In August I ran the East Bay Half in Rhode Island. Almost a year earlier the race director offered an extremely cheap registration to anyone who registered early. I want to say it was $28 for the half. It’s an easy drive from Syracuse and I can’t usually find a 5K for that price let alone a half. One of the Black Girls Run Ambassadors saw the discount and encouraged women to sign up so it could be an east coast meetup for BGR.
Traffic getting into Providence is terrible. It is a small city but there are a lot of activities going on so every hotel is booked solid. The AC in my room didn’t work but I was stuck with it since there weren’t any other options. There were a handful of brown faces near the colleges but not too many beyond that. The race director made all sorts of promises about huge post race meals, live music and a nice medal. I’m not sure what happened but none of those promises were delivered on race day.
It was 90+ degrees at the start of the race. A lot of people couldn’t finish because of the heat. By the 8 mile mark the race director was driving around handing out bottles of water, Gatorade and ice to make sure everyone was going okay. I could not run beyond the 8 mile mark because of the heat.
So why was this one of my favorite races? Because a couple dozen brown faces spent a weekend in a town where they aren’t use to seeing a brown face beyond the occasional waiter in a restaurant. We spent a lot of money and enjoyed being tourists. The best part was the night before a race when a family asked to be re-seated away from our table.
After 2 challenging New England races I was happy to head to Detroit in late September for a change of scenery. The Brooksie Way Half Marathon is the best race I have ever run. It is an extremely hilly course but it is completely closed to traffic. This takes place in Auburn Hills: a very popular upper middle class suburb. The fact that they close major roads and have police officers and national guardsmen at every single intersection is amazing. For my Virgina peeps, it is the equivalent of closing Route 7 from Tyson’s to Reston. The crowd support was phenomenal. The post race featured a series of great bands, all the comfort food you could eat, a selection of beers from a microbrewery, a photo booth and an awesome DJ. I have never spent this much time at a post race before but it truly felt like a party.
My last half of the year was the Mount Desert Island half in Maine. The race takes place near Acadia National Park and has breathtaking views. Fall foliage was still at peak and the weather was perfect. Michael Westphal, a noted marathon runner with Parkinson’s, was the featured speaker at the pre-race dinner. He is funny and inspirational. After listening to him speak you won’t see anything as an obstacle.
Sure the race was hilly and there is still not a lot of diversity in New England. Yes, you will have problems finding a parking spot before the race and will have a long wait for the post race buses back to you car. But the good definitely outweighs the bad. The people are great. The post race was fantastic. Great music, food and beer and a fantastic medal. And getting to watch Westphal finish the marathon, falling into his friends’ arms is a moment I will never forget.
So what I am looking forward to in 2017? Following last year’s trend of starting my year with a race somewhere warm with the Louisiana Half marathon this weekend. And finishing the year at a vacation destination running the Day of the Dead Half Marathon in New Mexico Halloween weekend. I will have my first back to back and back to back to back halves. There are milestone birthdays to celebrate and weddings to attend so I’ll probably try to squeeze races into my vacation plans wherever I can (is it rude to run a half the morning of someone’s wedding?).
I generally go for 12 races a year with about half of them being halfs plus one charity bike ride/race. Finished 2016 with 14 races including 7 halfs and 1 duathalon. I’m already registered for 7 halfs this year so I’m guessing I’ll end up around 10. I’d love to get my 5K down to 30 minutes (less than 90 seconds away) and my half time down below 2:36. Really I just want to stay healthy and keep running for as long as my body will let me.