We Are…Running A Half!
Sunday, November 1, 2015 I participated in the 12th running of the Marshall Half Marathon. We raced to remember those Marshall players, coaches, fans and supporters who lost their lives in a plane crash on November 14, 1970.
On a rainy hillside in Wayne County, West Virginia, the lives of 75 people were lost in the worst single air tragedy in NCAA sports history. Among the losses were nearly the entire Marshall University football team, coaches, flight crew, numerous fans, and supporters. They were flying home after playing East Carolina University.
The Full and Half Marathon participants all started at the same line at the same time. The running field was not so large as to require corrals. Runners were able to pick where they wanted to start in the pack. Scattered throughout the runners were the pacers, holding their time placards above their heads as they encouraged random runners to run with them and to enjoy themselves. The course was a single 13 mile loop (Captain Obvious: the Half participants ran it once and Full participants ran it twice). There were water stations almost every two miles which also served Gatorade (but not gels). The starting line was adjacent to the John C Edwards Stadium and the finish line was the end zone on the field. You run the full length of the football field, carrying a football and then cross the finish line as you enter the end zone.
The race is USATF certified and is a Boston qualifier. The course is considered flat and fast by critics and is considered an optimum race to qualify for Boston. There is one stretch which has a slight incline and a one block run on 12th street that is a little steep.
As Paul Harvey would say, “And now, the rest of the story.”
2015 was not a runner-fun year for me. May 16, 2015 I ran the Gallipolis in Lights 5k with a time of 46:14 and felt as if I would die the entire way. May 18th I was (finally) diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis that included a small heel spur. For three weeks in June I met with various podiatrists and ortho specialists. I was also fitted with inserts to accommodate my high arches and to ease the pressure on my heel. June 22nd I received a cortisone shot and was cleared to start running again (the following week) with the warning that it would be a while before my foot would be 100% (if ever). This will be a recurring injury that I will undoubtedly suffer through again in my lifetime (yay me). I registered on June 29th for the Marshall Half Marathon because I refused to believe that my left heel, only a 4”x4” area of my body, would keep me from running again.
July 25th I ran the Shawshank Hustle (Mansfield OH) which was originally billed as a 5k, then as a 4 miler and by race day my Garmin said I ran 4.63 miles (a little over a 7k). It was the first year for this race and there were a number of snafu’s. The shuttles were not timed properly which delayed the race considerably. The race started late into the morning and the heat was unbearable. I only ran in the evenings up to this point and was ill-prepared to run in the unrelenting sun through an industrial area. There should have been a water stop at 2 miles so I ran wide open only to find that there wasn’t a water stop until closer to 3 miles. Yadda yadda yadda – I think I overheated. It was scary but I finished. My time for that was 1:10:46.7 (1136/1695 Overall Female: 157/234 AG). So, about a 15:22/mile. I finished that race with my foot in agony. At that point I thought that maybe running would be out of my life and it left me very sad. I plan to return to this race June 10, 2016 and to run it properly (to erase any doubt I might have that I can run, maybe not fast, but at least to the finish line without pain).
From August through October there always seemed to be something big in the plans (Kings Island, helping Dad through the death of his best friend, Cincy Comic Expo, Kickball Tourney, Boston Girls Coming To Town, Bridge Day). I could never seem to get my training game on point. I did run; I did the elliptical; I did try to eat healthy. However, I know it was not enough and not serious enough. The morning of this race I weighed 175 (and some ounces, but who is counting). To give perspective – that was my nine month pregnant weight with both my kids (albeit the last was born 25 years ago, but still). My weight has been a struggle (post-45) even though I have been better about watching what I eat and have been more active.
The day before the race, I decided to drive the route just so I had some sort of idea in my head regarding where I was going and the obstacles I might face. I used the official course map:
Let me just say, this map officially sucks. Racers would be better served with an actual map with the course highlighted. We were lost a couple of times trying to figure out where I would run. So I had the vaguest of ideas about the areas I would run through. It was fine, I would follow the pack.
