There is a really great marathon event in the city, commemorating this iconic U.S. highway, and it began 10 years ago. The race organizers are making the 10th anniversary running of this race particularly special this year.
I registered, booked my hotel room at the same hotel as last time and when Friday before race day rolled around, I got on the road early to beat the morning commuter traffic in Houston.
|Entrance to the expo at the Cox Business Center|
|Packet pickup area, with no lines. Reports from others who went early or later in the day|
said that this area was crammed with people waiting in line. Timing is everything,
and I've learned that from the Chevron Houston Marathon expo.
Then I headed back to the hotel, ordered room service dinner and crashed after a very long day, one that started at 4:30 in the morning.
The next morning it took some serious self-motivation to get out of bed, get dressed, and get out the door to run the 5k race. I could hear those 35 mph winds howling around the hotel, and the sub-freezing temps were a huge deterrent and I had half a mind to just blow off this morning's race.
Finally, at the very last minute, I convinced myself that I should do it and hauled myself out of bed, quickly pulled on my running clothes, which I'd thankfully laid out the night before, and rushed to the elevator. The elevator door opened and I stepped inside to join another woman close to my age, clearly another race participant.
As we exited the elevator, I asked her if she minded my walking with her to the start line a mile away. In the end, we stayed together for the entire 5k race and I very much enjoyed having her company. It was very cold and extremely windy, but misery loves company and we pressed through it, sometimes laughing at how the winds were knocking us around.
|My 5k finisher medal.|
Afterward, we went to the hotel restaurant and had breakfast together. It was a nice morning and I was so glad that I talked myself into doing this little 5k race, since I'd initially decided to blow it off because of the cold winds and in fact had even posted on Facebook that I planned to just stay in bed and not do it. So glad that I didn't.
|5k race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch|
I'd scouted a cupcake bakery the day before, so after getting cleaned up I headed out to get a cappuccino at a really nice Creperie cafe, then walked the few blocks to the bakery and picked up three totally decadent cupcakes to save for post-race the next day.
|Don't these look good?! Chocolate fudge, salted caramel, coconut.|
On my way to getting my cappuccino, I stopped to get a photo of the crew setting up the start line for the marathon the next day...
|Setting up the start line, corner of 7th and Main Streets|
One of my running clubs had a big group dinner planned for Saturday night at Spaghetti Warehouse, but I really wasn't up to walking over there - a mile away - in the cold and wind, so went downstairs to the hotel restaurant and immediately spotted my 5k running partner sitting at the bar, eating alone. I asked if I could join her and we had a pleasant dinner together.
When I got back to my room, I laid out my running clothes for the next morning. It took some hemming and hawing and weather forecast checking to finally decide on what to wear. It was going to be in the high 20's at the start but would be warming up quickly to the high 40's by the time I crossed the finish line. Always a dilemma when the temps vary so greatly over the course of the morning. In the end, I felt satisfied with my choice of capris, long sleeved shirt, Half Fanatic singlet over the the shirt, gloves, cap with ear warmer band over it, and a potentially discard-able jacket over it all.
Race day morning was indeed very cold...28 degrees and holding. I ate my usual breakfast of Cheerios and banana in my room and waited until the very last minute to get dressed and leave the hotel for the start line which was just a couple of blocks away. The cold air took my breath away and I very quickly realized how worthless my cheap Walmart throwaway jacket really was in this cold. But it was better than nothing. It seemed to take forever for our corral to be released. Finally....more than 25 minutes after the initial gun went off, our corral was turned loose onto the race course.
I jogged along for the first few miles, passing many folks, since I had started near the back of the last corral. But as the course began to get hilly, I slowed down to a walk on the uphills. The sun was warming things up nicely but I still didn't feel warm enough to remove the jacket or the gloves.
The course has been changed up a bit since I ran it in 2012. The start and the first mile or two were the same, but the course began to depart radically from before as it turned into some very nice neighborhoods. It ran through the same beautiful private school campus, where students held signs warning us of the eight speed bumps, each sign indicating "speed bump #X" and at the last speed bump, cheerfully letting us know it was the last one. Fun stuff!
The biggest departure from the previous experience was the section along the river. The route no longer took us down a long straightaway heading south, then turning us around and heading us back up that same long straightaway. Instead, it now puts us onto that road heading north for about a mile then sends us back into some very hilly neighborhood roads. Much more scenic and less boring, but those hills!
|The half marathon race route in red, data from my Garmin GPS watch.|
|From Google Street View: bronze statuary and the arch over Route 66.|
Finally, we were on the last mile of the course, the same stretch of road we ran the day before in the 5k race. I crossed the finish line, collected my medal, had my photo taken, and then somehow managed to miss the finisher food as I exited the runner's finisher area and went in search of the Maniacs VIP tent to exchange my medal for the special Half Fanatic medal. The line here in the VIP area was enormous!
|Near the finish line....logo photo op!|
|Crossing the finish line|
As I stood there debating whether standing in this line to exchange my medal was worth it or not, a friend and her husband came over to me to say hi and give hugs and congratulations. They let me know that this long line was mostly folks claiming their checked bags. They suggested I go up to the front of the line and find the table where the medals were being exchanged. Sure enough. The bag check claim process was really holding up the line. As one gal waited to get her checked bag, I stepped in front of her at the next table and claimed my special Half Fanatics medal.
|Special Half Fanatics finisher medal for the half marathon.|
My plan was to head back to the hotel, drop off the medal and possibly the jacket and then head back out to get another 3 miles in. When I got there, I took a quick look at my smartphone and saw there was a message for me from a fellow runner, reminding me to be sure to collect my pint glass for doing the 5k/half marathon combo. Well, shoot! I didn't know about that! So, instead of getting 3 miles in while still in running clothes, I quickly showered, put on street clothes but also my running shoes, and headed back to the finish line, more than a mile away. I got my pint glass, also got my finisher results since the line was now completely gone, and then claimed my free beer and sat there enjoying the live band music and sipping my beer. It was a beautiful day all around! And boom! I got my extra miles in just by walking back to the finish area!
|Finisher area with live bands - Guthrie Park|
|Photo taken before I'd exchanged the finisher medal|
for the special Half Fanatics finisher medal.
I am so glad I chose to do this race again. The 10th anniversary 5k event shirt, the special 10th anniversary jacket, the really nice Half Fanatics finisher medal, the commemorative pint glass...so much nice swag to bring home with me.
|Special 10th year finishers jacket|
|My swag "haul" from the weekend. Half marathon medal, 5k medal,|
10th anniversary finisher jacket, commemorative pint glass given to
those of us who ran two races on race weekend. Not shown is the
10th anniversary 5k race shirt.
Back at the hotel, a mid-afternoon steak dinner seemed about right, then to my room to enjoy those cupcakes! Tomorrow I'll get up fairly early and get on the road toward home, my goal to be in my own driveway by 3:30 PM, ahead of the evening rush hour traffic in Houston.
Next on my calendar....Thanksgiving! A friend is coming over and we'll combine our culinary efforts and have a nice dinner.