Columbus Marathon/Half Marathon Race Recap and Review

And just like that, my 2014 race season is finished! I am happy to report that I finished on a high note with a new half marathon PR – 1:49:16. This was an up and down year due to injuries and I didn’t do much speed work leading up to this race, so I am pretty proud. This is going to be a long post – for the review, just scroll down to “The Good, The Bad, the Ugly.”

Race morning outfit
Race morning outfit

The morning started early with a 4:30 wake up call. My husband had a symphony performance the night before, so I was surprised to see him wander out of bed at 4:45. He was extremely helpful by taking the dog out and getting my English Muffin ready while I made sure I had everything I needed. We were out the door and on the road by 5:15. We had a parking plan, but I had bought a parking pass as back up just in case. Luckily, our plan worked out. It was pretty chilly, in the 30s, but we only had a short walk up to the hotel where I was set to meet up with my training group.

My training group met up at the hotel which meant we got to spend plenty of time inside in the warmth and got to use real bathrooms before the race. The other benefit was we had our own bag check which meant I could use a real backpack instead of one of those clear bags now required for bag check at most races. I chatted with my friend and relay teammate, Nicole, who had been up puking all night from food she ate a the Pumpkin Festival the night before. Finally, it was time for the entire group to head down to the corrals together.

I kissed my husband goodbye and made my way into the corral with some of my training group. I had picked up a fleece ear warmer and fleece gloves for $1 each at Dollar Tree the day before and that was good decision. I had on a zip-up sweatshirt from high school and sweatpants from high school that I threw off along with my ear warmer before the start. This race has lasers going while everyone is waiting in the corrals. During the National Anthem there were fireworks and fireworks shot out of the starting line banner as they sent us off. The race blared Springsteen’s “Born to Run” which was a great motivator for my Jersey-born self.

The new start line for this race had us going uphill which was a bummer. It was hard to determine what pace I was actually going. When we hit mile one, myself and my two training partners all had different paces. I determined they were going too fast for me and allowed myself to drop back a bit so I could run my own race. I think I was still going around the same pace as them or even a little faster, but not feeling like I had to keep up with anyone helped me to relax and focus. By mile 2 I had really hit my pace and felt like I was in a really good place.

Coming out of mile 3, we turned into Bexley… and it smelled like poop. Seriously! It stunk! The leaves in this area were beautiful and it was nice to run though the neighborhoods. At one point a runner came up behind me and asked me if I ran with MIT. I answered yes, he smiled, and blew past me. See ya, buddy! Heading into mile 6 I ate my Gu. After the 10K mark my left shoulder started to tense up. I tried to stretch it out as I ran, but I couldn’t get it to chill.

Heading into mile 7 was uphill and I was struggling with my shoulder. I stopped for a moment to better stretch it and got back on my way. That seemed to work well. Right around mile 8 I saw my good friend and fellow relay teammate, Courtney, and realized her fiancé (running his first full) was right near me. That gave me a little boost as I headed into mile 9.

Mile 9 took us past the children’s hospital. This race benefits the hospital and this was the most emotional part of the race for me. I got choked up and had to gather myself to relax and keep breathing normal. Around mile 10 I saw a partner from the agency I work at and my boss with her baby daughter cheering on the sidelines. Around 10.5 another fellow training member caught up with me and asked me how I was doing. “Um, ok. I’m ready for this to be done.” In all honesty, I was struggling hard. My legs were feeling tight and heavy and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold my pace. I worried I’d gone out too fast, but the course had been fairly hilly and I think that was what was pushing my legs so hard. I saw a coworker volunteering at a water stop before mile 11 and I tried to keep pushing knowing that I was almost finished.

Mile 11 through 12 was uphill. It. was. horrible. My calves were so tight and I couldn’t do the math in my brain to figure out if I would be able to PR. I would have to beat 1:52 and it was around 1:45 or so at this point. My tired brain couldn’t comprehend that I had plenty of time to PR if I could keep pushing. Luckily the finish was downhill (not quite as steep as Richmond, though) and as I came down to mile 13 I knew I would PR. I could see the clock up ahead ticking away and put all of my focus and strength into pushing myself forward – I knew the clock was only a few seconds ahead of my official time and realized if I could get across the finish before the timer hit 1:50, I would actually break 1:50. The picture of me coming into the finish is kind of hilarious, my teeth are gritted and it is obvious I am pushing hard to finish strong. Unfortunately I am not planning to pay the ridiculous $26 to buy it, so I can’t post it here. I crossed the finish line with a watch time of 1:49:29. After such a rough training season, I was in disbelief. Also, I was immediately thrilled to be finished running for the season, ha! I left it all out there an am ready for a little rest and recovery.

