What? Women’s Running Series Half Marathon
Where? 13.1 miles around Nashville, Tenn.
Who? 2,640 runners
When? Sept. 28, 2013
How much? $85 to $125 depending on registration date
My Finish: 2:35:40
Swag: race medal & technical T-shirt
The Good: Camaraderie. Post-race amenities.
The Bad: Small sideline crowds.
The Ugly: The technical T-shirt not only runs way small but also is an unflattering yellow that clashes with its colorful design.
Pre-race dinner: Bangkok curry with shrimp and vegetables
Pre-race bfast: toast with peanut butter and honey, banana, water
Post-race snack: banana, pretzels, champagne, water
Post-race bRUNch: pancake, spinach omelette, silver dollar potato cakes & orange juice
One of my favorite rewards of running has been witnessing my body improve. Well, I eat just as much as I run, so I don’t mean losing weight. Since I’ve taken up long-distance running, I’ve noticed my body doing things it couldn’t do weeks or months before.
Last year, I trained by myself for the Lady Speed Stick Women’s Half Marathon. It took about four months for me to work myself up from a 5K to 10 miles. Other than two weekly runs of no more than 4 miles and a Saturday long-run, there was no other training or even a taper. On the day of my first half marathon, I hit a wall around mile four and walked/ran the remaining 9 miles for a 2:52:44 finish. It was tough, and I was happy that I finished yet disappointed that I didn’t do as well as I thought I could have.
I’ve had a few races since then and started cross training, with my first triathlon this past summer. I also added hill repeats and speed sessions to my weekly workouts. For long runs, I joined a local running club on Sunday mornings. This time I tapered for two weeks. On Saturday morning, when I passed the four-mile mark of the Women’s Running Series Half Marathon, my grin was a wide as my hips. The same race that left me feeling defeated a year ago I conquered this past weekend in 17 minutes less. Not only did I run faster, but I felt better during the race and walked only through the water stations.
But enough about me and more about the race. What I like about this half marathon is that it’s large enough to give you the adrenaline rush and big-crowd feel yet small enough that you’re not stepping on the heels of other runners for the first mile or feeling overwhelmed. You won’t be intimidated at this race because most of the runners are women, of all shapes, sizes and ages. The few men that participated wore wigs and tutus.
The race started in downtown Nashville in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The first four miles are mostly up-hill, past the Broadway honky tonks and Bridgestone Arena to Centennial Park, the city’s most iconic park. Runners looped around Vanderbilt University’s campus and through the Belmont-Hillsboro residential neighborhood for an out-and-back past Belmont University’s campus. We then ran down Music Row, through the trendy Gulch neighborhood, around the Tennessee State Capitol and past more honky tonks to the finish line back at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Sadly, this race doesn’t draw large crowds of spectators. There were a few people on their front steps clapping or waving posters and a four-piece band playing on a porch in the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood. But other than the designated water stops and cheer stations, we ran stretches without any encouragement save for the voices in our heads. There also weren’t any bands on the course this year; instead Competitor Group had stereo systems playing music at the 5K, 10K and 15K marks.
The most awesome part about the race was around mile 7.5 when I heard someone yell “Nita the bRUNcher!” I turned around and said, “Yes, that’s me,” with a waist high wave. A lady on the like, “I read your blog! I follow you on Instagram!” It was my first time being recognized from the blog in public, and I’m pretty sure she pushed me up that slight hill to mile marker 8.
Another plus for this race was the post-race amenities. After making my way through the finish line barrage of race medals, trash barrels full of ice, water and Gatorade and tables of snacks, I caught my breath in the Music City Walk of Fame Park, which was converted into a retreat for runners’ aching legs. I cleaned up in the Freshen Up Lounge where there were plenty of cleaning wipes, spray deodorant, sunscreen, mini lip balms, scented body mists, nail files, hair bands and just about anything else you could possibly need to look good and smell better in post-race photos. There also was a tent full of cookies next to a tent with champagne. But, we were limited to one measly glass of bubbly. I crashed on the grass, where I stretched and toasted with blogger friend Shannyn of Frugal Beautiful.
So what did I learn from this race? Camaraderie is not only a source of motivation but also a method to success. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had such a great improvement in time if it weren’t for my East Nasty friends. This fellowship has spilled over onto the blog and I hope you virtual friends, like the passer-by who recognized me, find the bRUNcher a beneficial resource as you train for your next race.