Personally, I'm really partial to smaller races with no more than a couple thousand people. It's nice for there to be enough people to create some excitement, but I don't care for the traffic jams getting to the race expo, the logistics of how to get to and from the huge races, hundreds of people running shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the race, and of course, it's nice to have a chance to place in the top 3 in my age group, which is never going to happen in a race of this magnitude.
So with my preference for small races, you may be wondering why I would drive 400 miles to run in a huge race, especially with so many good smaller local races on the same weekend. The reason is that I'm participating in the Running Journal Grand Prix, and the Gate River Run is one of the ten races in the series. In each race, only the top 8 runners from the Southeast United States in each age group get points, and I knew from the results of previous years that there was no chance that I would be in the top 8. However, in this year's Grand Prix if you run the Gate River Run, the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, and the Germantown Half Marathon (you have to run all three races) you get double points for the race where you collected the most points. I finished 4th at Myrtle Beach and received 65 points, so if that's my best one of the three I would get an additional 65 points. Last year I came in 1st in my age group at Germantown and got an extra 100 points.
The week leading up to this race was a rough one for me. Last Sunday I started feeling the effects of a cold (or possibly the flu). By Tuesday I felt pretty bad, and on Wednesday I felt completely awful -- coughing, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and a lot of other tasty stuff. I thought about completely canceling the Florida trip but decided that since we'd already paid the race registration and for the hotel, we may as well just go down and see how I felt. I considered just "running through" slowly since I wouldn't get any points anyway, but on Saturday morning I felt well enough to give it a go.
As soon as the race started I felt like I was in trouble. For the first two miles the congestion in my sinus system clogged me up and kept me rattling like an old jalopy. I'd try to cough it up, but never could clear everything out enough to breathe freely. Then in about the third mile the breathing cleared up, but then I got a nagging pain in my stomach that hurt with every step (Linda reminded me later that it could have been the Burger King Whopper I had for dinner the night before). That lasted about three miles, and by then I was about halfway through the race. For the last half of the race I actually felt okay except I didn't feel like I had much energy, so I found myself just kind of hanging on until the end. I had heard in advance about Hart Bridge, better known as The Green Monster, which crosses the St. John's River and is the route for the last couple miles of the race. It's about 3/4 of a mile up, which is thankfully compensated for when you get to run down the other side, where the race finishes. It's a great downhill finish but I was done in before I ever reached the bridge. In the end, I was satisfied with a time of 1:10:04 (7:30 pace), which was 25th of 437 in my age group and I was 990th overall out of 14,972 finishers. Oh, and I beat Bill Rodgers by 49 seconds. I know, Boston Billy's not what he used to be, but neither am I.
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9 - 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
9 - 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 - 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 - 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 - 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 - 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 - 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 - 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 - 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
9 - 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 - 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
9 - 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 - 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 - 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
8 - 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
TOTAL - 108*
* It's really hard to say anything bad about the race and thus the high rating. It's difficult to compare a race like this with the small local races with a few hundred runners.
1st Overall Male: Mo Trafeh (42:58)
1st Overall Female: Jennifer Rhines (49:31)
Age Group: 25 of 437 (5.7%)
Overall: 990 of 14,972 (6.6%)