Publix Atlanta Half Marathon – The Luck o’ the Irish

Do you have to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to feel the luck o’ the Irish, or is making the journey relatively unscathed lucky enough? I ran the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon on Saint Patrick’s Day and I think I learned the answer.
Conditions were right for me to put up a good number for my 28th half marathon. Race time temps were projected to be about 40 and the course through Atlanta’s neighborhoods was for the most part pretty flat. I figured I had no shot to place since in past years there were several old men who ran sub-8 minute miles, but I was looking forward to a fast run and maybe challenging my own 8:15 record.
We drove over to Atlanta from B’ham on Saturday and as luck would have it the packet pick-up at Atlantic Station was walking distance from my brother’s place so we didn’t have to mess around with parking the car, although it didn’t look like it would have been much of a problem anyway. The packet pick up was fast and easy but the expo was a bit sparse compared to other mid-sized races I’ve run. I did try a ginger ale flavored Clif block, which was delicious, but then there wasn’t much else to do but take an ironic picture of my brother in his wheelchair in front of the “Run Atlanta” photo backdrop and leave.
Pre-race instructions were plentiful and had us sufficiently worried about getting to the race in time. The official recommendation was to take MARTA to the start and although my brother and his wife are big MARTA fans I couldn’t chance ending up stuck on a train somewhere at the gun. Instead my sister in law dropped me and my loyal race crew of one off a few blocks from Centennial Park and we walked over to the start area. Along the way I stopped at a port-a-potty with absolutely no line – talk about good luck!
The corrals were well organized although I didn’t see anyone checking that I was getting into the right one. Spectators had easy access to the railing so I was able to pass off my outer layers to my wife instead of tossing them which means I am covered for at least one more cold start! We sang the national anthem, watched the first wave go and then we were off.
I started off too fast as usual while Garmin ticked off my folly – 8:14, 8:07, 8:00 for the first 3 miles. Granted a lot of the early going was downhill, but I knew that the last 3 miles were mainly uphill; I’d need some energy left for that. I tried to slow it down and by mile 10 I was at 8:28. I told myself that I would kick it back up for the last mile to finish strong.
Around mile 12 I noticed that the road was much closer to my face than I am accustomed to and by the time it registered with me that I was falling I was on the ground. My immediate concern was that runners would trip over me. Fortunately nobody did but I can just imagine those runners telling people “yeah I had to dodge some old guy who fell in front of me”.
A lot of it is a blur but what I remember is a woman with a microphone running over to me. I reached out my hand and she helped pull me to my feet, and then off I went. I could hear another person with a microphone say something to the effect of “that’s right get back up and keep running”. I tried to play it cool as I assessed the damage during the last mile. My elbow hurt, my hip hurt and I could see my knee was bleeding. But the most serious damage was to my time – my last 2 miles were both over 9:15. I ended up finishing in 1:53:16 which is right about my average but below my expectations for the day.
So the highlight of the day was my first in-race trip to the pavement. What’s lucky about that? Well everything went right in terms of minimizing the damage. It was a cold morning so I had on a pair of knit gloves, compliments of the Trak Shak. I had taken the left one off during the race as I heated up but never got around to the right one which I also strap my water bottle to. When I fell I scraped the label off the water bottle and shredded the glove pretty good but my hand was free of road rash. After some deliberation I had decided to wear knee high compression socks as I sometimes do on cold mornings. I’m glad I did. When I got home I had some fabric burn on my shin but nothing worse.
I didn’t win anything. I didn’t set any personal records. No pot of gold. But I realized that anytime you take a hard fall running on asphalt and you’re able to get back up and run, that’s a good day. For sure twas the luck o’ the Irish on full display for St. Patty’s. Slainte

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