Friday, November 27, 2009

Manchester Road Race

Yesterday I ran the Manchester Road Race - a 5 mile race that is listed as one of the 25 largest road races in the country. With 12,020 racers (yes, thats 20 more than TWELVE THOUSAND PEOPLE), it is a bigger race than the majority of marathons in this country.

Wednesday night I spent at my friends place in Connectict, where I drank eleven beers and didn't go to sleep until about 2:30. Thursday morning I woke up hungover and with aching joints. It was cold and rainy and dreary, and I had left all my arthritis meds back in Brooklyn. I really thought that I was going to pull out after two miles and just call it a day. We left my friends house around 9:15, and the race started at 10AM. Note for future: Leave a lot earlier.

We spent thirty minutes trying to find parking, and I had to practically spring the half mile from my car to the parking lot. I didn't have pins for my race number, and I had gotten separated from my friend while parking, so I was basically up shits creek without a paddle. Luckily I ran into another friend, and she gave me two of her pins.

I lined up at the very back of the starting pack, and it took me 8 minutes to cross the start line. My first mile was wicked slow, because I was at the very back and was weaving in and out of walkers and families and the 13/mm runners. I had wanted to finish this race in under 55 minutes, and I was kind of dejected after I realized that probably wasn't going to happen.

The second mile was all. up. hill. It was painful. The third mile, all the elevation loss was in about a quarter mile. The rest of the race had a net elevation loss, so life was good.

As you can see, once I got out of the crush of humanity after mile 2, I was running negative splits for the rest of the race which actually made me pretty happy. I had taken a GU about ten minutes before the race, and between that and my slow first mile, the arthritic joint creaks had pretty much subsided. After mile 2.5 I was feeling really, really good.

Elevation Gain
Elevation Loss
Avg Speed
Max Speed

I ended up feeling amazing, and I was really, really happy with my performance. This was the first race ever, in my entire life, that I ran negative splits. I even had enough left in the tank to really open up once I hit the last turn. There was a point around mile 4 that I thought I was going to puke, but luckily that went away.

As for the race itself, it was both the best and worst race I've ever run. First, the negatives:

1. There were no water stations. I wish I had known this beforehand, because I would have worn by fuel belt.
2. I got there way too late. Next year I want to be lined up no later than 9:15 so that I'm not going to be at the very, very back of the pack.
3. THE HILL. I swear, that was a long, gradual, painful uphill that lasted from .75 miles to 2.25 miles. Then there was a massive downhill (elevation loss of 250 feet) in a little more than .25 miles.

The positives:

1. Without a doubt, it was the best race atmosphere I've ever experienced. There were people lined alongside the road for the entire race. There were impromptu family bands alongside the entire course. There were 2 or 3 pipe and drum corps, several independent bagpipers, country bands, rock bands, people running in costume (I ran next to Spongebob for the last two miles). Really freakin' cool.
2. It's a great family race. I saw a bunch of running parents with their little kids. It's also a stroller-friendly race.
3. It is open to runners and walkers of all abilities. The winner ran the course in 21 minutes and change. The last runner crossed the line an hour and 41 minutes after the gun went off.
4. It is definitely a race that the entire town looks forward to every year. You can tell in the preparation, and with how many people show up. I've never seen tailgating at a road race before - I saw it for the first time here. A group of my friends had two beer coolers along the race for 'hydration'.

It's a race I will definitely do again next year, taking into consideration all the things I learned this year (arrive earlier, bring water, etc). It is definitely not a race you can run for time, unless you're a seeded runner at the very front of the pack. But if you're looking for a race to run for fun, for a great pre-Thanksgiving binge calorie burn, to have a great time with 12,000 other runners, this is the race to run.

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