Sunday marked my third (yes, third) half-marathon race. Just typing that makes me a bit excited. To think that I ran my first half just last October and now have three under my (race) belt is pretty satisfying to say the least. As I mentioned in a previous post, my marathon training plan (for Newport in June), called for a half as part of the preparation and the timing of this one was just about perfect.
This was the first year for the Hop Hop Half (I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the name – a bit cutesy for my preferences – but I do understand the desire to tie it in with the holiday) and going in to it I felt like it may have been a bit of a risky move for the race sponsors. Coming on the heels of the Shamrock Run, which is a very popular and large event, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be. It turned out to a moderate-sized, but lovely race.
I had a strange set of feelings and expectations heading in to this event. For the first time, this was not the event I’d been training for, but was part of a bigger picture. Because of that, I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but did want to give it a good effort and see how my racing ability was progressing.
Race day started out well enough. It was a bit chilly at the start, but dry and sunny – perfectly good racing conditions. The event started off with a 5k that was winding down by the time the half-marathoners got going at 8:20am. I think it’s worth noting that the race started pretty close to the scheduled time (only a minute or so late). An on-time start always pleases me.
The race started off well and was fairly uneventful (in a good kind of way). The first couple of miles weren’t the most interesting to run, but after about mile 3, we made our way onto a path that travels right alongside the Columbia River. It was beautiful! On such a lovely Spring morning, the sky was relatively clear, providing a beautiful view ahead (to the East) of some of the gorgeous mountains in the Pacific Northwest, to the left of the Columbia, complete with seagulls stretching, soaring, and basking in the sun, and the Portland Airport to the right (which may not seem like much, but is actually kind of lovely to see from that vantage point).
The course was pretty darn flat, so I chugged along steadily most of the way. I did encounter an uncomfortable situation right after the turnaround point (around mile 7, I think it was). I wanted to share it because it was so unusual and am curious if others have encountered this. I was coming up behind another runner ahead and was running at a slightly faster pace than he was, so I was nearing him. I was clearly going to pass him, so I maneuvered to the left, where there was space to move around him. He glanced over his left shoulder, saw me coming, and moved directly in front of me to block my path and cut me off from passing! It was very apparent that it was no accident. I had indicated my intent to pass by when he looked back at me and he made a very deliberate shift in his position on the pathway. I was shocked. Seriously, seriously shocked. Neither of us are elite runners, we weren’t racing to win. Furthermore, even if we were, that is not how runners behave in my experience. I am so used to friendly runners. Runners who respect each other and share a certain camaraderie, even in competition, that I was totally taken aback by what happened. Has anyone else had this happen?
I will say that I eventually still maneuvered around him and never saw him again. Plus, my faith in the goodness of runners was restored later in the race, with less than a mile to go. I was right at pace with another male runner and eventually started to pull ahead. Instead of another weird encounter, this runner nodded and encouragingly shouted “Looking strong!” It warmed my sappy runner’s heart.
When all was said and done, I finished with a new half-marathon PR – 1:49:17 – and placed 91 out of 618 total finishers! I’m totally happy with my performance and finish, though it didn’t take long for me to realize that in just about 10 weeks I would be doing it again – twice.
A couple of other notes on the event and race. First, runners were treated to complimentary mimosas after the event. Nice. I much prefer this to the beer that is often present after a race! While I certainly know that taking in alcohol is not the best recovery plan, I did enjoy my free brunch-y cocktail after having a couple cups of water. I definitely approve of this beverage choice!
Second, along the way, I noticed a very young runner participating with an adult by her side. Curious, I looked at the age group results after they were posted and saw that an 8-year old girl finished the half-marathon in just a bit over 2 hours! I am so impressed by that. She looked like she was having the time of her life when I saw her on the course and I am so inspired by someone of that age having the focus and dedication (not to mention the skill) to do that run. I can only wish I had had some of that when I was so young. Amazing.
Hats off to Foot Traffic (one of my local running stores) who organized the event. It was a smooth race and delightful event to kick off the spring running season! I would absolutely consider running it again next year.