent job with the race this year.
WeRunSocial Meet-up. Totally stole this photo from Jen.
So Saturday wasn't exactly the kind of day you would want prerace. I was on my feet a lot (to the point where I was achy and had tired legs that night), I forgot to eat lunch as I rushed to the meet up at the Expo, and I had tons of trouble trying to decide what to wear on race day (I ended up changing my mind a few minutes before leaving the house on race day). All these snafus didn't worry me too much, because my goal was a good workout.
A spectacular shot of the finish line from the Atlanta Track Club.
Race day came and the Jayhawk and I took the train to the start. I had talked him into signing up when the track club did a $26 bib promotion the day they announced they were taking over the race. I think he was a little worried about what I talked him into when I described all the hills and various people told him "Oh, that half is rough," but there he was ready to take it as a long training run. We live close to a rail stop and it's a straight shot to the start, so we left that house less than 45 minutes from gun time. Of course as soon as we got on the rail platform I had to potty and since we had arranged to arrive at the start within 20 minutes of the gun, there was no time for a port-a-john visit. Great planning by me (extra motivation to get to the finish quickly?).
Pre-race with the Jayhawk. Race weather was perfect: 40s and sunny.
When the gun went off, I tried to settle into a comfortable pace. Being watch less, I paid particular attention to my breathing which took a minute to regulate on the cool morning. My goal was to not go out too fast, build speed through the race as long as everything felt good, and if not, try to keep it under 2 hours. With the time change the race starts basically in the dark and the sunrises ~40 minutes later. As I came up to the first mile marker, I hear someone yell "8:01, right one pace" and at that point I realized I was right behind the 1:45 pace group. My immediate reaction was to slow down. I hadn't trained for this pace, I was just finishing recovery, and I had no desire to walk the last two miles of the race when I blew up.
I assumed I had got caught up in the excitement of the start and for mile 2, I focused on my breathing and my stride, and letting the pace group go. If there is a carrot in front of me, I will chase it. Seeing them would only encourage me to run faster than needed. Additionally, they were a pretty big group and I don't always like being part of a big pack, so letting them go would give me more space on the road. Physical everything felt fine at this point. I was putting out effort, but not to a point it felt unsustainable. As I hit the mile marker 2 sign, I noticed the time was still right around an 8 minute pace. I thought to myself "Ok, this is where it start to drop off and you settle in. That can't be sustained in these hills for too much longer."
Waving to friends at mile 7. I was running into the sun. I don't normally glow like that.
And then mile 3 came in at 24 and change. So here I was 5k into the race at a faster pace than normal, wondering if I could really hold on to it for the next 10 miles. I decided to see what each mile marker brought. If my pace dropped off at some point what did I really care? It wasn't a goal race, I wanted a hard workout, and I knew exactly what was in front of me course-wise. Enjoy it like a tempo workout and jog it in if need be. So along I went, enjoying the course, taking in the views, and smiling at the fans.
The race shirt. The run really large. This is a unisex XS.
And the miles ticked off. At times I felt like my pace was surely dropping, but then the next mile marker would have me still more or less on pace. (Note: I didn't know how far off my time was from the official clock, but I knew probably around 30 seconds based on where I started). I got in a lot of practice at my 8's multiplication at each clock. To be honest, for most of the race I was in disbelief of my pace. I didn't feel like I was overexerting, but it didn't make sense to me that I would be running that much faster than normal.
The medal. I like the dogwood theme they had going with the race gear.
Turning out of the park onto 10th street (around mile 9) I did start to notice a little wind. Pre-race the forecast had shown a windy day, but lucky for us, it was pretty minimal. Nothing compared to the stiff ocean breeze I faced at DONNA. Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I heard someone call my name from behind me. Sure enough it was Daniel from The Running Cat. I've know Daniel for a year or so now from social media, but we've never actually met in person. It seemed only fitting that would we finally meet midrace. We chatted for the next 2 miles before Daniel sped his way onto another PR (1:42!).
Post race finish line selfie. Is there a class I can take to be less awkward at the selfie?
After what I always think is the longest mile in racing history (straight, with a quick turn at the end into the finish), I crossed the line in just under 1:46 clock time (Chip time was 1:45:34) and I was more than a little stunned to learn I ran a 4+ minute PR. It's not that I didn't think I could ever run that pace (running a 1:45 half was going to be my goal for the fall), it's just that I never thought I could run that pace on that day. The more I've thought about it since race day, the less sense I've been able to make of it. I'm sure I had some carry over from my marathon training cycle, I was well rested from recovery, and the weather was just perfect. The Jayhawk ran better than he expected that day (not a PR, but impressive given it was his first half on a rather hilly course). We both returned home with happy smiles after enjoying a great race on a beautiful spring day.
Have you ever been completely surprised by the outcome of a race? Is there a race you enjoy every year?