Atlanta Half Marathon Review
After losing weight and doing triathlons all summer and fall, the Atlanta Half Marathon was the last big event for my year. I tried to follow a training plan for it that involved 1 long run each weekend building to 13 miles at the end with 2 medium runs (5-7 miles) and one short (3-4 miles) during the week. After a couple of setbacks (My poor performance in the Atlanta Marathon relay and getting the pukes 9 days before the race) the time for the race came.
The Atlanta Half Marathon is put on by the Atlanta Track Club and is their second biggest race after the Peachtree Road Race. The race starts and finishes at Turner Field and is run on Thanksgiving Day. They also include a 5k and for kids a 1 mile fun run (the Mashed Potato Mile) and an even shorter run for real little runners called the Gravy Gallop. Everything is based at Turner field so there is fun for the whole family. Over 8,000 people signed up for the Half Marathon while the 5k and Mashed Potato Mile sold out before the race. All counted, over 12,000 runners started their Thanksgiving at Turned Field this year.
The race expo and number pick up was downtown at the Marriott Marquis so that gave the wife and I an opportunity to go out downtown on the Tuesday before the race. The number pick up was a smooth operation and this year’s shirt was a nice long sleeve technical running shirt. I spent a while looking through the vendors and my favorite one was the Cabot Cheese booth since I love both cheese and greek yogurt and samples were available! Another benefit of the expo was the opportunity to pick up a parking pass early and not have to worry about paying at the event. After a while, we headed off to dinner and had a fun evening.
Race morning came and I timed my breakfast much better than I had at the Atlanta Marathon Relay. Four AM is my least favorite time for peanut butter and jelly but you make sacrifices on race day. There was no traffic getting to the parking area and I arrived about an hour before the start. The ATC did a great job getting the site laid out and planned and their experience was obvious. There must have been 500 port o johns spread throughout the parking lots as well as tables with cups of water. There were lots of volunteers and great signage to find where I needed to be. I stayed warm for a while in my sweats then took a gel and headed to the gear check about 20 minutes before the start. Whatever projected finish time I had submitted on my registration (1:45, I think) had gotten me a start in the “A” wave which meant I would start with all of the people who thought they could win this thing. I looked at the port o john line one last time before heading over to the starting corrals. This was my only real mistake of the day.
One of the things I was concerned about with a 41 degree temperature was the 20 minutes after I had taken off my sweats and had to stay warm before the start. I was pleasantly surprised that the mass of people created a bubble of warmth at the corral. At this point I started thinking strategy. Another nice part of the ATC races are the pace teams. They have volunteers who run the race at a specified pace so you can follow along if you have a hard time maintaining a proper pace. I knew I wanted to finish in between 1:40 and 1:45 so I made the decision to go out with the 1:40 team and stay with them as long as I possibly could. In my dreams I would pass them about a mile before the finish and power through. But those are dreams.
As the race got started I came to a couple of realizations: a) I was doing pretty well with the 1:40 team b) There were a lot more people doing this race than the Marathon relay and c) I should have taken that last stop at the Port o john. So at the mile 8 aid station I jumped off course and into a bathroom there. Another positive of this race was aid stations with water, PowerAde, and bathrooms every two miles. Unfortunately by the time I got out, my pace team was nowhere to be seen. I avoided trying to sprint to catch up by then, my rhythm was gone and I slowed down. Looking at my splits later I ran my slowest miles after that break. I didn’t feel that slow but I really needed that push I got from trying to keep up with someone I knew was running a specific time. I pushed as much as I could to the finish but just didn’t have anything left for a hard finish. My chip time ended up at 1:41.11 which was faster than I had run that distance, even at home on training runs.
The course was really excellent, much more interesting to look at than my legs of the marathon relay. We ran past the Capitol, through the back of Georgia Tech, through Atlantic Station and across the 17th street bridge, through Piedmont Park, into the Sweet Auburn district, past Oakland Cemetery, and around the Capitol building again before finishing back at Turner Field. Before the race I was really concerned about the hills but I thought it seemed much more flat than my segments of the relay. This race certainly had longer sections of gradual climbs and flats than I had experienced in that race.
All in all a great race. I suffered with the blisters I tend to get with long runs but other than that I have felt good. I set a PR in a new race and I earned my turkey! I also earned the Bells Special Double Cream Stout and the Sweetwater Festive Ale I opened up as I was frying the family Thanksgiving turkey that afternoon.