Monday, November 11, 2013

The Norfolk Freedom Half Marathon - Running the City

It was a cold start, yet I knew it would warm up.  Even so, I was still second-guessing my decision to leave the running gloves in my hotel room.  My hands legs hurt.  It felt much colder than 45 degrees.   

They started the wheelchairs first, then the marathon runners, and then us half-marathon runners.  I could understand the wheelchair start, but starting the marathoners 5 minutes before the half-marathoners really made no sense to me.  But there it is.

My Garmin GPS tracks

It was a very pleasant route, mostly flat except for the railroad underpasses and the bridges over the Lafayette River on the northbound leg up Hampton Blvd and on the southbound leg down Granby.   It was through a neighborhood that I was somewhat familiar with.  My son and family lived on Oak Grove and when I'd visit them I'd often go out for runs in the early mornings.  Once we turned off Little Creek and started south on Granby, the route passed us within a block of my son's house.  It's a lovely neighborhood! 

My hands began to warm up after a couple of miles and by mile 5 or 6 I worried that my long-sleeve "Proud Navy Mom" shirt would be too warm.  But it was still cool in the shady sections of the route. 

This is the third year that this race has been produced. I looked back through the past two years' results to get a gauge of how big the race is and how I might do in my age/gender group.  It was hard to tell.  Previous two runnings of this race there were enough women in my age/gender that I didn't feel I had a chance for an age/gender award.  But I remained optimistic.

When we lined up for the start of the race, the field seemed very small, much smaller than previous years would suggest.   I still had folks around me throughout most of the race, could still see one or two runners ahead of me, even as we made the last turn downtown toward the finish line but there was no question that the field had thinned out considerably in the last 3 or 4 miles.  But I remained optimistic that I might place in my age group.

As I neared the finish line, a woman came running up from behind and overtook me.  I remembered seeing her throughout the race.  We leapfrogged a couple of times and always stayed within sight of each other.  At one point I saw her standing in line waiting to use a porta-potty.  A real time sink.  But a couple of miles later she slowly passed me again.  She was running slowly but in no way did her gait indicate that she had any kind of injury. 

So when she passed me in those last couple of hundred yards, running with a very noticeable limp, I was scratching my head.  At no time during the race did she ever run at this fast a pace.  The limp became more and more exaggerated and her pace started to slow down as she got closer and closer to the finish line.  What the hell?? If you're injured, STOP RUNNING and slow to a WALK! 

I was thinking to myself, "What is she trying to prove?"  If this were the Olympics and a gold medal were at stake, I could see this.  But this was in a very small race, at the back of the pack and, judging from her age, no age-group podium finish was at stake here.  I was also thinking to myself, "She looked perfectly fine throughout this entire race.  So when exactly did she start limping?"

As she crossed the finish line mats, she threw herself down onto her knees in a quite dramatic fashion, and then rolled over onto her back and began writhing and grimacing in pain.  It was the most dramatic acting I've ever seen.  I wanted to call out, "Give her an Academy Award with that medal." but thought better of it.  Up to that point the announcer was calling out the names of each person as they crossed the finish line, saying encouraging words about each one.  I was rather looking forward to running across the finish mat, hearing my name called and where I was from, maybe even noticing the shirt I had on, the Proud Navy Mom shirt.

But of course all attention was turned to this woman who was writhing on the ground.  The announcer was calling for Medical, and telling the skimpy crowd of onlookers to give her some applause.  This went on for several minutes as I accepted my medal, wandered out of the chute and went in search of some food and water.

I spotted the table with the finishers' awards so headed over there, expecting the awards ceremony to begin momentarily.  The website said 9:30 AM and it was a few minutes past 9:30 at this point.  I sat and waited, eating a banana and chatting with a couple who sat next to me.  It was their third time doing this race.  They are walkers yet put in a very decent finisher time for walkers.  At 10:30, there still was no indication that the ceremony would start anytime soon and I was getting uncomfortably chilled.  I needed to get back to the hotel to get cleaned up and checked out. 

Reluctantly I started walking toward the hotel, but stopped at the Starbucks and bought a cappuccino before heading for my room.  I could see the park from my hotel room, could see all the awards still sitting on the table, could see the runners sitting and standing around still waiting.  I wasn't sure if I'd placed in my age group and didn't want to stay around to find out, having a pretty long drive ahead of me to Myrtle Beach SC.

I checked their website later last night and learned that I'd come in 1st place in my age group!!  That's two 1st place age group finishes in the last two races!!

My finisher's medal:

What my map looks like.  There's a certain visual satisfaction to coloring in the state of Virginia as compared to coloring in, say, Delaware or Maryland!

Now to spend a few days relaxing at Marriott's OceanWatch resort in Myrtle Beach SC before running Charlotte Thunder Road Half Marathon next weekend.


  1. Congratulations once again... if you keep placing first you may have to go "pro" !!! You are so inspiring to the rest of us... Thanx for sharing your journeys with us..

  2. Congrats on another first place finish!! You rock!!

    It must have been something to see the all of a sudden 'injury' on the other runner. Why would someone do that? Attention?

    Glad it went well and you ran a good race.