This weekend I ran the United Healthcare Providence Half Marathon. Also known as that time I took a walking tour of Providence. But that’s ok. I went into this race with very few goals and expectations. Finish, don’t blow out my knee and try to have a good time despite what was sure to be a slow race. And you know what- that’s exactly what I did.
Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, and as sad as it was for us, Jim and I stayed in so I could sleep and not be margarita hungover (certainly one of the least desirable forms of hungover) for race day. We went to dinner early, were home by 10 and I was in bed by 10:05. In bed, yes, asleep, not so much. For whatever reason, I could not fall asleep to save my life. I’m guessing I finally passed out somewhere around midnight, but who really knows.
That made for a less than desirable 5am wake up call. I was a little nervous about getting to Providence and finding packet pick up in time, so I left with some buffer time. Thankfully, I didn’t need it and had my bib in hand by 6:45.
One of my favorite things about this race was how non-chaotic the start was. I really think splitting the full and half races a half hour apart made a HUGE difference. By the time the full started at 7:30 the half-ers took our spots and had plenty of space to stretch and warm up. It really was the best race start I’ve been to. Kudos, Cox Rhode Races.
8am came pretty quickly and we were off. We were told up front the course split at mile 2, and I had heard from a few friends who ran in 2009 that the course wasn’t very clearly marked so I made sure to keep an eye out for the split. Turns out, it was as clear as day, and the whole course was marked very clearly (though not correctly- we’ll get to that) throughout the whole race.
While I was stretching and waiting I came up with a game plan. My doctor tells me when my asthma flares up to walk a quarter of a mile each time I hit a new mile mark. This was I never put myself in too much danger and always have a set break to catch my breath. I figured this was the best plan since I haven’t really run- never mind raced- in 6 weeks. The doctor also told me to walk the uphills for Boston so I wouldn’t tear my knee up anymore than it already was. I figured this was also sound advice but wasn’t aware of one key thing- Providence was MOSTLY uphill. I really don’t know how they designed a course with such little downhill compared to the amount of uphill.
So as I approached the 2 mile mark, I didn’t have to worry about blowing past the marker signs because I had been walking for the half mile of serious uphill that precedes the two mile mark. While looking for the course signs I found a much cuter one.
And that’s how it went for mile 6 too. 7 through 9, those were also a crazy amount of uphill. Mile 10 had a super sharp decline that was as close as you could come to just jumping down 40 yards onto the flat pavement below. I’ve honestly never seen such a steep decline on a course in my life. If one person tripped half of the field would have been taken out by the tumbling person behind them. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. Though there were certain moments I was fairly convinced it was going to.
The full and half courses converged for what I assumed was the last 1.1 miles of the course. Right after I passed the 12 mile sign, the super speedy marathoners came around the corner. As those crazy runners blew straight past me, I was in awe of how comfortable they all looked despite the 25 miles of pavement they just covered. Every runner I saw was cruising along like they had just ran a 5K. While I was staring in awe, I also noticed that we were passing the Mile 25 sign about a half mile after the Mile 12 sign. Ok- maybe we have different finish lines? That’s strange, I thought it was the same one?
It was the same one. This became more confusing when a mile later we passed the Mile 26 sign, but had yet to pass the Mile 13 marker. Really, did they not think anyone would notice that mile 12 was way further than a mile? We’re runners. We’re known to carry GPS enabled devices any time our feet are in something that may resemble a running shoe. I know it was more than a mile. My Nike+ told me so. A lot of the half-ers were more than slightly irritated by this because they had paced for the last mile thinking it would actually be a mile. Silly runners, why would you think a course would be accurately marked?
Once the race was finally over, I was greeted with one of the best finish lines I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing. I expect to be greeted with a medal. The water is never expected, but also never surprising and certainly always appreciated. One thing I have never been greeted with was pizza.
That was not expected and appreciated doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I can’t think of many things that would have made me happier in that moment. Temporary forgiveness for the Mile 12 issue, for sure.
Friday I set some goals for this race. To recap…
– Finish. Check. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty, but it got done.
– Enjoy Racing. Check. I didn’t get the rush I normally do from attempting a PR, but I did genuine enjoy being out on the course. Even when my hands got that swelly thing they sometimes get.
– Meet the other Rhode Scholars. Sadly, no check here. Attention Rhode Scholars- For Jamestown let’s plan a meeting spot at the finish in advance. Or the start. You guys pick. But let’s find each other!
So that was Providence. I came. I saw. I ran. I walked. I didn’t quite conquer but I finished. And right now that’s good enough for me.