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Race Report: Women's Half Marathon - St. Petersburg

Yesterday morning I ran my first big race since the marathon. It's a special race for me, because this particular race was my first half marathon, in 2009. Originally called the "Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon" (yes, a redundant mouthful), and then the "Lady Speed Stick Women's Half Marathon" (can you guess the sponsor they gained?), and now simply the "Women's Running Series Half Marathon," the race has changed quite a bit over the years. It began as a local race, which initiated from what was then a local publication, Women's Running Magazine (now owned by Competitor Group--the same company that owns the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, Muddy Buddy Series, and Competitor Magazine, to name a few). Perhaps you can already see where I'm going with this. The race series has branched out to Nashville, San Diego, and Scottsdale, in addition to St. Pete. It's becoming another big-name race series, designed to appeal to non-locals. I'm a little bitter on this point. I've learned that I love local races--whether in my hometown or not. I like the feeling that the group putting it on appreciates and is invested in the local people and environment, and that out-of-towners are treated like welcome guests, and not the target population.

While this is still a great race, it has changed. Sure, the branding has gone through several makeovers (the deodorant sponsor was short-lived), but the feeling of the race is different. The course itself changed. It used to incorporate two landmarks of downtown St. Pete--the Pier, and Tropicana Field, which runners used to be able to enter and run on the same field the major league players run on. But these two features have been removed from the course. The pier is closed because the city wanted to build a newer, more exciting attraction to draw in tourists. However, it's still there; we just weren't allowed to run on it. And I don't know the reason we weren't allow to run through the Trop. My guess is that it had something to do with money.

Enough about the background and business aspects of the race. Despite my distaste for what it has become, I still had a very enjoyable race day.

Tim came with me to cheer me on with the Best Damn Race Cheer Squad.

Best Damn Race Cheer Squad, in all their glory.

Just as Tim and I were about to part so I could make my way to the corrals, Tim spotted at least two of the three friends I hoped I'd run into, Nicole and Lisa. I had signed up with one other friend, Shannon (who has an excellent blog of her own), but I didn't get to see her until after the race.

Lisa, Nicole, me, in line at the Porta Potties.
The three of us all had around the same goal time--under two hours (nice and vague)--so we lined up near the two-hour pacer. Because Nicole and I were still (sort of) coming off of the marathon, we weren't trying to aim too high. My PR, from an earlier "women's" race this year, is 1:53:29. I was pretty certain I wouldn't break that record, as my training had been much slower than what I'd need to beat that.

The weather was cool and overcast, even a bit breezy. We started very soon after getting into the corral, and our goal was just to stay near the pacer. The two-hour finish time seemed to be a popular one, as there was a large group of runners sticking together around this pacer. But the group was too big, too tight. I felt claustrophobic and afraid that the size of the group would slow us down. So after a couple of miles, we were able to move ahead and break away from the pace group, although the pacer was loud enough that we could still hear him (he was one of few men running the race--they're permitted but discouraged). The initial five or so miles felt laborious to me, but Lisa was holding a great pace and Nicole and I were able to stay on her heels.

The BDR cheer squad was first stationed around mile 1, where I was able to see Tim and a couple other friends, and I knew they were also supposed to be around mile 7. After mile 7 passed, I first heard the cheer squad and then saw my friend Beth, who directed my gaze toward the male swimmer friends she'd brought along to help cheer us on:

Beth is great.

I was definitely amused, and so were plenty of other women! But I didn't see Tim. He later explained he had gone to get coffee and just missed me on his way back.

At this point, with less than half of the race to go, I was starting to feel a little stronger and less sluggish. But this is also where the race became a little odd, course-wise. After we ran around Mirror Lake, we ran a long stretch west on Central Ave., and then ran a long stretch back east on 1st Ave. That's where, previously, we would have had some diversion by running through the Trop. Instead, it was kind of eerie. This part of downtown St. Pete is usually very vibrant, but because the streets were closed off for the race, it was deserted, except for us runners. We had thinned out enough by then that it wasn't such a large group running. And because of the overcast sky (which I was thankful for because it kept the heat away), there was just this empty quietness inundating that portion of the race. It was also so far out from the start and finish area that it was mostly unsupported by any locals. I can't say I didn't like it; I kind of enjoyed the peace. Also, after mile 10, Nicole and Lisa stopped for water while I kept running to keep the pace, but I never saw them catch back up to me. I was getting a little concerned about finishing under two hours, largely because the miles marked by my watch were going by about .2 miles sooner than the mile markers on the course. So even though I was making good time, I'd have to add on .2 miles to 13.1, so the pace I was going for--sub-9 min/mi--needed to come down even more to make up for the extra mileage. 

So I booked it. In the back of my mind I had the 1:53 PR in my head, but I pretty much knew it wouldn't be possible to beat that; I pushed for it nonetheless.

When I knew I was about to finish (although the finish line was literally around a corner so I could only see it through some trees--annoying), I pushed even harder, but I also looked on the sidelines for my family and Tim. I knew they'd be there somewhere, and I didn't want to miss them.

I heard my brother-in-law call out "Tita, Tita!" (which means aunt in Tagalog, the main Filipino language), and I saw him on the right, then noticed he was pointing across the way. So I turned my head to the other side and saw my sister and my niece Evie, then heard my sister yell, "Yay, Tita!" Evie just looked a bit stunned, like she didn't know why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew deep down she was cheering me on. 

I saw on the clock that I came in under 1:57, and I was happy with that. I actually felt pretty emotional at the end. Then I heard Tim call my name, and, after getting my medal and posing for a picture for him (which turned out too poorly to show), he came over to me and gave me a big hug and congratulations. He later sent me this picture, which shows that I had the misfortune of finishing behind a couple of hand-holders:

Don't mind me, just trying to finish a race.

Very soon after I finished, so did Nicole and Lisa. And all the picture-taking commenced.

I look like a giant here. But a happy one!

This is the last moment Tim got to wear his pullover.
Because, wet sports bra.

Evie, my BFF. She could barely hold up the
giant hunk of a medal.

And my official badge with time:

Even though that average pace of 8:54 is really close to my marathon pace of 8:59, I'll take it. It was a good race with great support from friends and family. That's the best kind.

And now to assemble some sort of midway marathon training plan for the next big race on January 19, the Clearwater Marathon. Who signed me up for all this?


B.o.B. said…
1. Congrats! You looked strong out there. It's tough to race hard after a marathon.

2. OMG I am great.

3. OMG the hand holders. I'm cracking up.

4. Please write more. I love your posts! (Also, go enter my dang giveaway!)

5. This is the longest comment ever. Numbering it was a bad idea. But, let's run together soon please!!!
Lee Davidson said…
I love you're my one dedicated commenter <3. We could really say whatever we want in this space, so if you want to make an even longer list next time, go for it!

p.s. I entered your contest. A day too late. :/ I'll be on top of the next one.

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