The morning of the race I put my iPhone in a baggy – it went into one pocket of my running tights. In the other pocket was a pack of Clif Gel Blocks (and room for my car key). I woke at 5AM with all of my things ready to put on. It had rained rather hard a few hours earlier so the air was very damp. I hopped in my car and when the clock read 6:30, I went into panic mode before realizing I was a victim of daylight savings time. I arrived at Edwards Stadium at 5:45 and was able to easily park in the stadium parking lot. Although there were port-a-potties available throughout the parking lot, I opted to use the stadium bathrooms and then ventured up through the gates to look at the field I hoped to run across in a few hours. I have said it before and I will say it again now: Racers are the most polite athletes you will ever meet. It is always nice being in the crowd and to overhear the upbeat chatter of the other participants. Unlike my first Half Marathon (NYC), I would be running this one solo. I walked down to the starting line to take a picture of the starting arch. While doing so, a nice lady happened into the picture and then apologized. We had a nice chat. She and her husband are retired and they travel the country. They are hoping to “do all 50 states” and WV was the 28th state to check off their list.
As with all races, the unce unce unce of dance music was a constant at the starting line, pumping up all the runners with songs like “I will survive”, “There’s no stopping us now.”, etc. As an aside, the song playing as I crossed the finish line was “Beat It”. I am not sure if that was to imply the race beat me or vice versa – but I know how it felt… We were called to the start area, the national anthem was sung by a student and with the BOOM (which FYI sounded like a sound bite from The Hunger Games) of a cannon, we were off. By off, I mean for two minutes we walk, shuffled, kinda jogged towards the arch. Within a couple yards of the arch, the pace picked up and then we were all off to a struggled run until the pack weaned out the walkers, speed walkers and sluggish runners. For the first two miles I tried to stay with the 14(and some seconds) per mile pacer. He was funny and kept the spirits up. Then I fell away with my 3:1 Run/Walk split. I didn’t really need to check my watch to know when to slow – there were scores of other runners who had the loud bells and whistles go off every three minutes. I kept a decent pace with them.
I am not sure why but there was no time strip to cross for the 5k marker. This was a little upsetting because I had hoped the race would give us our split times so I could compare with my first Half. So I texted Erin that I crossed the 3 mile mark at 38 minutes. At 4 mile mark I texted Mander my time of 52 minutes. She let me know that she was waiting at mile 6 (Big Lots parking lot with my bag of goodies). I decided to take a pee-break at the next set of stands and I opened the door of the potty to see a pile of shit that looked JUST LIKE the emoji on an iPhone. A perfect triangular pile just five inches from its (maybe) intended destination. Really, you couldn’t make it five inches – are you seriously hovering over a toilet seat at this point?? This was my first bathroom break and I had not noticed until now, (here comes TMI:) I sweat profusely and maybe that combined with the damp misty air and high humidity – I had sweat like no other time before. My running pants are newer-ish and I looked down to see that they were completely soaked (capris length). As grossed out as I was, I continued soggily on. Another quarter of a mile later I realized my Victoria Secret yoga underwear was trying to saw off my left leg somewhere around my buttock to the high inner thigh area. It was also at that time that I realized why my runner friends take Desitin with them to races and how stupid it was of me to forget body glide. I texted Mander to see if she had a spare pair of yoga pants in her car but she did not. I will liken my diaper rash at this point to Enrique, the shin splint from NYC. It was bad for a few miles and then it seemed as if my pants were suddenly very dry and it was no longer a problem (of course that took a handful of miles to achieve but oh well). I am sad that this occurred during this stretch because it was while running through the Antique Row of Huntington and I would have liked to enjoy that area more than I did.
