|Beautiful Capitol of West Virginia|
|Bro & Sis-in-law before the start|
All of these logistics made for a frenzied getting-ready process the morning of the race. I am usually extremely organized, with sharpie-labeled baggies of nutrition and gear. This morning I just grabbed my dedicated running duffle bag and hit the door. We arrived at the Laidley Field parking lot with only minutes to get ready and hit the bathroom. We ran to the start in the already-hot and muggy morning, with temps in the upper 70s and 100% humidity. I was immediately slicked in sweat. Eww.
|Bro & my 7yo son running 5k|
|Hubs looking strong at mile 11|
Photo by Dan Todd
- Honey Nut Cheerios and coffee at 5:30am
- Ensure at 6:30am
- Gatorade and water on the way to the race
- Clif Shot Double Expresso 10 mins before the start
- Saltstick at 40 mins
- Clif Shot Strawberry at about 50 mins
- Saltstick at 1:30
- Clif Shot Strawberry at 1:45
- Saltstick at 2:00
- Alternated Gatorade and Water at each relief station
- Saltstick and Gatorade after finish
My hurried start to the race caused me to forget several items, but running without them turned out to be fine, and was a good test as to what I really needed on a long race. I forgot my calf sleeves, sunscreen (thankfully it was cloudy), patellar strap, and sunglasses (again, not needed). The rest of my gear consisted of:
- Headsweats visor (which I ditched at mile 11)
- iPod shuffle (used intermittently during the race when I needed a music boost)
- Under Armor tank, Champion sports bra (my favorite from Target)
- Under Armor compression shorts
- North Face shorts
- Hippie Runner expandable pouch belt
- 3 Clif Shots, Strawberry and Double Expresso
- 4 Saltstick caplets
- Thorlo Experia socks
- Asics Gel Nimbus 13
|Me at mile 11ish|
Photo by Dan Todd
The race course is a beautiful representation of the city of Charleston WV. Runners start at the stunning capitol building, one of the prettiest in the nation.
The first few miles are along the flat Kanawha Boulevard, a favorite route of local runners. The view from the Boulevard is breathtaking: stately homes and buildings to the right, the Kanawha River to the left, and the mountains rising from the riverbank on the other side. Then runners cross the South Side Bridge, and run downriver on the Old Kanawha Turnpike until turning up The Hill.
The Hill (affectionately known locally as the Hill of Death, or HOD for short) is a long straight uphill along a main thoroughfare, Corridor G. Nothing scenic about this part of the run at all. Just a good two miles of uphill chug, staring at the pavement in front of you. Then the hill breaks, and turns left into South Hills, an established affluent neighborhood with an eclectic assortment of creatively-built hillside homes. The hill continues on for another mile or so, and just before the summit, the George Washington High School band plays, encouraging runners up that last steep section.
Then, finally, runners start their cruise downhill, along a beautiful shady road. Spectators line the route in their driveways, cheering them on. The last section of downhill reveals a spectacular view of the river, capitol, and city skyline with the mountains behind it. Back across the South Side bridge, the run takes you through the flat East End, among Charleston's largest and oldest homes. Residents were standing in front of their homes and on their porches, cheering on the runners, and a few lovely souls had their garden hoses out, spraying us off as we ran by.
The Capitol and Boulevard (again)
The East End section ended and the Capitol grounds began. A scenic but quick run through the capitol complex, a turn right, and by mile 9 we were back on the Boulevard where we started. Fortunately the aid station here offered cups of ice, which reenergized me for the last 10k. A long run along the Boulevard, and runners turn right into downtown, past the mall, and a final turn right toward the finish.
Final 2 miles
Probably the hardest section of the race, the final two miles was demoralizing and tough. Again, I have run several 13.1s, but these last two miles proved to be tougher than I anticipated. Spectators dropped off, runners were spread out, and the scenery turned into the warehouse district, which is not exactly a scenic area to run through. The buildings blocked any hint of wind that may have been stirring in the valley. Runners can hear Laidley Field (the finish line) from this part of the run, the announcer calling the finishers' names as they make their way around the track in the stadium, with spectators cheering from the bleachers. Knowing I had to run that last 300 meters in front of a large crowd, I found myself taking frequent walk breaks in those last two miles, mainly to make sure I could finish strong. I also was starting to experience chill bumps, an indication that I was getting too hot and had to slow down. Boo. By this time, in these conditions, runners had been sweating profusely for over two hours, the sun was high (but luckily it was cloudy), temperatures were heating up, and gumption was running out.
However, my final two miles were probably less ugly than others', because my brother showed up to ride with me on his bike, having finished the 5k, offering funny stories and a much-needed towel. His comic relief helped me forget my aches and pains and trudge on. And yes, at this point, it was a trudge.
|My friend Tracey and me cooling off at the finish|
Photo by Dan Todd
I was proud to finish the race, and I was very proud of those who also finished that day. My husband finished with a strong time, my sister-in-law finished speedily, as always, and my long-distance running friend Tracey finished well, topping off just over a year of running. My parents and 3yo finished the 5k walk, and my brother and 7yo son finished the 5k race. Race medals were earned all around. The volume of folks out being physical that Saturday morning made me proud for my family and proud for West Virginia.
Overall the race was a great experience. Yes, the conditions were miserable. The humidity was stifling and to be sweating for that long is agonizing. The mental challenge of running up The Hill is a significant test of will and toughness. Training for such a race throughout the hot South Carolina summer is not easy. I learned that many trials await those who take on this race, and those who finish come through stronger and more confident for their future races.
It took me 20 years to work up the guts to run the Distance Run. Now I hope I'll still be running it in another 20 years. New goal.
|7yo & 3yo show off their muscles and medals after finishing 5k|