On a whim (sort of – I had actually toyed with the idea), Saturday I registered for a half marathon today, Memorial Day. It’s a road half marathon, but one that goes through my favorite wilderness park (Aliso/Wood Canyons). Actually, it goes through the paved portion, Aliso Creek Trail, and that’s good enough for me.
It’s been a while since I’ve run a half marathon on the road. My last half was in the mountains with lots of elevation gain and it took me over three hours (3:17)! I was a little nervous and reluctant about running this race. I feared the road runners would “blow me out of the water.”
Overall, I am glad I ran. I saw other runners I know (Tom B. and Jeremy H., see recent Holy Jim runs, – and I got to meet Jeremy’s wife, Jodeen, as well at today’s race). Besides the fun of large crowds and cheering bystanders, I noticed lots of differences between road races and trail races.
I’ll start at the beginning. Porta Potties. The lines at road races are immense. I mean, hundreds of upon hundreds of runners line up to use them – and there is no forest or desert boulder to duck behind. Secondly, the women either wear capri running pants or itsy-bitsy shorts (of course there are exceptions). Most people don’t carry water; they rely on aid stations. And those who do carry water do so in their hands or around their waists. I only saw two others wearing water on their backs. (I elected to do so in this race, because I didn’t want to stop for water and I wanted a place to keep my phone, camera and keys.)
Also, People don’t generally run and chat with strangers in road races (though of course, I’m sure there’s exceptions again). In road races, it seems runners don’t look over their shoulders when switching sides (like I have to, else get hit by a bike on the trail). Also, the road race starts off much, much quicker than on the trail. I mean, amazingly quicker.
I started off much quicker than usual as well. We also started off with about 4,000 5k racers, which made that starting pace even faster. I reached the halfway mark at 1:02. (My best 10k, the Dana Point Turkey Trot, I believe was 1:03, maybe 1:02, so I was running faster than my best 10k road race pace). Up until the midway point, I hoped to finish under 2:15. But upon reaching the halfway point quicker than I thought, I realized breaking 2:15 would be really tough. I was tiring, and knew I couldn’t keep up that pace.
As it was, about mile 10, I started to really slow my pace. And at mile 11, the 2:20 pacers passed me. I said, “Sh*t!” without realizing out loud. The pacers who carried tall signs that read 2:20 turned around and said, “It’s okay, you’re doing great.” I felt badly for my comment, because I didn’t want to insult any of the runners that I found myself surrounded by. Clusters of people swarm around the pacers. (Another difference between road and trail races. On the trail races that I’ve run, there are no designated runners holding up signs with ending times posted on them).
I veered off to the side and was able to race by the pacers and the pacer crowd, only to be passed by them again by mile 12. By then, I said to myself, “Okay, if I come in before 2:30, I’ll be happy.” And that I did: 2:23:32. And I was happy. Happy that I got to play part of this big running event to commemorate Memorial Day.
Other differences between road and trail races, I didn’t realize until it was over are: 1) my feet ached after racing the road, never on a trail race, and 2) the after-party is much more festive and crowded with vendors on road races, and that’s pretty cool.
994 out of 1412
418 out of 706
49 out of 88
Fun, fun, fun in the California sun. I forgot to mention, it was hot this May day morning. I mean HOT.