I crossed the 6.1 mile strip (yes, 6.1 just .1 away from a 10k) at 1:23:38. 13.43 min/mile pace. I was fine with that. NYC was 1:27:48 at the 10k split and I had hopes at that one singular moment of a possible overall PR. As an aside: the port-a-potties were located next to this strip and I almost headed to them first, thought better and then crossed the strip and stepped back to the port-a-potty. At Mile 7 I texted Erin my time: 1:38. I was still keeping a good pace and felt somewhat great (all miles considering). Then around mile 7.75 my hip felt as if it were blowing out of the socket. A quick text to Erin and she told me to engage my core more, to run more upright. For whatever reason (or excuse), I could not get myself into a straighter position and the pain increased. I was running on limestone (slimestone would be a better description with the previous rainfall – it was slicker than whale shit in an ice flow and had wet leaves to boot – slip n slide central). I met Kitty at this time. She was 60 and hoping to have a 2:59 overall time and was keeping a decent pace. I was still somewhat hopeful that I could keep up but the pain in my hip proved otherwise. She shared some salty tube stuff that replenished electrolytes. And then we bid farewell as she plugged on ahead (I checked her times after the race, there was only one Kitty who ran the race and she finished at 3:11 – so close). Mander met me at the edge or Ritter Park and by then I was totally fine with walking because the hip was really hurting. I had a few more jelly beans. She walked across the park as I jogged around it and met me on the other side. A few more jelly beans as the first Marathon runner lapped me. There was no hate for the runner, only awe. He ran the same amount as me X 2 and was still running like he had just started. Mile 9 – 2:10. Mile 10 – 2:26. At that point my pace was 14.6/mile (my first Half had a 14:44 pace). I thought if I could push through the last 5k, maybe I could finish with a similar time. Mile 12 – 3:01. It was around this time that I slipped a little on the wet yellow middle line of the road and the dull pain in my hip turned to a full on roar of pain. So the last mile was walked. Pretty much alone, except for the marathoners, running past me in the opposite direction. I had a companion for part of this stretch. She was battling hip issues too. For a few minutes I thought I could keep up her same pace – nope.
You know how I could tell I was looking haggard? By the number of people who looked at me (with blatant sympathy written across their faces) and said: “It’s ok, you’re almost there.” I would like to say to those people: Define “almost”. Ha! The last mile of “almost there” felt longer than the first twelve miles I ran. The last 1.1 miles took me 21 minutes to walk, a few times wondering: If I lay down would Mander know to come pick me up? Of course, my stubbornness would not allow it. I made it to the stadium (you would’ve thought they could let an exhausted runner through the first tunnel, but NOOOOO – second tunnel run-in it would be).
Flashback: When I ran NYC, the last mile included a tunnel with a steep incline at the end. I remember thinking: couldn’t they give a tired heifer a downward slope? Fast forward to the last couple hundred yards of my second race: through the tunnel onto a STEEP decline. W.T.A.F. All I could think of was that little girl in the yellow slicker, the meme that says “What I’m pretty sure I actually look like”. At this point (out loud) I said: “Fuck it, I’m walking in.” And walk in I did. I was handed a football by an all-too-happy young person and then expected to walk the entire way down the football field and the entire way back to the end zone I had just passed.
Bobby and Mander were waiting for me at the finish line; the announcer screamed “Michelle Dolin” and Bobby asked how I felt. My response: I feel like I need to see the chiropractor. There was a random chair at the end of race – just a plain plastic white fold-out chair. As if someone knew I needed to sit down. And I did.
Course time: 3:22:47, Pace 15:29 min/mile.
Final kicker, we had to walk up and out of tunnel one… Really coordinators? Really?
There were hamburgers, chips, bananas, cookies and water waiting at the top of the hill. And then it was in my car and camper-bound.
- I toyed with the unrealistic goal of 2:59. I knew better but hoped a lofty goal would goad me into a faster pace. Had it not been for the slip around Mile 12 I think I could have been on par with my NYC times. Overall, I am pleased with my time after all of the foot issues and lack of training leading up to the race.
- Comparing races NYC: 3:12:52 – Marshall 3:22:47 – only 0:09:55 difference. I am totally ok with that.
