This was an inaugural race on Saturday, December 3rd. I'm wary of running inaugural races but it was the right time period that I was looking into for my 2016 goal half marathon. And it was supposed to be a relatively flat and scenic course. I looked up Race 13.1 and the half marathon they'd done in other locations had good reviews. So I went ahead and signed up for this one. I'm glad I did! It was a great race.
But to start back at the beginning... the pre-race communication was ok. I was beginning to get nervous because it didn't come until pretty close to the race, but once they sent out the information, it was clear and comprehensive.
Packet pick up had multiple options. The day before the race, they had packet pick up at a running store in a Baltimore suburb. They also had packet pick up at the race location the evening before the race. Lastly, they had packet pick up the morning of the race. The running store was on our way to Baltimore so we stopped there to pick up packets and then continued on to our hotel in Baltimore. Packet pick up went smoothly and quickly, though the traffic into our hotel down by the inner harbor in Baltimore was heavy. I'm glad we had gone early. I'm also glad we got a hotel room in Baltimore and didn't have to worry too much about getting to the race the next morning.
Distracting ourselves from the pre-race cold with selfies
Race day was an early morning. The race started at 7am and we wanted to shoot to get there at 6:30am. So we set a 5am alarm and then went downstairs and called a Lyft at 6am. We were in the car by 6:15 and pulling up to the park where the race started right around 6:30. The hotel was only 2.5 miles away from the start but it was cold that morning! We decided to save our energy and not walk to the start line. According to the race communication, there was plentiful parking at the park but it would cost $15 and the Lyft was only $8.
This is a good time to talk about the race size. It was limited to 1500 participants in the half, 750 in the 5k and 750 in the 10k. So this was a MUCH smaller race than any other half marathons I've done. My others have been Rock n Roll or Disney. Even the 10 milers I've done have been much bigger than this race. So that was definitely a new experience for us. Given the small size, we probably didn't even need to be there as early as 6:30am.
The race pretty much started right on time. The 10k and the half started together with the 5k starting 10 minutes later. The Star Spangled Banner was played and then the race started without much fanfare. My Garmin hadn't even found the satellite by the time we started. I had forgotten we wouldn't have much time at the start, unlike the bigger races I've done.
There were many sections of the race course that were beautiful. It started off in a small park by the inner harbor. We had a small out and back (miles 1-2) on city streets at the beginning. I'm not sure why, but I was really having some mental doubts this morning. So I just kept concentrating on 2 miles at a time. I knew that the course went right by our hotel and that Mike would be there cheering around mile 4... so I just concentrated on getting to mile 4. And the section between mile 2 and 4 was on the promenade by the water, which was nice. It made it a bit crowded in some sections where the front runners were already on their way back, but it wasn't too bad in the back of the pack where I was. I assume it may have made for some crowded points for mid packers.
After seeing Mike around mile 4, I just concentrated on going 2 more miles. I kept telling myself 2 more miles, take a chew, and re-evaluate how you feel at that point. That strategy worked well since I felt fine at each point and told myself I could push for another 2 miles. Miles 4-5 continued along the promenade and they were beautiful, along the water. The sun had come out so I wasn't feeling so cold at this point either.
Miles 5 to 9 weren't quite as scenic. We were back on city streets and a bit more industrial area. We did run by the Under Armour headquarters which was pretty cool. We crossed over train tracks at one point and I think that was the only substantial hill in the course. We got to the top and I was happy to have the downhill. Except that the turnaround was right after the downhill. Which meant that we had to turn around and go right back up the hill! There was also more shade in this area so I got a bit cold again.
A bit after mile 9 we were back on the promenade by the water. It was more crowded at this point with people out walking their dogs, tourists by the aquarium, people out for their daily runs, families, etc. There was also no fence by the water so I was a little paranoid about not falling in! Around mile 12, I started to struggle a bit. The wind had picked up and it felt like it was blowing right in my face. You can definitely see that in my splits. But I kept trudging along and tried to push as much as possible in the last mile. It definitely felt a bit sparse at times given the small field. There were times at the end when I couldn't see anyone else in the race in front of me and I was worried about getting lost. Thankfully, there were signs and volunteers letting me know which way to go every time I began to get concerned. We finished back at the park where we started and there were a lot of runners still around cheering, which was nice.
My watch indicates that the course was a bit short but I think that's just because it didn't have the satellite in the beginning. I checked with my friend and she had 13.2 on her final data. And I don't see anywhere I could have cut the course or anything like that. My official new time 2:50:48. This was more than a 6 minute improvement over my previous PR from the 2015 RnR DC half!
My friend got this photo of me as I crossed the finish line
They had plenty of music going on at the after party, and a nice spread of food from Panera. This wasn't just bagels. It included quite the variety of pastries, as well as the usual granola bars, oranges and bananas. Sadly, it was pretty cold and windy at this point so we didn't linger too long. We called another Lyft and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up for brunch.
Race medal and view of Baltimore from our hotel room
Pros: Easy logistics with the small field, scenic course by the water for a lot of the race, relatively flat, great option for a PR. It was well organized, with plenty of water stops and volunteers.
Cons: We didn't have many cons at all. This race doesn't have some of the excitement and fan fare that big races have. Also, much of it is on the promenade which isn't closed so lots of non-race foot traffic, especially on the way back. And if you're in the back of the pack, there are times when there aren't that many other race participants around.
We all felt that we would want to do this one again! Hopefully they will have a 2nd year for this race in 2017.