After so much excitement and preparation, it’s hard to believe that the Mercedes Marathon Weekend has come and gone. I adore the Mercedes Marathon. It is near and dear to my heart because it was my first marathon last year, and I love running through downtown Birmingham and seeing all of the different neighborhoods that make Birmingham unique. It was an awesome weekend full of firsts—my first official half marathon, my first marathon relay, and my first (but not last) time running for the Bell Center.
Strangely enough, this was the only race that I have never been nervous about. Whether it was because 13 miles is a distance that I’m very comfortable with or because I know I have bigger fish to fry next weekend at the Mt. Cheaha 50k, it was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the race. I didn’t have a race plan—this being my first half I just wanted to take it easy and learn how to best race the distance.
On Saturday morning I got to do a nice shakeout run with Vann and Jen, my teammate from the Dixie 200 relay last year who has since moved to Michigan. We carb-loaded at breakfast before hitting the race expo, where I got to watch the Bell Center kids and their siblings run their own race. Let me tell you, wheelchairs and walkers didn’t slow some of these guys down—they dashed to the finish line to get their medals!
The weather was perfect on Sunday morning in my opinion. 28 degrees at the start, but within a few miles I was warm and regretting my extra base layer. I lined up with the 3:45 pace group with Zack, Randy, and Julie to see if I could comfortably keep that pace the majority of the run. Zack took off and ran his 10k leg of the relay in 49 minutes, then ran back to the finish to cheer me and the rest of his coworkers on. While it was tempting, I let Randy run ahead to shoot for a sub-1:49 and I hung back and maintained relatively even splits.
Last year the notorious course hills scared me and slowed me down significantly, especially in the second loop for the marathon. I was pleasantly surprised this year when the hills (what hills?) seemed insignificant, which means that my trail running is making a difference and overall I am getting stronger. I still ran smart though and eased up on my pace to save energy for next week.
I ran with my handheld to practice for next week, but it was much more annoying than helpful. I’m not sure what the difference is between road and trails because I love it and rely on it on long trail runs, but yesterday I wanted to chuck the thing after a mile.
I made an effort to slow down a little around mile 10, where I would normally kick it and finish fast and strong. Right before mile 12 I stopped quickly to enjoy a beer because I wanted to celebrate a great race and the end of my 50k training—and because it tasted damn good! To the girl behind me that told me that was disgusting, don’t knock it til you try it honey!
It was a totally different experience running a half marathon. I felt like the race was over before I knew it—short enough to maintain a good pace but long enough to not feel too easy. I can’t wait to actually race a half to try and work my way down to 1:45.
I also loved being a part of a relay team and running for the Bell Center. It was such a great feeling knowing that every mile and every dollar raised is going to make a big difference in the lives of the Bell Center kids. Everyone did a fantastic job running their legs, and Randy even stepped up to run Teresa’s leg since a freak accident last week left her on crutches. We all ran the final quarter mile together and crossed the finish line with huge grins on our faces. It was especially emotional watching Teresa cross that finish line despite the terrible pain that she was in, knowing that the team was able to run in Gracie’s memory.
Overall it was a great race! Here are some more photos: