Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Fought the Weather for This Half Marathon Medal

Have you ever gone to the beach, looked up and seen a seagull suspended in the air, flapping its wings but going nowhere as it tries to fly directly into a stiff wind?  Well that was me today, as I ran the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon. 

I'm on a quest this year...I want to run a half marathon every month in 2012.  Last month it was the Houston Aramco Half Marathon.  This month it's the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon.  Even though this race was a relatively short distance from home, I chose to stay at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston...a block away from the start line...rather than risk the high possibility that bad weather and fog would get in my way of reaching the start line. 
Tremont Hotel, one of the Mardi Gras arches near it's entrance.
The arches are a Galveston Mardi Gras tradition.

I haven't stayed at the fabulous historic Tremont House in years - not since my husband passed a way.  It was a favorite getaway of ours.  The hotel is gorgeous!  Built in the 1800's, it's restored to a fine jewel of a hotel, with hardwood floors and high ceilings in each room, gorgeous bathroom, luxurious bed linens, many excellent boutique restaurants within a block or two.  It was a nice personal treat to myself, sort of a lap of luxury evening before the race the next morning.

And what a race it turned out to be.  This morning's race day weather included 45 degree temperatures, steady rain, and a strong 25 mph wind, gusting to 35 mph, coming straight out of the north.  The nice thing about being so close to the start line for a small race such as this one, is that I could walk out the door and head for the start line, just minutes before the race starts.  The hardest part about doing 1/2 and full marathons is the logistics of getting to the start line, standing in possibly inclement weather waiting for the starting gun to go off. 

I started chatting with a woman near me, as we waited for the start.  She was getting back into running after a hiatus of a few years.  She looked to be about 10 years younger than me and from her fine running physique, I was surprised to hear that she's not been running these longer distances for a few years.

I've run marathons in cold...and I've run marathons in rain...but this is the first time I've run a race in cold, windy rain.  This was ugly!  The first 3 miles of the route took us down the Galveston Seawall heading south, northerly winds at our back, toward 45th Street, where we did a several-block loop and returned back to the Seawall heading north...straight into that strong cold, northerly headwind.  

Just before I got to the turnaround point, a pair of young women, adorable in their purple tutu's, caught up with me and commented on how they were impressed with my pace (do I really look that old?) and that it took them a long time to catch up with me and pass me.  They asked me if this was my first race ( I really look that old?).  This was their second 1/2 marathon so I congratulated them and wished them a good run and then they moved on ahead and gradually extended their lead enough that I could no longer pick them out from the other runners.

Now I had to run almost 7 miles straight up the Seawall - straight into that headwind - before the route turned us around and took us onto the Strand in downtown Galveston and over the finish line.

So...back to those seagulls.  The headwind was so strong as I was running north along that Seawall, that I felt like those seagulls must feel.  My "wings" were flapping furiously, but I was making very little headway!  Not only were those headwinds hindering my forward progress, they were even knocking me off balance periodically with the strongest of the gusts.  The rain was stinging against my face, being driven nearly sideways by the wind.   If I wasn't so cold and miserable, I'd have laughed out loud at how ludicrous this was!

"Hang in there, hang in there," I kept telling myself.  "This miserable strong wind will be at your back the last 3 miles."  Past the mile 8 marker, past the mile 9 marker...and then the turnaround to head back toward town and the finish line.  Ah....!  The wind was now at my back and there was a noticeable improvement in my pace.  The effort necessary to forward locomote was noticeably less.  It was as if I were running downhill.

The full marathon was a two-loop version of the half marathon route and as I made the turn at mile 11 toward downtown, the eventual winner of the full marathon passed me by.  Ouch!  That always hurts, but at my age and pace is inevitable.  At mile 12 I was pretty much spent, my legs used up from having to dig in and "drive" myself forward for 7 miles against 25 mph winds.  Running into such a strong headwind is equivalent to running uphill.  I had to drive my legs harder than usual to overcome the resistance. 

I walked some of the distance between the mile 12 and mile 13 markers and then broke into a run again.  It was pride that forced me to run across the finish line, run as the finish line cameras snapped away.

I was pleased with myself for having run nearly the entire 13.1 miles, even though my time for that distance was disappointingly slow.  Guess that headwind really affected my pace.  But what really matters to me is that I did run nearly the entire distance.   This, compared to the Houston race 3 weeks ago, in which I walked much more in the last 4 miles.

I grabbed a slice of pizza and a banana at the finish line then hastened to the hotel, changed out of my wet running clothes - I didn't even bother to clean up - and then checked out of the hotel.  A stop at McDonalds for a large cappuccino was foremost on my mind at this point.  Then it was a relatively short drive back home, where I savored my cappuccino, ate the tacos I purchased at Jack in the Box enroute, before heading into the shower to clean up.


From the Galveston Mardi Gras Marathon Facebook page:

the race directors would like to thank everyone for their support today. RUNNERS for braving the conditions and running in such adverse conditions. THE VOLUNTEERS for hanging in there to help make this race a success, the City of Galveston for allowing us to put on this event in their great city and our wonderful sponsors. I will say that in 25 years of putting on events, this was the most challenging conditions for the participants and volunteers. Thanks for making this event a success.


  1. I am not a runner and I really don't understand the running thing, but I really enjoy reading your stories about running. This one with the rain and wind, sounds like it may have been a candidate for pulling over on the bike and waiting for the weather to pass.

    1. Thank you for following along, Willie!! Definitely would have been a "park the bike" day. Brrr! Where were my Gerbings when I needed them??