One of the reasons I love running so much is because of the races. I get so excited for race weekends because of the expos, gear, courses, and other runners on the course. Running a race is so different than running alone or even with friends, even if you're running the same pace as normal.
Last weekend I ran the Women's Half Marathon St. Peteresburg for the second time. Last year I ran it as a training run, and since I'm training for another marathon right now, the same would be true this time as well. I had 16 miles on my training plan, so I decided to run three before the race so the race finish line would be my finish line as well. I attended the expo the day before, which will be in a separate post, and picked up my bib and plenty of expo goodies. I remembered the night before how much easier it is to get ready for a running only race. Compared to a triathlon, running races require so much less "stuff".
When my alarm went off on Sunday morning, I threw on the clothes I had laid out, strapped on my Garmin, grabbed my shoes and Gu and was out the door and on my way down to St. Petersburg. The parking was easy, and I was glad I had remembered to bring cash since the parking was $5. I don't think I had paid attention to that information in the race packet. I got parked, got out of my car, and got out on those first three miles with the intention of using them as a warmup.
I felt good, and after those three miles found some friends in the pre-race area. One of the things I love about local races is all the friends I get to meet up and run with.
After hanging out for a few minutes we made our way to the starting line. Tori and Meg had said they'd run with me at a 9:15-9:30 pace for my long run, but I had told them if they wanted to speed up they definitely could, since they had originally said they might run sub 2 if it worked out. Either way, I was glad to have company for a period of time.
There was a huge cheer station setup by Nick and the Best Damn Race crew at mile 1 and 7, so it was fun to see friendly faces so early in the race.
They also took some great pictures of us on the run! We were all feeling great in the beginning. The weather was perfect in that it was cool and overcast, and it didn't warm up or get sunny the whole time we were on the run.
The course had changed just a little bit; we no longer ran around the pier, and we didn't run through Tropicana Field, so there were a few extensions onto other roads we hadn't run on last year.
We ran the next bit through the nice neighborhoods around the Coffee Pot Bayou. There were lots of spectators. Around mile 6 I got a little bit of a stomach ache, but I told myself that there wouldn't be any slowing down because I'll probably be running with a stomach ache at Ironman Chattanooga next year. It might sound silly, but it worked. I kept pushing and it eventually cleared itself up.
We ran back through the cheer team when we were all ready for a pick me up. Meg has had some hip problems and they were flaring a bit, and I needed a boost as well.
Caroline got a great picture of me running, and it embodies how I feel while I'm at a race or out on a fun run. I just love how running makes me feel!
A few miles down the road we were all running different paces, and Meg and Tori walked for a second while Meg tried to work out some of her hip problems. I went on because I knew they were together and we only had 5 or 6 miles left. I also knew that this was a training run for a redemption marathon, and I wanted to have some solid long runs under my belt to have in my arsenal at the starting line of Jacksonville Bank.
I didn't have headphones with me so ran the last 5 miles alone with no music, but it was nice to get lost in my own thoughts. On the course map you can see the very long out to the west we run, and I will say that I was very tired of running away from the finish line by the time we turned around. I wanted to be heading back on the slight downhill to the finish!
When we turned it was pretty much smooth sailing. I saw a great sign that I want to recreate next time I spectate, and I picked up the last mile to sub 9 pace. This gave me confidence to know I still had stamina in me after a 16 mile run.
After crossing the finish line, I headed over to the finishers' area and collected my Publix sugar cookies, chocolate covered banana slices, and fluids. Yum! I skipped out on the bubbly, but there was also a glass of champagne offered to us all at the finish.
After we all finished, we took another group picture. It had started to get a little chilly by this point, and we were all ready for breakfast!
The medal changed this year from a palm tree to a beach chair. I can't decide which one I like better, though I think they're both so pretty! I love adding more bling to my medal rack!
And in all, this day was a huge success. I had a wonderful time running a very well put on race, I had a ball running with friends and hanging out before and after the race, and I had a really solid long run that helps me feel more confident in my ability to actually run a marathon in less than a month!
Women's Half Marathon gave me a free entry to the race in exchange for blogging about it, but I've done the race and registered for the race in years past without any incentive aside from a great course and well organized race. I'll definitely do it again next year as long as I'm physically able to, and I'd totally recommend running one of their races. They're all over the country throughout the year, and they're put on by the Competitor Group.
Have you ever run an all women's race before? What did you think?
What makes you go back to races year after year? For me, I think it's about the course, the organization, and friends doing the race. The medals are becoming less important to me.