This was my first half marathon, on October 13, 2012. I finished and I am now a half-marathoner! But the race experience was disappointing and I wish I hadn’t chosen this race as my first half.
When I first arrived at Riverside Park in Vero Beach, it was still dark and I couldn’t see anything. It’s a fairly large park, with many parking areas and buildings, and there were no signs telling me where to go. My family had already arrived (they were volunteering), so I was able to call them and they told me where to go. I parked and walked through the dark to get my bib number and packet. I was told that they didn’t know how to turn the lights on and had to wait on help to arrive. I got my race shirt, and it was a regular tshirt. Not a tech shirt like it said on our registration forms. As I waited for the race to begin I saw Megan, another ROTEr. It’s always great to see her at races!
The weather was warm but not too hot and very breezy. I was concerned about pacing myself, so I made sure I started out at a pace I could maintain, using 1/1 intervals. And I was soon left almost by myself as everyone else took off. It was a small race and clearly full of much faster, more experienced runners (turns out, several people finished within a few minutes of me, but I never saw them on the course because the course was so full of turns and messed up…). When I reached the first huge bridge over the river, halfway up I noticed the first mile marker. However, my watch read over one and a half miles. This continued throughout the whole race – the mile markers were not consistently placed – I was confused. There was a 10K running at the same time, and they were supposed to follow black arrow signs while the half-marathoners were supposed to follow red arrow signs. The trail was full of twists and turns that were not always marked with signs, and more than once I noticed a group of people running back onto the right path from somewhere else. I figured out early on that there were yellow spray painted arrows on the ground that we could follow, too, but that wasn’t foolproof either because there were lots of spray painted arrows on the ground. Also, in one area there were signs with red arrows that ended up pointing to a “haunted house.” Another woman in a SparkleSkirt was running and I saw her off and on for the first half of the race, but then I lost her.
Around mile 4 I saw my family at a water stop. They said that several people were complaining to them about the course confusion. It was great to see them, and I began running up the second and final bridge of the race. At the top, I needed to cough (still getting over a cold) but I didn’t have the strength to. That worried me a bit – breathing is necessary for running! But I continued on at my set pace.
At Mile 8 I switched to 30/30s. I was losing motivation fast – not for the miles but for the pace. This was the longest I’d ever maintained this pace, and I knew I could do it, but without any course support or other runners around I was getting bored and tired. There were other runners, but there were so many turns I couldn’t see them.
By Mile 10 I was walking – I was just so bored and tired and confused. I just kept winding through neighborhood streets, past people at yard sales and shopping at farmer’s markets. In the 11th mile I saw my family, who had moved to intercept me, and I finished the race with two of my sisters and one of my brothers walking beside me. Once I saw the finish line, I started running again (I like to finish strong). It was great to have my siblings there, and Megan finished before I did but she waited around to cheer me at my finish – that made my morning. We were told there was supposed to be a breakfast after, but by the time I finished it was all gone. Megan said that there wasn’t any for her, either. The finisher’s medal said that there was a one mile fun run, but there wasn’t one.
Even with all my walking, my pace was still better than at Tower of Terror. That made me happy. But I still feel like I gave up on myself at the end. They say that you shouldn’t run your first half marathon for time, but I know I could’ve done better.
Turns out, the course was messed up because at the start the people in front and the pace group leaders went the way they thought they should go but they went off course, and there was other confusion later…basically, it was a mess. I found this online posted with the race results:
While the Half Marathon and 10K courses were accurately measured, all participants ran a longer or shorter distance due to absent Course Marshals at key intersections including the traffic circle at the beginning of the race.
My watch read 12.89 miles, so I’m not sure if that means I ran less than a half marathon or if my watch just didn’t record the bridges properly. I didn’t cut any corners and I ran the course I thought was correct, following all of the arrows, so I did everything I could.
The course did a surprisingly good job with water stops. And in the 10th mile there was a beer stand from Orchid Island Brewery. They were handing out a delicious grapefruit beer. I am not a beer drinker, but I had some and it was so good. I want more.
I am glad that I pushed to finish, and I’m proud of myself. I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, but I was pretty miserable the entire time because of all the things that went wrong. Mostly because I was by myself the entire time and there was too much confusion. I also don’t know how much being sick played into it. It’s just hard to be out there for hours exerting yourself and having to process through the confusion with “running brain.” The course was beautiful and included a run through a nice neighborhood full of very nice houses and a short distance along the beach.
I’m looking forward to my next half marathon in two weeks. It’s also a small race but hopefully it will be better than this one was, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my pace all the way to the end!