I finished the Publix Georgia Half Marathon this past weekend, and while not pretty, I am proud of my effort. This race runs through historic neighborhoods in Atlanta which is a hilly place, so I have avoided this race for a few years. OK, lets be honest, I have avoided ALL Non-runDisney races since Y2K, the Year 2000. Why do I avoid non runDisney races? Have you seen me? I don’t exactly look like the cover of Runners World now do I, but……………
So last year right after the Georgia Publix Half race, they offered 1/2 price registration and I decided it was a GREAT half marathon price. Besides that, this race which covers areas of my youth and areas that my family before me lived. I got some serious roots in the ATL. I signed up with lofty goal of being completely ready for this race because well in my opinion…
|Thanks for confirming what I was feeling race spectator!|
The forecast was temperatures in the mid 50’s witha chance of rain – up to 60% chance around 11. I had planned on wearing a long sleeve shirt, and had a short sleeve one on beneath it if I got hot. I took a lightweight pullover too which I planned on keeping in my Sparkle Skirt pocket to use after the race and a water bottle in the other leg pocket – pack mule anyone? I also recently tried out Crazy Compression socks and decided to wear them -hey when you look good you feel good right?
|Shoes by New Balance, Crazy Compression Socks, Magic Potion Sparkle Skirt.|
I got up around 4:15 to make the 5am train downtown to the race. Sadly, someone on the train cussed out the runners using ever swear word in the book. He had asked for money for food and all that was offered was my Applesauce and Banana. Hey I had Gu, but didn’t think he wanted that and would be happier with real food if he was hungry. Guess he had some sort of fruit aversion since he turned down the offer and cussed us out for a few minutes before heading to the next car.
Here’s a course map for those who are wondering WHERE we went. I focused on the Half Course, follow the peach dotted line, the FULL is the green line.
From the race website:
The Publix Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon is a true showcase of historic Atlanta, beautiful Decatur and all of the neighborhoods in between. The staging area for the Start and Finish is in Centennial Olympic Park in the heart of downtown Atlanta. The Start corrals are on Marietta Street adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park. Participants run downtown through Georgia State University, by the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, over the Jackson Street bridge with a spectacular skyline view, and into the Martin Luther King Jr Historic District by the house where Dr. King was born.
The course continues through the Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park neighborhoods, through eclectic Little 5 Points, on Freedom Parkway by The Carter Center, and through the Poncey-Highland neighborhood where the Half Marathon splits from the Marathon course.
After splitting with the Marathon, Half Marathon participants pass through the Virginia Highland neighborhood, run over the Park Dr bridge into Piedmont Park and exit on 10th Street, run through the Midtown neighborhood on 10th St and Juniper St, cross I-75/I-85 on the 5th St bridge, run through the Georgia Tech campus, and return to downtown via Marietta St to the Finish line to join the party at Centennial Olympic Park!
Sounds absolutely enchanting doesn’t it? I grew up in these parts and I know these hoods well. Did I mention Hills? Here is the elevation and YES the end of the race is uphill:
|Hats off to all you full Marathoners…what a crazy course!|
So thankful for my running BRF’s Amy and Wendy who really helped me calm down before the race and just helped me to decide to do my thing. My Galloway training for the Full only had me needing to do 4.5 miles that day, so anything after that would be gravy, right? Plugged in my Rock My Run mixes in the IPOD and started the race. I have to say running through the ATL in the early morning hours was enchanting – and this is where my Irish Ancestors ended up during the potato famine.
|Iconic Atlanta Downtown Coca Cola Sign, made me smile.|
I found my nerves were gone as we traveled the streets seeing MANY familiar sites and icons. Ran by Georgia State, thought of brother in law Phil. Ran by Grady, prayed for so many patients and staff and friends who work their at this amazing crisis hospital. The Civic Center, its where I first saw the Carpenters and U2 and spent years with the family enjoying Theater of the Stars musicals. The first 3 miles really flew by and my mood lifted every step. Its like my family and friends from days gone by were with me with every step and every turn brought someone new.
Passed some spectators and love the signs as always…
|Thanks spectators for cheering us on with your witty signs.|
Right after we passed the super awesome zombie walker sign, we hit the Jackson Street Bridge which gives an AMAZING view of the Skyline and pretty famous Walking Dead poster shot. Look familiar?
|My race photo, where are the cars?|
|AMC’s The Walking Dead Season 1 Poster|
Shortly after the bridge, we came to the Historic King District. Dr. King was such an amazing man, and you can feel the reverence and history in this area. Ebeneezer Baptist is the church where Dr King was Pastor, his tomb and house is nearby and on the course. I LOVE how they have preserved this area.
|If you find yourself visiting the ATL, Check out the King Center and Historic District.|
Next we ran through the Historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood and its old Smokestack, a last sign of industrial roots.
