Here is my review of the Inaugural Bull City Half Marathon on 10/20/13
I will begin with a few stats….
Bull City was my 18th Half marathon. 8th this year. I won’t really recap my time compared to other Halves, because I was pacing this event, not really running my hardest. I agreed just a few days prior to the event to be a pace leader for the 8mm pace group, a goal finishing time of just under 1:45:00. I was excited, but a bit nervous to be pacing this event, not knowing the course. Turned out to go just great, and I certainly will be a pace leader again, if asked.
I worked a closing shift on Saturday night before the race, which meant a late dinner, and late bed time. Being a pro at having all of my gear together prior to race day, I wasn’t worried about the time in the morning. I was however, worried about parking, etc, as I have rarely spent any time in Durham, and really don’t know the streets at all. I went to bed peaceful, and tired. Then it happened! A first for everything, I guess. I had my alarm set for 3:30am, but I didn’t wake up until 4:50am. I overslept!!! Holy sh!t
I usually give myself at least an hour and a half on race mornings, to get up, have coffee, relax, shower and be out the door headed to the event. Waking up so late meant I had exactly 30 minutes to do all of those things before heading out the door. I was stressed! I only had enough time for one cup of coffee, use the bathroom, shower and throw my stuff together. I realized as I was driving to Durham that I had forgotten a shirt to race in. I normally wear a different shirt in the car, something I can change back into after the race, so that I have a dry shirt for the ride home. Thankfully, being a pacer, I remembered that I would be picking up an official pacer shirt once I got there, so I would be running in that anyway. Whew! Crisis averted. Here is what the shirt looked like.
Awesome Bib, with name, and great shirt, too! Thankfully it was a tech shirt, so I shouldn’t have much trouble with that. I arrived in Durham, right at 6am, when I wanted to be there. Parking was an absolute breeze! Why did I stress about this? Well, probably because knew that there were close to 6,000 runners that morning, between the Half and the other event, a 5 miler. Plus they said they were expecting about 10,000 spectators. I worried about parking, but really didn’t need to in the end. I have made a mental note for next year. Since I worked the day before, during the expo, I still had to find packet pickup, and then find the volunteer area, to pick up my pace leader shirt and info. This too, was easy as pie. The parking, and all event related happenings were at the American Tobacco Campus on Blackwell St. This area is a mixed use redevelopment (commercial, residential, and office) in the former tobacco warehouses near the Durham Bulls Ballpark. The area is just so nice, they have done a great job with it! Lots of space to move around, and perfect for the start of a race this big. Race morning temperature was about 52 degrees, and it was supposed to be clear and perfect for the race.
I grabbed my stuff, and heading back to the parking deck, to get ready. As it turns out, because it was chilly that morning, and a little breezy, it was warmer in the parking garage, so it was a nice place to relax and get my bib on my shirt, etc… I had an Iced a Gingerbread Clif Bar, and downed a bottle of water with a grape Nuun tablet. Go to race morning fuel. It was time to head to the start, as I had to report for pacer duty, and be at the start at 7am. a full half hour before the gun. I used the restroom one last time, and made my way there. People were starting to gather, but my friend Paula managed to find me, and we talked for a few minutes. Because I had a pacer shirt on, people started walking up to me asking me questions about the race, the course, etc., which I didn’t know how to answer. It was my first time, too. I grabbed the 8:00 sign, and held it high above the crowd that started to form. Then, two folks quickly appeared, who were also pacing with me. Tina Weiler, and Mark Manz. Both very nice folks, we got to know each other a bit with simple conversation. A bunch of runners started to form a group around us, and behind us. I chatted with a number of them prior to the National Anthem, and gun.
This photo is a bit blurry, but you can see that the start of the race was right next to the Durham Bulls baseball stadium.
Two minutes before the gun, we dropped the 8:00 sign, and started to move up toward the start. At 7:30 we were off! It was tough dodging through the race crowd at first, at a slight incline, no less. We maintained a nice even pace for the first mile. I had an absolutely ridiculous case of dry mouth right at the start. I could barely talk those first two miles. I couldn’t form words because my mouth had absolutely no moisture in it. This did go away eventually. I am not used to having conversations while I run, but knew that as a pacer, folks would want to talk. They did. We talked about racing, races, etc… and it really helped to pass the time and the miles.
I was really impressed by how beautiful the race course was. Time and time again, I remember talking about it. The crowd support was plentiful, and there were even a few bands along the way to keep things interesting. Starting at the American Tobacco Campus, the course heads downtown and over to the Trinity Park neighborhood. From there up and around to Duke University’s East Campus, and then down through West Campus via beautiful Campus Drive. From there the course heads over to Forest Hills for a couple of miles, and then finally returns to Blackwell St., near DPAC. (Durham Performing Arts Center). The course was challenging, plentiful hills everywhere, and just so interesting and beautiful. Probably one of the nicest courses I have run, and I have run on many.
Running is this group, as a pace leader, was a truly unique experience. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being the cheerleader, the supporter, the leader. Tina, Mark and I managed such a even pace, we often traded the lead back and forth. The group ebbed and flowed, as the hills came and went, but we maintained a great pace. After the first mile, we built in a few extra seconds on the pace, sort of banking some extra time just in case. I met and talked with many runners. Many with inspiring stories, many swapping tales of races and marathons. Overall, it just felt so relaxing and easy. This surprised me. I am usually the Lone Ranger out there on the course. I normally don’t chat too much, and stay focused on my goal. This time, however, the goal was to get others to the finish. I really need to take part in some group training runs in the future, as the socialization aspect of running is lost on me for the most part. I really enjoyed it during this race. I have to be a pace leader more often. This was a great experience.
The final miles of the the race came so quickly. My Garmin had a steady pace of 7:52 to 7:53 for the middle miles, so coming to the end, we were sure to get this group of folks to the finish line in time. As we neared mile 12, I knew it was time to send the group ahead to the finish. I encouraged each one to run strong, finish strong. I applauded their efforts. It kind of felt like putting my children on the bus for the first time to school. Time to let go. One by one, over the final half mile they made there way by me. The crowds started getting bigger and bigger, and then we could see the finish line come into view. People cheered, and clapped. We slowed down a bit at the very end, knowing we had made the goal. As we came into the finish, I reached out to high five both Tina and Mark, and we crossed the line together. It truly was special to me. I got my medal from a young girl, and proceeded down the chute.
The finisher area was open and inviting. Plentiful water, post race snacks, massages, and plenty of vendors everywhere with giveaways, etc.. They did a great job. The sun was out, there was music, and the atmosphere just electric. This event also had a Food Truck Rodeo in the finisher area. There were like 8-10 food trucks there with everything from kettle corn to cupcakes. A great way to cap off a great event. Here are some more photos I took on my phone.
All in all it was a fantastic day. Great weather, great fun! This event was the second largest Half marathon I have participated in. They had a great overall turn out for a first year event. They had great marketing, and fantastic volunteers. Just goes to show that local events, can be just as big and well supported as national events. Between the 1 miler, 5 miler and Half marathon, they had almost 6,000 people register. The race director stated before the race began, that next year he was shooting for 10,000 participants. Based on how well this event was run, I do believe it will grow to that size in 2014. I know I will be back for sure.
My official results: 260/2383 overall. 43/166 for age group. Gun time: 1:44:28. Chip time: 1:44:05
Run Local! Run Bull City!