Since January 2016, I’ve run at least one half marathon every month. When I needed to find a half marathon this August, I struggled to find something that fit my schedule. Of course I always try and find a last minute new state, but nothing worked. Then, I came across a half marathon in Columbus over the second weekend and all of a sudden it seemed to fit like a charm in my schedule. The best part is that I have a great friend in Columbus so I had someone to stay with as well! So, in mid-July, I pulled the trigger and registered for The Original Columbus Half Marathon planned for August 12th.
I only officially registered about 3 weeks prior to the race and cost was $60. A little more than I’d want to pay for a smaller race, but I also noticed there really were no cheaper prices if I had registered earlier. Since the race was Saturday morning, they offered bib pick up at 4 local running stores on Thursday and Friday. My plan was to just swing by one on Friday as I got into town, but they only offered pick up until 4pm. That honestly just made no sense to me. I could have picked it up on race morning, but luckily my friend Nikki was able to swing by and get it. Mentally, I just like having that bib Friday evening as a just in case.
Race start was 7:05am, so Friday was a pretty early bed time. I drove out after work and while it’s only 3 hours, it’s still just tiring. My friend’s house was about 30m away from the race, so I decided to set my alarm for 5:15am with a departure by 5:45pm. I figured this gives me enough time to get there, eat breakfast and get ready. Well, I ended up actually getting up a little earlier than that and easily got things ready. I was easily out of the door by 5:45pm and on the way to the race which took place in Alum Creek State Park.
It was of course still dark out and there wasn’t much traffic, so I got to the site around 6:10am or so. Plenty of time before the race started so I actually had time to hit the bathrooms, watch the sunrise, listen to a podcast and eat breakfast. It was nice to just relax before the race. Since we were at the state park, we had real bathrooms to use in 2 different bath houses. I hit them up twice before the race and didn’t wait either time. Around 6:50am, I walked over to the start line area and lined up with everyone else.
For a race that was in their 40th year, they could have splurged for a start line mat. Instead, people just ran under this random metal a-frame. I tried to get as close to the start line as possible, but by the time I crossed, it was about 30 seconds after the gun, so all finish times are gun times and not a real chip time. Nikki said she’d come up for my finish (because she’s awesome) and bring her daughter with her so I told her with a 7:05 start, to expect me around 9:50 or so. I thought a 2:45 would be a good conservative guess on my time.
From the beginning, I was going to stay on my 4/1 ratio and for the most part, other than 3 water stops, I stayed on that ratio the entire race. I was actually pretty proud of myself for this. Prior to the race, I did not pay attention to the course very much, but I noticed that it was basically a big loop around the lake. The first mile was in the park as we looped around the parking lot and then headed out of the park where we hit the road. Here is where one of the two complaints I had about the race. The road wasn’t blocked, which was fine. It was a small race. But there were also no cones or at least “race in progress” signs to warn drivers. You just had to make sure you were on the far left as possible and a lot of road it was just line and then grass. This certainly wasn’t the safest. For the most part cars were okay, but there were a lot that just didn’t seem to care and flew by pretty close to us.
Before we hit mile 2, we took a left to a path. I thought we were going all around the lake, but this took us over the dam. It certainly made for a beautiful path at sunrise.
I didn’t think much of where we were going but somewhere maybe around mile 2.5, is where my second complaint comes in for the race. All of a sudden this path that rook us over the dam became grass. It was still early morning so there was a nice dew on the grass and it became pretty slippery. I felt myself holding back and sure enough if you look at my splits, this almost mile and a half stretch of this grass was certainly my slowest. On top of battling grass, there were now a few small divots here and there. I definitely didn’t want to roll an ankle. Finally toward the end of mile 3, I saw the path ending and we took a left onto Africa road. Shortly there after we hit mile 4.
At this point, other than the grassy area, I felt pretty consistent and pretty strong, but I knew I was still less than 5 miles into the race. I was also still in a little pack at this point on Africa Rd. There was maybe about 5-6 of us in the general area of each other. Since I was doing my run/walk, I would pass them, they would pass me and then it would happen again. Slowly I would pass people as I was moving along pretty well and by the time I got to mile 5, there was only 2 people hanging out around me.
Around mile 5, there was a water stop and still at this time, there were about 2 other runners with me. Over the next mile, I slowly passed them and that was the last time I had anyone running with me in the race. From there on out, I was only passing people. One other interesting part was around this time, a silver SUV rolled by honking and yelling “great job” everyone and reminding us to stay close to the white line. I didn’t know who this was at first, but had a suspicion it was the race director. Come to find out that was. Even better, he went by at least 4 more times cheering on runners and checking on everyone. I thought that was a pretty nice thing!
In this set of miles, I was waiting to hit the wall at any time. Like literally, when I would go for my walk break, when my watch buzzed to start back, I thought that would be the point I just couldn’t. I figured I’d start extended my walk breaks more and more. It didn’t happen though. Just after mile 7, we took a left and went over the lake. We were on this road for about a mile and a half. During the middle of the bridge, I came across another set of people. We chatted about how some of the cars coming at us were dicey at some points. I was glad I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
As we came into mile 8, we had the first sort of hill of the race. I mean this was Ohio, so hill is still very relative. At the top was a water stop though, so I went ahead and grabbed some Gatorade. We took another left to get on the other side of the lake and were in the final miles. I still was a little shocked at this point that I was moving as well as I was. I was still waiting for the wall. I was not paying attention to my splits though. I just let the time click by.
From about mile 9.5 – 11.5, we were actually in a neighborhood. A few people were out cheering, but for the most part this was not a big spectator race. There were 2 more water stops in these miles and I decided to grab a little more Gatorade each time. It was staying easy in my stomach, so why not take the little extra electrolytes. On this side of the lake, there was also a nice little breeze. At mile 11, we had it the only other hills in this race. I thought for sure at this point, I would start slowing down, but I powered right up. Other runners were walking and of course the hills hit my run times and I powered up.
I was still a little shocked that I had not hit the wall yet. I really was expecting to and it just never happened. Since Nikki and her daughter were suppose to be at the finish, around mile 12, I sent her a quick message and told her I would be in within the next 13 minutes or so. Now, I had originally told her I would most likely finish around 2:45-2:50 so she was planning on that. Apparently, I was going a little faster than that and she was just following into the park when I was maybe a half mile away.
We turned into the park and had to go all the way toward the end and the last parking area before we could turn towards the finish line. I thought we hit the finish line from the parking lot side, but luckily some volunteers steered us toward this pathway that apparently took us across the finish line from the other side. I picked it up as much as I could and was quite surprised to see my finish time of 2:30! Actually stunned was more like it. I really did not think I was going that pace. I felt strong, but didn’t think I was going fast.
This was certainly the race I needed as it was 2 days before my marathon training cycle was set to begin. The fact that my fastest mile, an 11:09, was my last mile says a lot I think. I was waiting for that wall and it never came. My slowest mile was that mile 3 going over the wet grass and it was clocked it at 12:00. This really was my race and while I was thinking it was going to be so much worse, I truly couldn’t have asked for something better. While it wasn’t by far my fastest half ever, it was strong and consistent, which is something I’d take over a faster time any day.
Official Finish Time:
32/38, Female 30-39