The half-marathon starting area was maybe a block from the hotel, and when I headed out, I was pleased with the overcast, almost drizzly skies. But as soon as we started, naturally, the sun came out.
I don’t know how many people ran the half, but it was nowhere near the 700 indicated on their Facebook page. Perhaps the 700 was for all four distances combined? Because as we took off, I was literally at the end. Greeeeeeat. I kept pace with the group in front of me, but I paid for that later.
An interesting thing about the race: they closed maybe one section of road (at the very end) the whole distance. Even as we started, we had to dodge cars in the square. But one thing I’ve noticed here is that drivers are much less impatient, much less aggressive than what I see back home. So while a vehicle coming up behind me was unnerving at first, especially considering they directed us to run on the left–with traffic, not facing traffic–I feel like it was far safer than a typical run through my own neighborhood.
And it was a … rural race. Two-lane roads were the norm, but at times the road was only one car wide. Course marshals did an excellent job directing us at tricky junctions–twice they had to open gates so that we didn’t run over cattle guards. And the signage was good, although it took me until about mile eight to realize that after the halfway point, the distance markers (in km) counted down.
I think just before mile two I passed someone who stopped to walk. Near six I passed another. I got in front of one guy just after the second water stop and two more who stopped to stretch at the third one near mile 11. I passed two more between 11 and 12. And maybe one more person in there somewhere. So I wasn’t last. But I couldn’t quite catch the group of three ahead of me on the homestretch–remember when I said I paid for trying to hang with that group early on? Yeah, although my first half looked strong, I couldn’t hold on to it. While there were shaded spots, especially around the beautiful National Stud horse breeding facility, the sun was still a factor. My headphones died (possibly permanently?) at mile 10. And only three water stops for a half, on a warm day, was less than ideal. My best races have been in winter, with temps in the 30s and 40s. But… no excuses.
While I didn’t PR (I kind of knew by mile eight that was off the table) I did finish my fifteenth half-marathon in my second-best time. And it was great to experience a race in another country–some things like mile/km markers are different, they don’t sing any kind of national anthem before the start, and they don’t hand out medals at the end (we had to pick them up from the community center a block or so away). But the human spirit is the same. Random strangers stop to applaud the race leaders. Runners who have finished yell encouragement to those still on the course, and friends jump in to help each other make it across the finish line. And we all walk a little gingerly when it’s over. 😉