Next thing I knew we were coming up to the eclectic and always happening Little 5 Points area, home to cool shops, shows, bars and restaurants. I LOVE abbadabbas and Wax N Facts records is pretty legendary round these parts. Right about now, it hit me: I WAS HAVING FUN.
|Home to Hipsters who like to shop local and natural, its one of the crunchy parts of Atlanta, GREAT hood, cool shops.|
I passed the first restaurant Mr RWFR went out to dinner when I first met him, AWE our first date, and made me feel all nice – no it wasn’t Zesto, though they have great ice cream! Best burger in the ATL right behind me in next photo..they have tots too!
I saw the Falcons cheerleaders and had to give up some spirit fingers for the Aca-awesome time I was having; taking in the sights and remembering good times. Ran to the Carter Presidential Center and Poncey Highlands Neighborhood – a nice downhill stretch but what goes down, must go back up, oy those hills – yeah I am loving them here…but I have my camera on the ready! Could I look more miserable or have more stuff stuffed in my Sparkle Skirt pockets?
At the top of a LONG hill, we came to the split where the Marathoners headed towards Decatur and us Half folks headed to Virginia Highlands.
|Fun signs, cute cheerleaders and YEP look another hill!|
Virginia Highland is a bar and entertainment district with some staples….my parents went on dates to one of the taverns. I spent many a night in my singleness at Happy Hours, Socials, New Year Eve Parties, Block Parties, Pub Crawls and Scavenger Hunts. It was an enjoyable flat little stretch.
|The ladies in Blue and Pink up in top left unknowingly paced me for a while..THANKS random strangers. LOVED the lululemon signs, spoke volumes to me.|
We entered Piedmont Park and it began to rain light drops, I hope no one left a cake out there, you know in the park, in the rain..oh wait, that was MacArthur Park. WHEW, anyway the park run was nice.
|Another gorgeous day in the ATL even in the light rain.|
As we exited I saw a man in Tutu and raincoat coming off the street. This was 10th street HUGE incline. A little ways up I saw this sign and realized I had a Baton Bob sighting – the friendly sign holder confirmed it. Baton Bob is a local street performer legend who um, cross dresses as he batons his way up and down Midtown and Buckhead areas in Atlanta. Really he looks fab, seeing him is a sight! He was out until it started raining so I JUST missed him for the photo op – boo on that, come back next year Baton Bob!
|Gotta love a man in a Tutu.|
This stretch of the race leading to mile 10 was a killer. I tried not to think about it and stay with my 30 second run/walk intervals best I could…though they were slow. I just kept hearing Jeff Galloway’s voice from my LOLO app “I can do this for 30 seconds”. Right before mile 10, I saw the sweetest thing, a group of three women with flowers in their hair….Fellow Flowers each representing something. One had orange for Fiercely United, one had white for Dreamer and one had yellow for Authentic. They were holding hands as they crossed the 10 mile marker then hugged then started interval running too. It was so sweet to witness the bonding of these friends taking the race together. I need to get me a flower!
Somehow we FINALLY got to a flat part of the race and I saw the sign and rejoiced!
|My Alma Mater!|
I heard the sound of drums and was excited. I thought about my friends from Georgia Tech who have had my back since I was 18; who have accepted me for who I am, helped me to be a better person really and got me through the toughest challenge I faced, undergrad at Ga Tech. I teared up for the first time, then I saw the first woman Marathoner pass by and I started cheering for her. I don’t know if she was in first place for the gals, but it was amazing to see someone else WHIZZING by me who was approaching mile 24 as I approached mile 11.
I ran happily through the campus, and remembered the sign back at Virginia Highlands that pretty much summed up what I was feeling right now…pride. SO close to finishing only a couple more miles and what a run it had been.
This would certainly not be my fastest race, and there were not character photo ops or Disney sites but I was having a blast. So many memories and I just felt SO many people were with me in my heart and mind. I snapped this photo of Bobby Dodd Stadium AND then it happened:
I turned the corner to start the LONG haul up the last hill…tis a doozy y’all, remember I went to school here I know this. I took two steps and went to lean into a run interval AND OUCH, my legs hurt and froze up. Cramped up in my calves bad. They hurt and I had to back up and hold on the metal fence barrier – I thought I had lost control of my legs and feared falling over. I know I yelled out a bad word and the kind stranger behind me stopped and turned around. She asked me if I was OK. I must have had a panic look of death on my face, and said it was OK, my legs were cramped. She asked me if I needed any help or anything….I was so moved actually, what a kind act. I told her no to keep going and thanks so much. Really, runners are just so amazing to each other.
|The Tech Tower|
I made it to the top of the hill, and cried some more. I tried to pick up the pace, but when I felt a cramp I just took it easier. I focused on the orange slices ahead and the big Buzz inflatable. The orange must have had some magic in it, I was thinking, well I am not making my goal time, but I think I might finish. I to got Buzz and asked someone to please take my photo and I smiled. I love this shot, its full of hope.