- When I arrived at the campground, an ice bath was out of the question. I took a shower and popped an Ibuprofen 800. I took an hour long nap and then had a great dinner (French Dip and sweet potato fries from O’Charleys). The drive home (one hour) stiffened me up. When I got to the house I was very concerned about the amount of soreness in my pelvic area. It felt as if it were bruised. I had another Ibuprofen 800 and then slept on the couch (it is easier to roll over while sore there). Monday morning the crotch area was (thankfully) not sore anymore. However, my upper thighs, calves, shoulders and the muscles along both sides of my spine were in agony. I made sure to walk and stretch as much as I possibly could, soaked in an Epsom/eucalyptus salt bath and took it easy. This morning (Tuesday) I feel MUCH better with only slight soreness and stiff walking. Deep seats are still a problem and I was thankful that my office has safety bars next to the toilets. I feel that day 2 this race, I am far ahead of the soreness than I was day 2 of NYC.
- Pros: Nice shirt – Feels like less soreness on recovery – Having Bobby and Mander at Finish Line – Hamburgers for finishers – No shin splints – Finished before 3:45 – Great medal
- Cons:Losing charger for my Garmin – No gels at water stops – They did not track splits, only halfway point and finish times – Doing it solo – Diaper rash
Upcoming races: (I have promised myself to be more prepared.)
Nov 19 – National Toilet Day Virtual 5k (the medal is a port-a-potty – could not resist)
Dec 5 – Jingle Bell 5k for Arthritis
Dec-Feb – Barboursville Winter Series (Dec 3 Mi, Jan 4 Mi, Feb 5 Mi)
April – Athens OH Half Marathon
Favorite race day signs:
In order – May The Course Be With You, Short Cut, Never Trust A Fart, It’s Long and Hard – That’s What She Said, If I see you fall down I’ll pause your Garmin.
This guy was right before mile 11 – smart ass…
Bag of motivational goodies – Mander ate most of the Jelly Beans… HA!
Day Two: thankful for toilet handrails:
Enjoyed your write-up. Congrats on your half marathon – you really stuck it out, and that takes guts and determination.
As a member of the marathon committee I’d like to address a couple of things you mentioned. First of all, the map. The first part of the course is run the wrong way on one-way streets. The reason for that is so that one lane of those major (for this town) roads can be kept open, and so the runners need to be running on the inside and not crossing the road when the loop turns. As a result, it’s impossible to drive the course as you’ll run it. The rest of the half marathon map is entirely accurate, but of course you can’t drive the part that’s on the path.
Secondly, the slick leaves on the park path. The park staff blew the leaves off the path the day before. Unfortunately it rained all night. What would you suggest? I run there several times a week, and have never found wet leaves on top of the limestone to be a slick as wet leaves on pavement would be, but it’s probably true that they stick to the limestone more. Us older runners really appreciate the benefit to our joints of a softer surface for a short stretch of the race.
Thirdly, the tunnels into the stadium. Most people love our stadium finish. But there’s no way to enter it except by steep tunnel. The finish used to take you into the first tunnel – but it is the steeper of the two. So the decision was made to change the course (it actually had to be recertified – which costs a lot of money for a small race!) to take runners down the less steep tunnel. I’ve run the half four times, and I know how hard it is to go down the hill, but that’s just what we’ve got. As far as going back uphill to the food is concerned, the stadium management no longer allows the serving of food on their new astro-turf, and so we have to respect that.
Re: gels: the marathon website states “There are no gel packets provided on the course. We recommend you bring your own.” For your relatively low registration fee you received a lot of amenities. No race can provide all amenities. And even if gels were provided, there’s no guarantee they would be the ones you trained with. The sickest I ever got during a race was when I ingested a GU Roctane handed out by race organizers, and I’d been training with a different gel. Since then I’ve always brought my own, regardless.
I do agree with you about the 6.1 mile timing mat. Unfortunately, to put it at 6.2 would require it to be right on the turn. In its current position it is just before the righthand turn. The only way I see around that is redoing the course…again. I’m not sure we have the money to do that.
I have learned a lot about race organization from being on this committee. We have an amazingly dedicated race director and group of volunteers. I would encourage you to get involved, if you aren’t already, with the organization of a local race – even a 5k – to find out what all goes into it.
