It's time to tell you about one of my most fun race experiences EVER! Settle in!
I ran the Right to Run 19K in Seneca Falls, NY on May 7. I registered way back at the end of 2015, when I first heard about it, even though I was already committed to the Four Seasons Challenge for 2016. It just sounded too unique to pass up.
This was the inaugural year for the race, which celebrates women's rights (and women's running in particular), hence the 19K = 19th amendment. The race was co-ed though, and I saw just as many guys as girls at the starting line! The proceeds from the race benefit the National Women's Hall of Fame (in Seneca Falls), and the spokesperson for the race was Kathrine Switzer. All of this put together...how could I NOT run it? Especially when it's so close to home??
Race start was at 9am, and I live about 75 minutes away, so I got up at 5:30 and left my house at 6:45 to get there with plenty of time to spare. The 19K and the 5K (the other race option) had starting lines in two different places (but finished in the same location), so I headed out to the farmland beyond Seneca Falls for the 19K start. Plenty of parking available and lots of port-o-potties--we were off to a good start! I got all my stuff together and left my drop bag at the registration table--this was a nice perk, as they transported the drop bags to the finish line in downtown Seneca Falls, so you could pack up your flip flops/extra layers/snacks/etc and have them waiting for you at the finish.
Just before 9, I walked down the street to the start line, and was delighted to find that Kathrine Switzer was there to help send us off! I was hoping I'd get to meet her at the finish, but seeing her at the start was a HUGE inspirational boost for me. (In case you missed my review of Marathon Woman earlier this week, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and is an enormously important running idol of mine. FANGIRL ALERT!!)
There were technical difficulties with the national anthem, so the race director had all the runners sing it together, and it MIGHT have been the best race national anthem ever! Right after that, we got ready to go and Kathrine started walking through the start line crowd, giving high fives/hugs and sending us off. I was like, "OH HELL NO, there is no way I don't get a selfie right now." And I did, with 90 seconds to go before start:
|I WAS A LITTLE EXCITED.|
Race conditions: low 60's and full sun. Sounds pretty good, right? Not to mention that I was feeling so awesome after that amazing start line experience. I shot off the line and had to curb my enthusiasm a bit. I will admit that I didn't prepare as well for this race as I should have--I had no solid goal in mind, and because I ran Flower City Half only 2 weeks before, I hadn't done much as far as training in the last 14 days. Plus (and this feels dumb to admit), because I had just done 13.1 miles recently, my brain kept telling me this race would be easy-peasy, because it was ONLY 11.8 miles. (In hindsight...that it NOT that much shorter than 13.1!! What was I thinking??) Despite all that--I just wanted to have fun with this race, so after the first couple minutes of running, I felt good and decided to hold my half marathon goal pace (9:00/mile) as long as I could, and see how it went.
The course itself was very beautiful, and very flat. Like, so flat. If you hate hills, this is the run for you. That said, there was also ZEROOOOOO shade. NADA. For the first 6 miles. Nothing but open farmland as far as the eye could see:
No shade, and full sun? I was dying from the heat by mile 4.
I started pulling back a little at that point, but I realized quickly that I had pushed too hard in the heat for the early miles. There was a water stop at the 6 mile marker, and right after it I walked for about a quarter mile. Got my breath back, had a Honey Stinger gel, drank a bunch of water. Then kicked it back up again feeling MUCH improved. At this point, I vowed to stop looking at my Garmin so much, and just run for comfort. I mean, it was a 19K, I was going to PR no matter what, right?? :)
Thankfully, at this point we got close to Cayuga Lake, as well as some treed areas, so we had a bit more shade and wind coming our way. Crowd support was not big for this race, but the enthusiasm of the runners was high, which helped a lot.
|Me and Cayuga Lake. I am honestly dying a little bit here (see: red face), but I smiled for you anyway.|
Crowd support picked up in the last mile as we headed into downtown Seneca Falls, which provided a great boost. I passed a woman who runs a Facebook group for westside (of Rochester) runners/walkers, and her cheering sign had my name on it, which was fun and unexpected! Despite the tough go in the last few miles, I crossed the line with a smile on my face at 1:55:36 (roughly 9:47/mile).
|Insert self-deprecating remark about using watermarked race photo here.|
I got in line to meet Kathrine Switzer again (a bit more formally this time), as I wanted to say hello, thank her for all that she's done, and (in true book blogger fashion) get my copy of Marathon Woman signed. Switzer is incredibly gracious and funny, and I was so happy for the opportunity to chat with her! She signed my book and my race bib, and I also picked up a copy of 26.2: Marathon Stories, which she co-authored with her husband, Roger Robinson. (Because I need more books, yes?) Plus, I bought a Marathon Woman shirt, which I have told myself I am NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR until I finish the marathon in September--good motivator, right?? :)
Despite the fact that the race itself was a hard one for me, I still chalk this up as one of the most fun and unique races I've ever done. They've already announced the 2nd annual Right to Run for May 13, 2017, and I hope to be there!
Have you ever run a race with an unusual distance? Ever met one of your running idols? Any races coming up??