On meeting new friends on the street corner, why hills suck and why beer is good

So I decided to go practice run the Charlotte Racefest half marathon (or the South Park half marathon, as I’ve been calling it) route on Friday. Maybe I should mention I signed up for the race on Wednesday night. Before Friday. That needs to be clarified for this reason:

Ohmigosh anyone who signs up for this race is a complete nut.

Okay, so it’s not *that* bad. But let’s just say I was very unpleasantly surprised by the toughness of this course.

I’d heard it was hard. I’d heard it was hilly. I’d heard this was not the course to PR on (set a personal record.)

So I figured it would be a good idea to see for myself. I printed out the map from their web site:

I even got a buddy to go with me: Corinne is not a runner but she loves to walk, so she rode up to the mall with me, where we parked the car and went our separate ways – she was to walk the course backward, I was going forward, and we’d meet up somewhere along the course.

Now, I knew this would not be a great run for me. After taking almost a month off of running (spending time with Mia in the hospital, then getting a cold, then getting food poisoning – not much time for running in there), I had noticed my runs have become slow and I’ve needed lots of walk breaks. But I figured I’d go out there and just do what I could.

Around .1 of the first mile, I noticed a group of runners in front of me on the sidewalk. Two guys and a girl. Every time they would turn, I would turn. I wondered if they were running the course too. About 1.5 miles in, they were stopped at an intersection, stretching, and I caught up to them. Turns out they were running the course! Carl, William and Michelle were super nice and invited me to run with them, an offer I gladly took them up on.

They were running a comfortable pace, one I could easily have kept up with on a normal day, but I was still feeling weak from the food poisoning a few days prior. The hills and the fact that it was starting to get warm certainly did not help …

Things were fine until about mile 3, and then I started feeling like I needed to walk some of the hills. I certainly didn’t want to slow down, so I told my new friends I’d catch up with them. Luckily, there was some downhill, so I actually did catch up with them with little issue (they were stopping at stoplights to stretch, so I was able to make up some time.)

At mile 4, Carl left to head back to work, so it was just William, Michelle and I for the rest of the run. I let them go ahead of me some, and we somehow managed to find each other. Michelle had some IT band issues so she needed to walk it off around mile 6, and I took the opportunity to not run ahead – figured I should take it easy, easing back into it. And it was a great chance to get to know them – they were great company. I hope to run together again with them soon. Turns out Michelle and I both went to Winthrop, and we have a lot of the same friends. Small world!

So, back to the actual course: The first couple of miles had more uphills than I expected. I’d read that the first half was all downhill, and unfortunately that’s not true. There are more downhills in the first half than the second half, but there are plenty of uphills too. Miles 3-6 are relatively easy and flat/downhill. Mile 7 is a gradual uphill that never ends. Somewhere around mile 9.5 I decided that had I not already signed up for the race, I would not at this point. Crazy steep uphill that is much longer than expected. The three of us walked it, and I was feeling it in my glutes even walking it!

And there’s no relief after that. The rest of the race is all uphill, one hill after another, until mile 13. The last .1 of a mile is downhill. Thanks for that, race organizers. At least we can do the last part quickly, with all our friends/family watching!

I never did see Corinne, and so I called her at the end and drove to pick her up somewhere slightly off the course. I’d poke fun, but I’m terrible at map-reading too; if it hadn’t been for my new buddies I would probably have gotten lost myself!

The good news: There is free beer for runners after the race. The other good news: Most of the Charlotte area runners I know are running this race, so it will be a fun social event. The other good news: At least it’s not a marathon.

In the *lessons learned* department: I credited my wonderful marathon experience to following my training course perfectly. And then I promptly did not follow my training course for the very next race. I knew better. I knew better and I let life get in the way.

But that’s okay. I’m going to show up on Saturday with blue hair (why? because I want to!), I’m going to do the very best that I can, and I’m going to attempt to finish with a smile on my face. And I’m going to chalk this up to proof why Hal Hidgin is genius, proof that I should do whatever he says and not get cocky and assume just because I can run a marathon does not mean a half marathon is a breeze, and proof that I need to make this running thing a pretty big priority.

The other good news: Despite being a sucky runner the past few weeks, I actually feel like my overall fitness is great. I’ve been doing Jillian Michaels workouts. I’ve been backpacking/hiking. I’ve been hitting the stairmaster at the gym. I feel skinny and healthy and strong. Crosstraining is not a bad thing!

See ya’ll on Saturday, blue hair and all!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you why I dropped my pants for the world to see this past weekend …