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After a nice hot cup of cider and a 40 minute wait for my medal (more on that below), my husband and I headed home where he cooked up some stuff for brunch that I had purchased the day before. Happily, I took today off from work and was able to sleep in. My legs are stiff and sore today and I can really tell I gave it my all. I took the dog for a walk this morning and did some stretching. I will spend some time with my foam roller later.

Post-race brunch, YUM!
Post-race brunch, YUM!

Oh, and my friend Nicole that was up puking the night before? She finished her marathon just fine – with a 2016 Boston Marathon qualifying time!

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Here is a little review of the Columbus Marathon/Half Marathon expo and race:

The Good
1. The expo was well organized. It was spacious and had a good mix of vendors. I loved that Goodwill was there so people didn’t have to make an extra stop to buy throw-away clothing.
2. I felt the branded clothing gear at the expo was reasonably priced. I bought a branded Nike pullover that was no more expensive than if I had gone to a sporting good store to buy one.
3. The shirt – The full marathon shirts were kind of boring, but I love my blue Nike brand half marathon shirt.
4. Pre-purchase parking – We purchased a pre-paid spot for the race. We didn’t end up using it since we had a parking plan, but it was nice to have back up. At only $6, I didn’t mind spending the money just in case we needed it.
5. Lasers & fireworks at the start. How fun! Also, fireworks during the National Anthem.
6. Patient Champions – if you’re not familiar with this race, it benefits the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Each mile is dedicated to a patient and many of them are there holding up big orange foam hands for high-fives. One champion had a look of disbelief on his face over how many people were giving him a high-five. He even said, “Woah!” Very cute.
7. Running past Nationwide Children’s Hospital – The course was different this year so participants ran past the hospital. I was really emotional during this part since there were many parents outside of the hospital.
8. So many of my friends & coworkers in the crowd! Most of which were after mile 10 when I was really struggling. Really nice to have that support.
9. Post-race food – Chocolate milk (though warm, still happy about it), water, a goodie bag with a few different snacks, bagels, and bananas. A volunteer even opened the goodie bag and helped me put what I had already grabbed inside while I was clearly still recovering from the race.
10. Food trucks at the finish – I LOVED this. I was very happy to grab some hot apple cider from one and my husband was able to get some food while I was off running. It’s nice to be able to buy local and enjoy some good post-race choices.

The Bad
1. Parking at the expo – the surface lot was understaffed and it took forever to get out.
2. Expo goodie bag – If you even want to call it that, the goodie bag contained a tiny Cliff bar and a bunch of paper ads. That’s it. Boooo.
3. Virtual Race Day Guide – Many races are going virtual with this, I guess to save money, but I paid a lot to race and feel I should be given a hard copy at the expo instead of having to print it out myself. I also think many missed the TINY link hidden within the text of the email to view it and never even saw it.
4. Lack of spectator info – Another reason a hard copy is good, but even so, it was hard to find any information for spectators online. Are they allowed to carry draw-string back packs? How do they get to the start to watch?
5. Lack of heaters – The race kept heavily advertising “patio-style heaters,” but my husband only found one. Why advertise something that is only available to a handful of people? I saw on social media that some runners felt these were unnecessary anyway, but I guess that’s understandable considering they weren’t the ones standing in the cold for hours while waiting for loved ones to finish the race!
6. The new start line – Spectators couldn’t stand along the corrals which I am sure was helpful for preventing bandits, but it also caused a lack of places to watch. My husband even complained about this. Unless you squished onto the bleachers, it was hard to watch the start/finish. There was also a major lack of bathrooms. Perhaps for safety issues, but once you were in the corral you basically weren’t able to go to the bathroom unless you wanted to wait in line forever.

Overall, I would grade this race with a B. The course was nice, but there was a lot of disorganization that shouldn’t have occurred at such a huge and mature race. I honestly very rarely have negative things to say about a race, but this one just had too many hiccups – and it’s not the first large race I’ve run before.

Now it’s time to rest, recover, and take a break before getting back into it for the 2015 season!

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