Good luck training for Athens – I may run it myself.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate your getting back to me with some feedback on my blog. I would like to start this with – I feel that your response makes it seem as if I have offended you with my blog. My blog was in no way meant as a stamp of disapproval for the race. I rather enjoyed myself (through the pain). My blogs are directed at my friends who have had to endure my attempts at becoming a better runner. I am a slow runner, I know this. But, I am determined. My times are never amazing but I am hopeful to one day change that to some degree. Also, as noted in the blog, I am recovering from PF and I was terrorized by the thought that I would not be able to continue competing in a race that I love although I am completely “not great at” it. This race was the proving ground that I could run and my heel would not hold me back. And, for that, I am eternally grateful to the Marshall Half Marathon. I must also note that every fiber of my being is laced with sarcasm (any of my earlier blogs are proof of this). Obviously, some of that falls short.
Now, on to your points:
The map: As my daughter is graduating from Marshall and my husband owns a business in the area – I am very familiar with Huntington as a whole. For me (and for others I spoke with) the map was somewhat confusing. I was (in NO way) knocking the course itself. Just that (IMHO) an actual street map with the course highlighted would have been less confusing for me (not speaking for the others, just myself). I know that there were areas that were not drivable; again I am familiar with the area. That is why I thought an actual map would have been more helpful.
The slick leaves on the path: I appreciate that the park staff attempted to remove the leaves. Weather is a horrible factor when it comes to sports. I know this as my husband’s business is an extreme sport that is dictated by cloud cover. You just cannot control it no matter how badly you would like to. I ran this area with a couple of older runners who also slid a little through the trail (and spoke of it out loud). There were times that we had to leave the path and go into the grass because of the puddles. What would I suggest? Nothing. Mother Nature is a heartless lass when she wants to be. There is nothing you could do to stop/prepare for that. I was only stating the obvious: I had difficulty (as did some of my fellow participants) and nothing more. I did not blame the race coordinators for this problem. I also noted that a previous rainfall was to blame. I would think you would be able to control the weather just about as much as you could control the runner who pooped in the floor for the potty – it is impossible. Also, recovering from PF I can say that I love softer surfaces as well. As an aside, this was my favorite section of the course.
The tunnels into the stadium – this was ALL sarcasm. It was told from the perspective of someone just trying to get to the finish line. As noted in the blog, the last half I raced (NYC), I found myself in a “real” traffic tunnel that leads into Battery Park. At the end of the tunnel was an incline. The incline was between Mile 12 and 13 and I thought of it as a cruel joke. If you notice, I said that during that race I had wished for a decline. With Marshall, I was given that end-of-race decline in spades and it proved comical that it was of no help to me at that point. The comment regarding the uphill climb out of the stadium – again, total sarcasm. I fully understand wanting edibles outside of the stadium area.
The timing mat at 6.1 (sarcasm again, fell short). My only “real” disappointment (I use that word loosely) with the race was that there were no other splits that were timed. My disappointment was due to hoping to use my results (no matter how poor) as a training marker of strengths (not many) and weaknesses (not few). In no way was I suggesting redoing the course (again).
I have participated in the organizing of a number of large events. I am fully aware of the dedication of the workers and those involved. Because of that, I made sure to thank the people handing me water, those working the intersections, those handing me a burger at the end. I am grateful for those in the foreground and those behind the scenes. I need no schooling in organizing an event or sport participation. I feel at this point in your comments that you felt as if I have no respect for the organization of a large scale event. I actually have a lot of respect for all involved. I have been there, I do understand. At this point I also realized that the majority of my sarcasm was taken as criticism – which was not the intent.
I apologize if my blog offended you or any of the race coordinators. I did enjoy the race for a variety of different reasons. So much so that at the end of the race my husband and I spoke of what a time I had and whether we could be a sponsor for next year.
I hope this response removes some of the stain of my sarcasm and you can rest easily knowing that I am a satisfied event participant.
Hope to see you in Athens.
Great write up! Way to stick with it through the pain, diaper rash, and more pain. Keep it up!
Thanks! It is my warm-up for the 2016 season. I survived with no PF pain so I know I can run 2016 with less fear….