Have you ever had a running day that ebbs and flows so much that you are pretty sure time has sped up and you’ve lost a day? Saturday ended up being that day for me, thanks to two uniquely different runs that added up to my June marathon. In keeping with my quest to run at least one marathon each month in order to stay trained, I went to bed Friday night with the intention of making Saturday that day in June. I was registered for a brand new half marathon in the afternoon, and figured I could squeeze in the other half marathon in the morning during my normal AM group run. This did indeed work out as I had hoped in terms of numbers, and also left me with some crazy memories!
I woke up around 6AM, which seemed decadent after last weekend, and left the house around 6:30AM to meet up with friends for a 7AM run. The weather was cool, and although the threat of rain persisted, the sun did make an appearance as well. I’ve been training pretty hard lately, so I wanted to take it a bit easier in the morning and make sure I saved some energy for my afternoon race. The route took us out in the country a bit, and then back into town, and I was able to maintain a comfortable pace while chatting with friends along the way. By the time I made it back to the house, I had logged 14.5 miles. I was in good shape for the afternoon run.
A bit of soreness crept in later in the morning, but a few ibuprofen and a nice cup of coffee cured what ailed me. Around 12:30PM, the beautiful epicurean and I, along with a great friend, headed down to Des Moines to pick up our race packets at the Exile Brewing Company. The inaugural Run to Exile was due to start at 3PM, with busses take us to the starting line at 2PM. When we arrived, the registration line was rather long, which left us a bit uncertain about having enough time to get everything picked up and still hop on the bus. We made our way to the front and collected our materials in enough time, and flagged down a few other friends that were meeting us before the race. Thanks to a random friend sighting, I found the bus in time while the epicurean caught her bus for the 5K a bit later.
We arrived at the starting line, and I realized that this was going to be a very small half-marathon. In total, there were only 80 people registered (69 finishers). We got off the bus at a community park, and made our way through crowds of parents cheering on their children at a softball tournament. In many ways, the mood was more similar to a regular group run than to a race. The starting line consisted of a sign with the race logo, and an arrow pointing us in the right direction along the trail.
As I mentioned, this was the inaugural running of the Run to Exile, and there are always kinks to work out the first time around. This meant communication might have been lacking a bit, and a 3PM starting time turned into a 3:25PM start. The mood remained relaxed, and nobody seemed to mind. I definitely had the sense that folks were just looking forward to a nice afternoon run, and I was happy nobody got too upset at the volunteers during the delay. We finally got the go-ahead, and we headed out along the Greenbelt Trail for the majority of the race.
After running my first leg in the morning, I wasn’t entirely sure what me legs had in them, but I figured I’d feel it out in the first few miles and just listen to my body. I hit the 1 mile mark at 8:02 and had a sense that I might be going a bit fast. When my Garmin read 7:52 at mile 2, I knew I couldn’t sustain my pace, and my legs leveled out over the next few miles. At around mile 8, my legs were starting to feel the effects of the days miles, but I stayed on pace with a bit more effort than before. By that time, it had begun to rain just enough to be refreshing so I didn’t mind in the least.
Around mile 10, I began to be more aware of the moisture content of my shirt, and the resulting chaffing I could feel setting in. I wasn’t keen on carrying my shirt the rest of the race, but figured it was a better choice than bleeding at the end! I had enough juice left for a kick the last few miles, and was able to pass a few people as a rounded the corner towards the finish line.
I claimed my medal and a bottle of water rather unceremoniously, and made my way down to the brewery to find the epicurean and our other friends. It wasn’t until they asked me about my distance that I looked down at my Garmin and saw the 12.77 mile final staring back at me. Had the route really been off by that much? Unfortunately, the 5K was off by even more, and ended up only being a 4K. This left more than a few people upset as you can imagine. We claimed our beer and snacks and hung out inside for a bit before deciding to make our way back to the car and get out of the wet clothes. I was definitely happy to have brought a dry shirt.
All-in-all, it was still a really enjoyable experience. The gear bag with shirt and beer glass was an excellent touch, and the free beer at the end always creates a smile. More than that, it was just fun to hang out with friends and celebrate our accomplishments (and maybe complain a bit about the routes…seriously though, you really need to measure your courses carefully!). At the end of the day, I had run over 27 miles, so I hit my goal as well. It was a strange experience in a number of ways, but the memories will definitely remain and I have no doubt that we’ll be talking about the (almost) Run to Exile in the future!