I finally reached the top and headed left back towards Centennial Olympic Park. It was relatively flat – YAY. My calves were not so cramped, but if I pushed it I felt them, so tried to keep it slow. These people made me smile and I did pass them to say congrats!
|The dad to be told me he needs to trademark this sign as everyone was loving it!|
So Yes, I passed the pregnant lady – woot woot, hey I had a little something left in me and man I can’t imagine doing that course with a baby on board. I saw a familiar skirt then a familiar face, it was the Faux Runner herself and it was JUST what I needed.
|Isn’t she just the cutest? check her out her blog Faux Runner|
I didn’t want to walk, but I found myself lazy and not running. Faux would say, come on lets do a run interval, or “just up to that lamp post lets run” in an encouraging way. Really Faux, you were my hero pacing another newbie and so encouraging to everyone. We saw 2 men pushing someone in a wheelchair pass by us and I felt my emotions coming back. I was moved by them and by the positive vibes and energy coming from Faux. Teared up a little again. And decided to get back on my 30/30 intervals to the end because I really just wanted to be done and we were close. Sorry I left ya Faux without saying THANKS! I seem to do that, just ask Patty from Wine and Dine.
This last stretch of the race is kind of icky industrial so not so glamorous, but hey, it was flat! I saw this sign and felt while I was behind my time goal, I was happy to finish and NOT be in last place.
|Thanks ATL Downtown neighborhood people, this sign brought a smile.|
Really, I didn’t think I would make it up the North Avenue Ga Tech hill and I pushed through, thanks Mr Galloway for you tips. I couldn’t believe I was about to finish the race that always scared me and I was so grateful to everyone who helped me finish. My friends who calmed me the day before the race, Amy and Wendy for making me feel great at the start, the race staff and volunteers all so encouraging and friendly, the police who cleared the streets with a smile and encouragement too, the spectators who came out to cheer us on and made signs, the runners who inspired me and unknowingly paced me, the Faux Runner, the men pushing the wheelchair…and then I heard a song that started the emotional wave – music is an integral part of my running you know!
|Oh yeah, it was Erasure! Click here to watch the Vid and get your Erasure on!|
Erasure’s “A Little Respect” was playing and I started full on crying when I heard the line “and if I should falter, would you open your arms out to me.” So many had gotten me through this when I doubted myself – even when I faltered on that hill, a stranger offered a hand. I thought of my husband, we both love Erasure and he is always so supportive of me and my favorite part of the race was passing where we had our first date. I turned the corner and saw the finish – HUGE ugly cry came on. I thought of Mini Me who had been with me the day before at the expo and how we walked underneath the finish together and how blessed I am to have her. Here’s the image in my head as I approached, my own little cheerleader in tie dye!
|Mini Me Pretending she was finishing after Expo with her goodies.|
I really couldn’t believe I was finishing. And while I didn’t make my 3 hour goal, I had to respect myself for finishing. I was a hot mess – look at me LOL wtih my “thank you Sweet Baby Jesus” finish.
I am SO proud to say I am a Publix Georgia Half Marathon Finisher! I LOVE the medal, the ribbon has so many landmarks from the race on it, I will cherish it for years to come. What a race, Half Marathon #8 is on the books.
Because my calf cramps were so intense, I decided to walk around a bit and stretch. I decided to go to medical for some anti-inflammatory meds too since I forgot mine. They were so nice and took great care of me too. I loved the REAL bathrooms right next door too. I made it home on Marta without being cussed out again.
I LOVE my medal….especially the ribbon which has so many landmarks from the race printed on it – that is actually my favorite part.
While I started out thinking it would not be a fun race, I was surprised it was a blast for me for 11 of 13.1 miles: hills and all. Really who knew, a race with no theme parks or characters could and some serious hills could be fun? My finish time – 3:10. Yeah nothing to be proud of except I am not exactly a spring chicken, am overweight and was admittedly not as prepared as I could have been. I ran by myself didn’t have anyone pushing me except for Faux at the end AND – I finished. The miracle though is truly I signed up and got out of bed at 4:15 to go run a hilly course.
And bonus….it was a FRACTION of the cost of a runDisney race too and not near as packed with plenty of wide open spaces for running. Guess what? I will do it again, but train better this time so my body is better prepared. Who is with me next year?
Have you ever had an emotional meltdown at a race? What was the hardest race you have run?
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