About a week ago I ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon in Durham. Going into the race, I didn’t have a specific plan I was going to stick to. Since I’m running two half marathons this fall, I have generally decided I would be happy with anything under 1:45 in both of them and would love to set some sort of solid PR in one of them. Bull City Race Fest was easily going to be the more difficult of the two since it is a hilly course and Richmond is practically flat. But before race morning I decided I would start out somewhere just under 8:00 per mile and see how it went and adjust accordingly.
I met up with friends from Bull City Track Club before the start. Ever since that time I was late to a race start I have a lurking paranoia of race tardiness so we got there over an hour ahead of time. It was chilly out but as the sun came up it turned into perfect race weather. There was plenty of time to use the bathroom, check our bags, and then take yet another, more hurried trip to the bathroom and run back to our starting spot.
The race started nearly five minutes early. Yes, five minutes EARLY. I’m pretty sure this is something that has never happened in the history of all races. Everyone was amazed (and/or kind of mad). The world may have even stopped spinning.
The race started in downtown Durham and there were immediately a number of little, rolling hills. When I first checked my watch I was at around a 7:45 pace. A little fast, but not necessarily too fast. As we left downtown and headed into the more residential areas I settled in and was steadily keeping it between 7:48 and 7:50.
The easy highlight of the race was somewhere in the 6 mile-ish area when I saw my all time favorite Durham fixture. There’s an old, bearded man with a potbelly who I see absolutely every day walking by my office wearing no shoes, no shirt, with his dog ‘Happy’ in tow. Sure enough, he and Happy were standing on the side of the race course watching the runners pass by. Pretty much made my day. It’s the little things.
As we left the residential area and headed toward Duke University East Campus I was feeling less than perfect. I dealt with a side stitch and felt a bit worn down but was somehow staying within that same 2 second pace window the whole time.
Leaving East Campus during mile eight there was a fantastically fast and long down hill and it lent itself to my second wind. My average pace was still hovering around 7:50 into mile 9 and beyond and, for the first time, I felt some confidence that I could keep it going to the finish. After all, what’s three more miles?
But that’s when the soul-sucking hills made their appearance. The small and manageable rolling hills from the first three miles were nothing compared to the seemingly endless and steep hills during the last three miles. It was rough, and from mile 10 to the end I was just desperate to finish and my steady 7:50 average pace started to crash and burn.
I was able to pick up a little speed during one last, good downhill before a long straight and, of course, up hill finish. Usually I am able to manage a pretty strong finishing kick but, this time, not so much.
I finished in 1:43:58 and was 16th out of 280 in my age group. I was happy to keep it under 1:45 like I wanted and was actually pretty close to my PR time of 1:43:30. I think the whole thing is a pretty positive sign for what I can do at the Richmond Half Marathon in a few weeks.
The race was well-run, minus that whole starting early thing, and it was fun to run through a lot of parts of Durham that were new to me. But easily the best part of the race weekend for me was being able to enjoy it with new friends that I have met through Bull City Track Club. I’ve been running alone for a long time (like, the entire time) and having new friends to train and race with has been such a great contribution to the sport for me.
Oh, and the other best part of the race was this picture of me at the finish where I look utterly horrified by whatever is on my watch.
You’re welcome for that.
Run any races recently? How did it go?