Area 13.1 Half Marathon

I did it. I “escaped the invasion” for a second time even though I ran about 11 minutes slower than I did the first time in 2017. I finished in 2:06:39 which is my slowest half marathon EVER. I’m sure I can come up with plenty of reasons why I was so much slower. It was hotter than last time, although I don’t think the difference between 93 and 88 can account for 11 minutes. I’m 2 years older and getting progressively slower, and that is certainly a factor. I ate too big at brunch at South City Kitchen in Atlanta because the cornbread and biscuits and chicken and waffles. Probably the biggest reason is that my fitness level is nowhere near where it was in 2017 when I was in the midst of training for my second TCSNYC Marathon. Back then 13.1 miles was about 5 miles shorter than I ran the weekends before and after the race. This summer I’ve been keeping my long runs closer to 10 miles, so the 13.1 mile distance felt a bit more alien if you will. The good news is that not only did I not get abducted but because I ran so slowly I felt great at the end of the race. And I still managed to snag 3rd place because very few old men braved the heat and the ETs this year.
The Area 13.1 Half Marathon and Terrestrial 5k are evening races that have been running for I think I heard someone say 8 years in Roswell Georgia, hence the loose connection to aliens. As in 2017 there wasn’t much else to tie the race to ETs save for the little green men themed finisher medals, t-shirt and big alien head finish line. But alien invasion? Not so much. I think there should be some sort of alien presence along the course to reinforce that notion.
The races were under new management this year and overall the event seemed better planned and executed. There was a more robust set-up in Riverside Park giving spectators more to do while they waited for their runners to return. There were food trucks and Kona Ice and some ice cold beer as well as live music that I understand was pretty good. They also fixed a few of the issues I reported on last time, especially in marking the sides of the boardwalk and path through the preserve on the final approach with glow sticks.
My race got off to a bad start when Map My Run refused to engage despite my tapping the button furiously. If you’re the person that has read all of my boring posts you may recall that in the past I relied on the Nike Run Club app and had issues starting it a few times. Typically i just resigned myself to running without music and feedback. This time I was not prepared to run 13 miles in the summer evening heat of Georgia with no distraction so I pulled off my armband and sorted out the app on the fly. Unfortunately any time I have an issue like that at the start of a race I get kind of panicky and it takes me a while to settle down and run my race. Also because I had to put the armband back on while running I ended up putting it in an awkward position and by mile 9 I had developed a nice red, raw, stinging strawberry on my arm. Around mile 3, which is marked in a part of the run on a trail, I got a bad side stitch which has never happened to me in a race before. I chalked it up to chicken and waffles – in retrospect maybe not the best fueling strategy no matter how delicious. I was still on the struggle bus as we made our way back into the park from the trails before heading out to take to the streets of Roswell and I had a brief notion of calling it quits. Fortunately I did not because I’d never forgive myself and by mile 8 I was in a nice albeit slow groove. As darkness fell I was able to pick up the pace and even pass some folks who had overtaken me earlier. The temperature “cooled” to the high 80’s and my pace which had dipped into 10:00 territory returned to the more respectable 9:00s. I also benefitted from a better lighting strategy than I had in 2017 when potential tripping hazards hidden in the dark forced me to run cautiously. This time I had my Night Runner 270 lights on my shoes and runners light slings from Uncommon Goods on my hands to illuminate potential obstacles so I was able to finish strong.
As I crossed the finish line in front of the stage I could see that there was already a big party going on. The 5k crowd and the faster half marathoners had already consumed their free beer and possibly more. The band was rocking, people were dancing, and the emcee kept the fans engaged as their runners crossed the line. I was shocked to learn that I had placed in the top 3 in the old man group despite my s-l-o-w-w-w-w performance but I couldn’t wait around for the award ceremony. But as luck would have it the race directors were happy to give me my plaque right away.
My slowest half marathon ever was preceded by my slowest 10k ever in July when I ran the 50th Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on the 4th. The Peachtree reminded me of the TCSNYC Marathon in that it was big and crowded but at the same time seemed more manageable. There was a lot of red, white and blue and a great flyover before the race. Afterwards there was a big party at Piedmont Park featuring free popsicles. It was hot and it took me 53:07 to get to the finish line, 84th out of 2,124 old men. It was so hot that a red alert was issued when the temperature reached the high 80s. Runners were urged to exercise extreme caution which makes sense, but it occurred to me after the Area 13.1 Half Marathon that those conditions were more extreme than the Peachtree right from the start with nary a warning of any kind although it does state on the race website “if you do not like running in the heat DO NOT sign up for this race”. Sage advice indeed.

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