I have a history of biting off more than I can chew, especially when it comes to racing. I like to sign up for races when the fee is low (who doesn’t want to save money). Unfortunately what may seem like a good idea in May may not seem so bright and shiny come November.
The plan was to run the Gettysburg 1/2 Marathon with Emily (who has been my race buddy on a Zombie Run, Warrior Dash and a duathlon). She would compete for the South and I would run for the North. The winner would have bragging rights until the end of time.
….so this seemed like a great idea earlier in the year when I was in good shape. By race day I was anything but prepared. Overweight, under trained and unmotivated. A perfect recipe for a disaster. Honestly I shouldn’t have showed up, but a promise is a promise and $60 is $60. I would show up and at least get my race shirt. Completing the half marathon would be a bonus/punishment.
The Gettysburg Blue-Gray Half Marathon is two competitions. There is usual “you versus the clock” competition and there is a “Blue versus Gray” competition. When you sign up you choose your side (Blue or Gray). The top time from the first male and first female for each side is combined. Whichever side is faster, wins mugs for everyone on that side.
The race partners with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) which supports veterans that have lost full mobility. Check them out at http://www.pva.org.
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Timing: Jaguar Chip Timing
Course: Pavement (roads)
Size: Large (about 650 people)
Pre-Race: I received an email about 12 days before the start of the race that included most of the important race details. I was a little concerned about the starting line being a 5-10 minute walk from where you parked. I got a second email the day before the race that clarified some issues relating to timing and spectator locations. They also had a Facebook page that had periodic updates.
In what I considered a classy move, the race directors offered Early Registration pricing for people who got washed out of the Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon (cancelled due to storms). Nice touch!
Race Day: I arrived at 0730 for the 0900 start. It is a hike from the parking lot to the Start/Packet Pickup. It is uphill and across a four lane highway (there is a light and a cross walk to keep you safe). Don’t show up last-minute or you might not make it. Luckily there were no lines at the registration tent so I walked right up and received my bib and goodie bag.
(Emily didn’t get the shirt size she requested which is bogus for Early Registrants. Regardless of which day I pick-up my packet I think it is fair to get the shirt size I ordered. The late and same day registrants are the ones who should be getting whatever sizes are left over.)
We still had lots of time so we walked back to the car to drop off some stuff and walked all the way back to the starting line. We still had 30 minutes to spare. It pays to be the early bird. They had a free bag check so you didn’t have to go back and forth to the parking lot. Like all bag checks, leave prized possessions at your own risk. Whenever possible, I prefer to leave stuff in my car.
The Race: I knew I didn’t have a prayer of beating Emily, so I set a mental goal of finishing in less than 3 hrs (when they closed the course). I started somewhere near the front (mainly by accident) and spent the day getting passed by just about everyone. I guess that is how it works when you don’t prepare. The course itself was what seems to be the norm here in Pennsylvania: rolling hills. I was able to hold an OK pace for the first 7 miles and then I had to switch to a run/walk which by mile 10 became much more of a WALK/run. Luckily the volunteers and the small crowd along the route were very encouraging and called me out by name (I like the name on the bib thing). They had plenty of water/Gatorade stops which I really needed as the miles wore on.
*****Special kudos to the guy & gal who were on a farm on a lonely stretch of road. I think the girl shouted encouragement to every single runner. They also passed me on bikes near the end and to her credit she was still hollering. If that wasn’t enough, she was also the loudest voice at the finish line! Thanks for possibly being the best spectator ever*****
I did survive and gamely crossed the finish in a personal worst of 2:24.40. Although I sucked, the North won overall so I received a coffee mug for being on the winning team. I promptly handed it over to Emily who crushed me at just over 2 hours.
Post Race: One thing I really liked was the almost instantaneous posting of results. Within moments of crossing the finish, I had my results via email. That is pretty handy. Well done. By that evening I was able to see pictures of myself crossing the finish line.
I only hung around long enough to get all of the food/water I could carry. I was exhausted and in no mood for my hike to the car. They did have plenty of bagels, water, pretzels and bananas at the finish line, even for someone slow like me. Traffic was a pain for those trying to leave the event (maybe someone directing traffic could alleviate the congestion?). I decided to just stay in the parking lot, take a breath and stretch for about 20 minutes before braving the traffic.
Goodies: The goodie bag had a pen, some discounts for Gettysburg, a map of the local area, the very nice, long sleeve performance shirt, the medal and a coffee mug for the winners.
They had really nice medals, and nice shirts (if they had your size). I liked the instant results and the “race within the race”. I don’t love some of the logistics (distance from parking to the start line) but if I can run 13.1 miles I should be able to cover another 10 minute walk. I would probably run it again if I can get my act together and get some miles under my belt.