You know, getting up at 4:00 AM is never fun, especially if you work the swing shift. That time came awfully early. I actually woke up before the alarm (a misnomer as I did not set the alarm).
The Expo –
But, I’m getting ahead of the game. Like most larger venues, you have to pick up the race packet early. I’m not sure why that is, but I have my suspicions that it assists in raising anticipation and suspense in the runner. It may save the event’s coordinators by not having additional staff, it may assist by providing more focus toward the run, it may be for any reason. I have my suspicions, though.
So we (my good friend Tom and I) headed down to Denver’s City Park and the beautiful pavilion building that the Expo was being held at on Saturday morning. We were both going to run the half-marathon. The sun was out, it was warm, but the sky was partly cloudy.
The packet pickup booths were outside and clearly marked. You gave your name to a technician at the greeter’s booth, and received a small print out with your event and number. Using that, you went to the appropriate booth and got your packet. Inside the packet, was a Cardboard timing chip for the shoe, some coupons, and the bib number. My bib number was 5108.
The names on the half-marathon bib numbers all seemed to be incorrect. I had the name, “Roger,” on mine. No explanation was given except that a mistake had been made.
Having completed the first part of the maze, we went to the BEER booth to show our ID and get a bracelet (to be worn on the right wrist for the next 24 hours – It saves you from having to carry your ID to the beer garden after the finish). We went from there to see what was offered in the Expo merchandise.
We weaved through all kinds of merchant’s booths. Great prices and discounts were offered. There were all kinds of booths. I got a pair of cheap running socks for the Boulder Running Company, and I stole a pair of Mizuno Nirvana 6 shoes from Runner’s Roost. They offer a 60 day return policy on shoes they sell. These were returned shoes. I examined them closely after I tried them on. At $50 for the pair, I gladly bought them. I’ll add them to my runs after the first of June, and they will probably be the shoes that I’ll run the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon in on June 26th. Tom got a pair of Nike Lunar Elite+ for the same price.
We got our shirts at the shirt booth. Nice shirts this year. Performance shirt, white with a great design on them. As we left the Expo, the timing chip was tested. Both passed and we were on our way out. We smoothed with some other runners and petted some dogs outside. Then it was time to head out for the rest of our Saturday.
I performed the usual evening before ritual of preparation. Shoes (with the chip on it), socks, shorts, shirt (with the bib number mounted), headband, sunglasses, phone charging, water belt (sans water), iPod, coin purse with Hammer Endurolytes, and charged the Garmin 205 Sports Watch. I felt to be prepared. There is comfort in my pre-race ritual.
The Race –
4:00 AM did come early. One cup of coffee. I immediately ate a bowl of oatmeal. Dressed, and double-checked that I was ready then out the door by 5:00 AM. There was a race today!
The plan was to go to Colorado Boulevard then North to City Park. The streets weren’t supposed to be closed until 5:30 AM. By the time we got to Colorado and Colfax, Colorado had been closed. We had to do some uncertain turns and twists, but we did get there!
It was announced that there were 750 full marathon runners and 7,000 or more of us running the half. Quite the turnout this year.
There was parking available still, and we got as close as we could in the East side parking at the Denver Zoo. A short walk and we were at the start line in plenty of time. The full marathon runners were in the chute and in their corrals. We watched as the timer counted down and then the marathoners were off!
In another 45 minutes, we would be starting our 13.1 mile run.
It was a cool morning with a slight breeze. I tend to take a cheap throw to keep warm with. I wore it until the start of the race, then threw it over the fence as a throw-away. I knew that it could be used by someone. These throw away items are collected and given to charity.
The chute for the starting line was short. It just could not fit all of the runners. When the starting countdown was done and we were off, there were runners everywhere. Not only from the chute but from the waiting/spectator area to the South.
I had visited the porta-potty before the race but the moment we had the start, I had to visit one again. Why does that happen? The first available were about 2 miles into the race. I joined a fair-sized line and it took about 12 minutes to get to one. When you have no choice, though, what do you do?
The race started with a run through City Park (literally). We ran from the park and down City Park Esplanade to Colfax, then East on Colfax. We ran into the rising sun as we progressed down East Colfax toward the Fitzsimmon’s Medical Center. Water stations were every 2 miles or so. Gatorade and water were offiered. Mile markers were marked by huge stickers on the street with sandwich boards on the sidewalks. At strategic points there was a “Gun Time” clock.
There was a slight elevation on the run to the 7 mile. Total ascent/descent was 150 feet. Slight for the first couple of noticeable rises, but I really felt the rise from the 5 mile mark to the 7 mile mark. From there we turned the corner to run through the Fitzsimmon’s Medical Center to 17th Street and the return run to City Park. As I turned onto 17th, I noticed a younger man running my pace. I stayed behind him, but used him as my pacer.
It was easier running 17th Street. The sun was at my back and it was a run through a neighborhood. Time seemed to fly as the run progressed. The miles ticked on by. Around mile 8, I finally caught up to and ran beside my pacer. I told him that I had been using him as my pacer, so we might as well run together. He was surprised that he was someone’s pacer, but agreed to run in together.
It made for a nice run for the last few miles. We talked, and introduced ourselves. Ron was running this race for the 3rd time. His wife was supposed to run it with him but did not feel she had trained enough. He had anticipated a 12 minute pace, but he was doing much better. We got into a rhythm at a better pace than either of us anticipated. So, it was a good match for a finish.
All too soon, we crossed Colorado Boulevard again and we entered the park. The end of the race was at hand now. We maintained the pace until the finish line was in sight. I kicked it up a touch to cross the line. On the way, I was passed by two runners and I passed two.
I slowed down after crossing the timing mats, waited just a moment for Ron, then shook his hand and thanked him for the finish!
I moved on as Ron went for that finisher kiss and hug from his wife over the fence.
I grabbed a cold bottle of water. I saw the medal handlers and headed for mine. I asked the young lady that placed my medal over my head if I could have a hug. She said sure, and my tradition of a hug continued!
I walked the gauntlet from the finish line through the pavilion. On the way and inside, it was the pickup of the Goody bag, energy drinks, sport beans, teas, and then your choice of a pulled pork BBQ sandwich or a chicken taco. Tom finished long before me, so I met him outside.
Before I got into the pavilion, I got a text message from Kristen. I was hoping to meet her as we both run and tweet. We’ve been exchanging tweets for 2 years or so. After I had my sandwich, Tom and I headed over to the Beer Garden. We met Kristen and drank some beer. Fun times!
I love the half-marathon distance. It is my favorite race to run. If you get a chance, try it out. It improves your health and opens doors to other people engaged in the same like of running that others have. Plus, the bib and the medal make for an additional pleasure that you can hold and appreciate.
It was a great race and a wonderful was to spend an athletic Sunday morning!
The Humor –
“Remember, the second most important thing to choosing the right shoe, is choosing the left one.”
— A high school coach to his runners