Thursday, November 25, 2010

Atlanta Half Marathon - bittersweet

Ahhh... traditions... changing for the better...

I registered for the Atlanta Half Marathon because of tradition. I ran it first in the mid 1990s and numerous years after that. Now I'm on an alternate year schedule...  when my daughter is with her dad.  They changed the course this year; I was sad to hear. I have such fond memories of running the same course over the years with a variety of friends, my ex-husband (when we were still married), and sometimes alone. I know that course like the back of my hand. I had a bad experience two years ago and wanted to beat my time...  But... they changed the course route so I can't compare.

My alarm clock was set for 4:30 a.m., but I woke at 4:17 on my own (or maybe thanks to the pups or kitties). I always fear oversleeping my alarm clock and set back-ups, but more often than not I wake earlier.  I showered, ate, and left home early because I hate being stuck in traffic. Traffic was exceptionally light at 5:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Why did I think it would be like rush-hour?  I made it to Turner field and into the parking lot with no delays! I sat and waited...

At 6:50 a.m. I made my way to my starting corral, just a short walk from the parking lot. I kept looking around hoping to see someone that I knew. No luck. Guess they were in a different corral. They did a wave start and I was in wave 4 of 5. They announced 12,000 runners for this morning. Wow! This race has grown significantly; I remember when there were less than 2,000 runners in the 1990's.

For decades, the race began near the Chamblee MARTA train station and went down Peachtree eventually ending in Piedmont park. I used to park at/near the MARTA station, run the race, and would hop on MARTA after the finish to return to my car. While waiting in my starting coral this morning I saw a couple wearing t-shirts that said, "In memory of..." and then had a map of the former route. I smiled nostalgically and totally sympathized. I felt the same way.

They started the waves about 3 minutes apart; at least that's what I'm guessing by comparing my Garmin time to the time I saw when I crossed the finish line. The first mile flew by way too fast, and the second and third as well, despite stopping a few times to try to stretch out my shin cramp that began in the first mile. During mile 5 I settled into a more realistic pace, and was HOT.  It was 57 degrees and foggy when the race began and the forecast was for a high of 60 during the race times, so I wore shorts, long-sleeves and a hat. But the weatherman LIED. 66 degrees and sunny and I desparately wished I had worn short sleeves!

At mile 6, I HAD to stop at the porto-potty.  I hated to lose so many minutes, but I run more for fun than for speedy times, and the much needed relief was well worth the added minutes.  I felt so much better physically, as well as mentally, afterwards! 

Around mile 8, I was gaining on a man wearing a prosthetic leg and a Sports Medicine South t-shirt. I was in awe and my self-defeating thoughts floated away. As I ran past him, I said that Dr. Levengood and his wife are close friends of mine. He lowered his head and then said sweetly, "They are great people." I regret not slowing down and talking with him more. I wish I had asked his name and his story. But I trotted along instead thinking about my amazing friends: Gary & Lisa Levengood and their incredible children. I've known them for 6-7 years now; our girls are best friends; Gary surgically repaired my torn ACL/meniscus in December 2005, as well as treated my IT band, hamstring tendonitis, plantar faciitis, etc.; and Lisa is one of my best friends and we ran the Chicago marathon together with our other BFF, Ty, in 2009. They truly are great people!

The new course brought back memories. We ran past Georgia Tech, where I went to college in the late 1980s. We ran past Ikea, where I bought my couch before knee surgery in 2005 and spent many days/nights recovering on and now the pup has chewed out parts of the cushion (repaired with duct tape). We ran through Piedmont Park which has been a part of many races I've run; most memorably the pup runs with my daughter and our oldest dog, Tasha. We ran past my old office building and later past my current office building.

I slowed again near the end when I saw a co-worker; she was jogging slowly and I slowed down and chatted with her for a while. I couldn't remember her name and was relieved when she asked me mine again; we've only met once or twice briefly, but I recognized her. Caroline... I'll remember her name now. As the end neared, I couldn't help but pick up the pace and finish strong.  2:46:51 according to my Garmin.  Back-of-the-pack, not my fastest or slowest, but I'm okay with it considering the effort. The medal is so much better than the last time I ran this race, 2 years ago!

After showering, I went to one of my best friend's lake house for Thanksgiving. I have the best friends ever! I had such a relaxing afternoon hanging out with Ty, Will, the kids and their relatives. I knew most of them, but enjoyed meeting others and getting to know the rest better. The only thing that would have made this day any better would have been to have my daughter there. The girls have been close friends since before kindergarten. I had so much fun helping cook, playing corn hole, relaxing, chatting... We made plans to do it again next year, and Ty and Cassie said they'll run the half marathon with me. I wonder if Lisa will join us? Looking forward to it!


  1. I ran the Atlanta Half too! We were coming through downtown around 6:15 and 75/85 was a parking lot! I made my husband do something extremely obnoxious and dangerous so I could get to the corral in time. Congratulations! It was a tough course.

  2. This is a great marathon..a little changes might be good for a change...