Good morning fellow runners! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Yesterday, I had ran my 3rd half marathon in Atlanta GA. I primarily did it because the marathon training plan that I am using (Hal Higdon Novice 1) calls to do a half marathon on the Sunday of Week 8. About a month ago, I researched to see what half marathon’s were available and the closest one I could find to line up with my training plan was the Hotlanta Half. I just completed Week 7 so I just switched Week 7’s 10 mile long slow distance run for Week’s 8 half marathon. One thing I have learned about marathon training was flexibility; I have had to shuffle my training around to accommodate my schedule.
My previous half marathon was the Run for God Run at the Mill Half which I ran this past April. My time for that was 2:04:32. I ran my first half marathon the week prior and my time then was 2:08:53. When setting up my goal PR, I was aiming for 2:03. I didn’t know what the course was going to be like plus this was the first time running a long distance race in the Summer. My running buddy’s mother predicted I was going to get a sub 2 but honestly that wasn’t my goal and if I ended up doing that, i would have considered it a bonus!
I live about 90 minutes south of Atlanta however I had to drive up on the 23rd to pick up my race packet. For some strange reason, the event had race day registration (a last minute addition) but no race day packet pick-up. Packet pick-up was located at the Downtown location of a running store called The Big Peach Running Company. After I picked up my packet, I decided to do a little shopping. I ended up purchasing some socks, KT tape, and a belt to help secure my bib (no more safety pins).
After shopping at the The Big Peach Running Company, I checked into the Embassy Suites. It would have been a crazy idea to drive all the way back to Warner Robins just to turn around (very) early Sunday morning for the race. I settled in and checked the contents of my swag bag. Out of all the races, this one was loaded with a bunch of goodies!
It was still early afternoon (around 4pm) so I decided to get out and check the area around the hotel. I walked through Centennial Olympic Park (Atlanta was home of the 1996 Summer Olympics). I got some pretty good photos of the park and the downtown skyline. Walking through the park was also a great cross training activity before the race. After touring the park, I jumped in the car and headed to Duluth GA (about a 25 min drive NE from downtown) to check out a store called Fry’s Electronics. My favorite hobby after running happens to be technology, so whenever I am in the Atlanta area, I try to stop at Fry’s. Fry’s is an electronic superstore that is bigger than Best Buy. I bought a couple of things, grabbed some dinner (Chicken Hibachi). and headed back to the hotel. After I ate my dinner, I made the last minute decision to take the MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rail Transit Authority) to Underground Atlanta. My original plans was to drive my car and park in the parking deck however I wasn’t sure how traffic was going to be around the race area (probably congested with streets blocked off). So, I got back out and did a “dry walk” to the MARTA station. After locating it, I purchased a Breeze Pass (a re-loadable riders card). It was $5 dollars round trip which wasn’t bad considering that parking at Underground Atlanta would have cost me $3. On the way back to the hotel, I managed to get some pretty awesome night shots of Centennial Olympic Park and the downtown skyline. Before I went to bed, I got my running gear together. Then I tried to go to sleep.
It never fails; I hardly get any sleep before race day (too much excitement). I got dressed and headed to Underground Atlanta via the MARTA. It was a quick ride that took about a minute. I found the bag drop off point and dropped off my bag that contained my cell phone, hotel key card, and MARTA breeze card. Since I had an hour to kill, I walked around to stretch my legs. I tried using the restroom but for the first time since I have been racing, I didn’t have to. Since the race didn’t offer pacing groups, I got a temporary tattoo that listed what time I should be at for every mile (used it as a guide to PR, not necessarily hit 2 hours).7:25 rolled around they asked everyone to report to the starting line. There was about 1175 runners participating in this event. After the National Anthem, the race started. Starting out is usually the hardest when you have hundreds of runners all around you.
The race course was very scenic that went around the heart of Atlanta. We ran by famous landmarks like the State Capitol, Turner Field, Georgia State University, Piedmont Park, CNN Center, Georgia Dome, and Centennial Park. Part of the course was on a fitness trail called “The Beltline”. There was spectators all over the place cheering us on. Whenever I had a chance, I thanked the volunteers and police officers for helping out with the race.
Even though the temperature was about 79 degrees with 79% humidity (we had a heat wave earlier in the week), what really got me was the dreaded HILLS. There were some around the perimeter but the majority was in the downtown area. Especially at mile 10; from there we ran up hill. The hills were tiring and challenging but I have been running hills at least once a week so I was able to run up them without walking.
When I started out, I was on target for a 2 hour completion time. There was water stations at every mile but my strategy was to get water every 4 miles. I was getting hot and tired after mile 8 so I hit every water station after that. I would drink a little and pour the rest on my head. I don’t remember when I checked my Garmin but I noticed that my pace was slowing down but it looked like I was on target to at least beat my previous PR. One thing I did noticed was that my mileage was lining up with the course so in a sense I was already off.
Before I knew it, I turned the corner and the finish line was in sight; UP A STEEP HILL Really?? I was getting tired and weary. But I pushed myself. I didn’t know what my time was. As I approached the finish line, I could see that the time read 1:59:30 so I practically floored it. I cross the finish line, got my finishers medal, a cool towel and some water. I stopped my Garmin but the it was off because it read 12.65 miles. I think the tall buildings may have interfered with the GPS signals.
So I just completed my 3rd half marathon on what turned out to be the toughest course I have ever tackled. But how did I do? Well here are my stats:
- Half Time: 1:59:39
- Chip Time: 1:58:58
- Pace: 9:05 a mile
- 284 of 1175 overall
- 43 of 87 for my age group (35-39)
So not only did I BURN (pun intended) my previous half marathon PR of 2:04:32 but I ended up getting my time under 2 hours!!! Not bad for a hilly course! Must be all the running I have been doing..lol. All kidding aside, it’s the type of training I have been doing. This is what I usually do:
- Monday – Rest
- Tuesday – Fast Tempo Run
- Wednesday – Easy Slow Run
- Thursday – Feel Good Run
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – Long Slow Distance
- Sunday – Cross
NOTE: My running buddy’s mother was spot on in her prediction of me getting a sub 2. Appreciate her confidence!
When I first heard these terms, I was clueless but now come to understand them. I see the benefits (and results) plus it helps prevent injury. I plan on continuing/adapting this type training going forward.
I don’t what number I am at but this is another race where I surprised myself. If I set a small goal, I end up doing better. That’s the way I think and it seems to work. This will be my last long distance race before my marathon in Savannah this November. My focus will be running the longer distances even if it’s a slow pace. My first 15 mile run is in a couple of weeks and trust me it’s going to be nice and slow! I still plan to run some 5Ks for speed work though. I start Week 8 training this Tuesday but I am going to call this week “Recovery Week”. I still plan running my miles but at a slow pace no matter what day of the week it is. I’ll return back to normal training next week.
Thanks for reading about my 3rd half marathon victory. Tell me, did you set a goal for race and end up surprising yourself? What is the toughest course you have ran so far? Shout out in the comments below! Happy running and be safe!