Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon

I ran the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon this past weekend.  It was a combination between a race weekend and a reunion with old friends that I had grown up with.  These are people who are my oldest friends and who have known me longer than anyone except for family.  So clearly that makes for an intense weekend!

It started out with flying into Columbus Friday morning.  My parents also live in Columbus so my dad picked me up at the airport and also joined me for the expo.  The expo was at the convention center downtown and really well organized.  Pre-race communication had also been great so I knew exactly where to go and where to park.  There was plenty of parking in the convention center garages for $5.


We were there Friday before 5pm so the crowds were minimal and I didn't have to wait in line at all to pick up my bib.  But they had separate lines for bib pickup for full and half marathoners.  You just had to show your license and that was it.  Once you had your bib, there was a separate section to pick up the shirt and clear plastic bag. There was also a booklet that had race information and a write up about each of the patient champions.  More on that later.

Those lines were in an upstairs balcony section so separated out from the rest of the expo, which I'm sure is handy if you just want to get your stuff and go.  We did wander around the expo a bit since there was some stuff I wanted to look for.  I ended up getting a couple headbands and some body glide.  My dad ended up finding some shoes that he wanted on sale.  It was all very well organized and not too crowded at all.  After we finished up at the expo, we went and checked in to my downtown hotel.  Another great thing about this race is that there are a lot of hotels in the area around the race start within a 2 mile radius.  My hotel was a little more than a mile away.  Apparently hotel rooms were in short supply this year because of other things going on in the city at the same time so the race even added an option for a limited number of racers to be able to do race morning bib pick up.   The rest of Friday was filled with spending some time with friends and finding a restaurant for dinner.

Saturday morning I got up and had a 60 minute easy run on my schedule.  My dad decided to join me for part of it so it ended up being a walk for part of it but it was nice to have the time to catch up with him.

Saturday evening was carb loading with other friends that were running the race.  Most of us were running the half but one friend was doing his first full.

And then back to the hotel for an early night.  The race started at 7:30 and corrals opened at 6.  The race had sent out multiple emails about getting there early if you were driving, and there was an option for pre-paying for your parking spot.  Since I was just planning to go on foot from the hotel, I didn't have to leave so early.  And, my friend doing the full marathon had an apartment right by the start line so we were all gathering at his place.  I left the hotel room around 6:30 and had a nice little warm up to get down to his apartment.

We stayed there until we heard the national anthem and then we all went downstairs to go to our respective corrals.


There were only 4 corrals so each one was pretty big, given that there were around 18,000 people registered between the two races.  It was really convenient to have had our friend's apartment to gather up at because I'm sure it would have been hard to find everyone otherwise.  And it minimized the amount of time we had to wait outside.  I think we were only there for about 5 minutes until our corral started moving up.  One of my friends and I were planning on running together for a bit and a couple other friends were in our corral as well.

It was a weird weather day.  We'd been getting emails from the race for days about the potential for hot and humid weather.  I had chosen to go with capris and a tank top.  According to my Garmin, the race started out 68 degrees and 94 percent humidity but then got super windy with the threat of rain and lightning.


Back to the patient champions I mentioned earlier.  One of the amazing things about this race is that the children's hospital is very involved.  So every mile has a specific patient champion.  And this patient and their family are actually on that mile cheering and giving out high fives.  It was so inspirational.  The mile also has signs with fun facts about that particular patient as well.  So you really get a view into the people you're helping by participating in the race.  And mile 11 is called the Angel Mile because it's dedicated to patients at the children's hospital that are no longer with us.  Their families are at that mile cheering for the runners and encouraging us.  That was amazing, and it really helps to keep the race in perspective.  After all, how can you feel bad about the pain you might be experiencing at mile 11 from something that you chose to do when compared to what these kids and their families are going through?  All I could feel was gratitude that I was able to take part in this race and contribute to such a wonderful institution.

The half course itself was fine.  It had some rolling hills and a small out and back portion but was otherwise a loop.  It started and ended downtown among the sky scrapers but went through a pretty residential area in the middle, as well as by a local college.  We also went right by the children's hospital itself.  It was a nice enough course but the people were what made it special.  There was a good amount of course support, a lot of water stops, and amazing volunteers.  Another great thing about the race is that it's walker friendly.  They even had specific pace groups from a local walking club.  The 1/2 Marathon course was open until Noon, requiring a pace of at least 18:20 per mile. The Marathon course was open until 2 p.m., requiring a pace of at least 13:44 per mile.

As far as my race itself, it went ok.  Like I mentioned, I started out with a friend and we were going at about race pace for about the first 4 or 5 miles.  We separated around then and it was a bit of a battle going forward.  I just kept getting slower.  I think I started at race pace and ended at marathon long run pace!  But I didn't have time goals for this one, it's part of marathon training and I was doing it for fun.  I gave all the high fives, enjoyed all the signs, and thanked as many people as I could.  The conditions kept changing as far as the weather and I alternated between hot and cold depending on the wind.  I think around mile 9 and 10 the wind was really strong and we were fighting it to keep moving forward.  At the water stop around mile 12, I saw that the conditions sign had been changed from yellow to red.  I asked a volunteer about it and she said it's because there was lightning in the area.  Well, how's that for incentive!  My pace picked up for the last mile (mile 13 was more than 2 minutes faster than mile 12) and I was able to finish strong at least.  I did hear that some of the back of the pack marathoners were diverted to the half course because of the threat of lightning.  I felt bad for those individuals after putting in all that training for the full.


I met up with my dad and we walked back to the hotel, so, a bit more than a mile again.  I'm happy to say that I felt good after the race.  Obviously I had some soreness but by the next morning, I felt like I was almost back to normal!

So that's my recap of the Columbus Half Marathon.  It was a great race and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  It was really well organized, well supported, and the involvement of the children's hospital really put it over the top.  And I was able to finish it off with meeting my brother and his new fiance for post-race tacos and mimosas.  The place even had 3 options for vegan taco fillings, yum!