When my alarm went off at 5:00 am Sunday morning, both Mary and I woke with a start more than a little bleary eyed. I’m used to being awake at 5:00 in the morning because of my job. But I’ll never get used to waking up in the morning no matter how conditioned my body is to being active during that time. Mary doesn’t do well in the morning either. But we both got up and shuffled around to get ready. I took a moment to update my Facebook status advising all of my friends of our early morning misery.
We left the hotel around 5:45 am and hit the road to head to Turner Field. We ended up on the Interstate and drove for a few minutes. When we passed by the first exit for the baseball field, we knew we were in for a little bit of a wait. Cars were lined up down the off ramp toward the interstate. It was not any different when we approached our own exit. The officer directing traffic at the intersection did an awesome job getting us through, though. We didn’t wait too long and ended up in a parking lot by about 6:15 am. I put the car in park and we waited in the car with the heat running. Mary read on her kindle and I sat back to read one of my recent books. The sun slowly crept over the horizon and we watched more people arrive. A lot of participants were doing the same thing as us. There were a lot of cold and tired people in the parking lot!
Mary and I were in the “L” Corral which meant we were in the second wave, not due to start until 8:25 am. We got out of the car around 7:30 am and I’m glad. We both wanted to use the bathroom prior to starting the race and there were very long lines for all of the five billion port-a-potties they had out near the field. While waiting in line, we snapped a pre-race selfie.
We quickly moved through the lines and wandered off toward the start line. The inflatables were there and there was a large group of people lining up around the stadium. This event was a lot larger than I thought! When we looked up the numbers later, Mary informed me that there were 7,000+ registered for the 15K and 10,000+ registered for the 5K. I thought this was the biggest race event I had been in, but my Mom corrected me later. We walked Bloomsday back in 2010, and that race regularly has over 50,000 people in it. Once again, we stopped to take a selfie (we-fie?) near the start line.
We moved back to our corral and huddled with the rest of our corral. It was very cold out – especially for two thin-blooded Floridians. We started our run at around 34 degrees Fahrenheit. We did a lot of shuffling around, arm rubbing, and hand blowing! I was ready to get moving so my blood would flow to heat me up. The crowd was big and I fed off of the energy of the people around me. There were professional cameras capturing pictures of people together, but that didn’t stop us from asking someone to take another picture of us.
Before we knew it, it was time to go! We crossed the start line and everyone was off. The first mile was pretty easy going. Not too hilly and before I knew it, we were coming up on mile 1. Of course, Mary had already sped ahead and I was eating her dust. She had kept talking about how her time was going to be awful… She finished in roughly 33 minutes. What a great job for someone who didn’t train! I stopped to take a picture of the first mile marker and also took a picture to show just how large the crowd around me was.
Pretty soon I came upon the first aid/water station. Volunteers were giving out chocolate chips, water and Gatorade. The chocolate was yummy and the extra sugar was very much appreciated. I sipped my Gatorade and continued on. The second mile was my slowest – I stopped to take quite a few pictures and also stopped near the aid station to chew and swallow my chocolate. It wasn’t long after that when the 5K and 15K route split off. The 5kers had about a mile left. Us long distance runners had way more than that to go. I tried to pace myself accordingly, but the hills still kicked my butt.
Right around mile 3, I thought to myself, you know, you would be done right about now if you had signed up for the 5K. There’s no accounting for the craziness of long distance runners… there’s something so addicting about the extra mileage! Of course, the pretty finishers’ medal was a nice incentive, too…
Atlanta is a beautiful city to run in. The hills are killer (I’ll probably say something along those lines about 5 million times in this post, by the way) but it was nice to see the streets of Atlanta. I loved seeing the skyline and really enjoyed running through the Georgia Tech campus. I think they did a pretty awesome job with the 15K route!
Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 I passed by our hotel. I was in the middle of a walk interval at this point so I shot Mary a quick text. I’ll tell you, a warm bed and fluffy pillows was looking pretty good about then. We were staying at the Georgia Tech Conference Center and Hotel so I was also close to the point where you run through Georgia Tech’s campus. Pretty soon I was hitting 10K… just a third of the course left!
The worst part of the race for me came between mile 7 and mile 8. This portion of the race was pretty steep and my legs were feeling it. I kept my breathing even and soldiered on. My mile split was a little slower than the ones before and after, but I kept moving. The last couple of miles featured a mantra I kept repeating over and over in my head, “You’re almost there.” My legs were a little tight and I could feel some tweaks at the back of my left knee. I kept moving but slowed down to accommodate the discomfort. The mile 9 mile marker was a sight for sore eyes. I stopped to take a picture of it, trying to catch the Olympic Games Rings symbol in the background.
The very last bit of the race was all downhill. It sloped down steeply and I let my legs eat the pavement. There were a few photographers at the end and I tried my best to smile at them when I saw them pointing their lens at me. I gave a couple of them a double thumbs up. Hopefully at least one photo will turn out. I won’t know until Thursday at the latest! (And believe me, I’ll be anxiously waiting!). There was a camera running during the entire event to catch people running across the line. I took a screenshot of it. Look at that pretty girl in pink.
I crossed the finish line and collected my beautiful medal from the volunteers. Mary was there to cheer me on and she met me coming out of the finish chute while I closed down my running apps and stopped my Garmin. She snapped a picture of me looking exhausted (hopefully I pulled off a little bit of pride… but I look mostly tired).
She had already enjoyed her chocolate yummies but she walked over with me so I could collect my chocolate winnings. The banana was very much needed – I had been craving one before the race even started! The hot cocoa was scrumptious and I kept the cup – I wish it was made from better material than plastic but I would much rather have the plastic cup and an awesome sweatshirt rather than a cool cup and a subpar shirt. Before heading out, Mary introduced me to the Dad of two kids she used to babysit for and we stopped for a snapshot in front of the inflatable hot cocoa cup.
Traffic on the way to the hotel was nowhere near as bad as traffic on the way back. We easily made it back to get checked out. We both very much enjoyed our experiences. The crowd was electric and I feel like RAM racing did a fantastic job managing such a huge event. All along the race course, police officers were stationed at traffic intersections to help with traffic control. When possible, I tried to thank officers out on the course. It was cold and they were at static posts. I can only imagine how cold they were standing still. The chocolate was yummy and they did a spectacular job on the medal – it was designed to be city specific! Both Mary and I left the event saying that we would definitely be willing to take part in something organized by RAM racing again.
On the way back to the hotel, I snapped a quick selfie with my medal. At home yesterday, I snapped a quick picture of it with my racing bib before I put it in my bibfolio.
I’ve been given the advice that you should enter into a race with three goals in mind. For this race, I entered into it with two goals in mind. One to accomplish no matter what and one to accomplish to feel like a badass for my running level.
My first goal was to finish – check!
My second goal was to finish under 2 hours. My finish time was 2:01:46. If I had not stopped to take so many pictures throughout the race, I probably would have made it under 2 hours. I don’t regret stopping though. I enjoyed my experience and even though I didn’t quite make my time goal, I still had a blast. My 5K splits were decently even and I also had negative splits there. If you’re interested, here’s a graphic of my results.
If you have an opportunity to run this race, I would definitely suggest it! Just be mindful that you will be registering for a very busy and popular event. Expect traffic, expect to encounter people who don’t understand race day etiquette, and especially expect hills if you are racing in Atlanta!