I was so impressed with last year’s Berry race (I ran the 10K then), that I decided then to return this year and run the half marathon this time. I registered in December to get the discount and guarantee a spot but, of course, had no way of knowing then what conditions would be like.
I woke repeatedly through the night from a virus and, around 3 am, checked the latest forecast and weather conditions. 45 degrees, 100% chance of rain (about an inch over the duration of the race), 10-15 MPH winds, and stomach funk. This was not going to be easy, so I began adjusting expectations. My goal was sub-2 hrs and, since I’d done 1:51 through 1:53 in training (and even 1:46 for 13.1 on a treadmill), sub-2 was well within reach. But not under these conditions. I talked myself into 2:10 and tried to get some sleep.
Rain and winds accompanied me throughout the dark drive to Rome, but the weather calmed as I approached. I took the shuttle to packet pickup inside the Ford Dining Hall and then made my way to the starting line. The rain began diminishing until, finally, a few minutes after the start of the race, it stopped entirely and didn’t return until well after the race! Awesome!
Although this year’s races were full/sold out, participation didn’t look near the 2,000 runners there last year. I’m not good at estimating crowds, but I suspect some folks stayed home expecting pouring rain.
The things that make this race great were well in place: beautiful college campus (the world’s largest) with stone buildings and tree-lined roads, plenty of volunteers to keep things flowing smoothly, off-site parking and shuttle buses that ran like clockwork, students and volunteers along the course to offer encouragement and humor, and top-notch equipment. The motivational signs were back and well-placed. For example, just before mile 10 was this gem: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only soft people,” and mile 11 had: “Remember, running is fun!”
There were some rough spots in the half marathon course, like large rocks embedded in the gravel roads that made for bad footing. Hopefully, they can re-route to avoid these places when WinShape construction is complete next year.
At last, I made it to the end and got the nice finisher’s medal. I came in at 2:05:56, well within my adjusted goal, but leaving plenty of room for some future sub-2s. It was nice to see some familiar faces cross the line, including Ray Rhodes who ran a couple miles beyond the finish to meet his marathon training schedule.
I didn’t see Jeff Galloway (to be starting the race and handing out awards) nor the deer. Perhaps both were too fast for me or had sense enough to stay out of the rain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around for the awards ceremony to hear Jeff at that time. If he returns next year, I’ll try to make the pre-race dinner to hear him speak.
Early March can be a dicey time for racing (“in like a lion, out like a lamb”), but this Berry race is a must-do event. Count me in for 2012, and I’ll watch for the early registration late this year.