Last weekend, I ran Foot Traffic’s Holiday Half Marathon for the second time. There’s nothing quite like running a half marathon without reeeeeally training to smack me with a BIG SLICE OF HUMBLE PIE right in the face, and a not-so-subtle reminder that I need to get back to training regularly!
For me, Sunday’s Holiday Half Marathon was definitely a reality check. Lately–like many/most people this time of year–I’ve barely worked out, I’ve eaten too many holiday sweets, and I haven’t gotten enough sleep. As a result, it’s a pretty common thing to see fitness levels decrease over the winter. But it’s still kind of a bummer when you’re actually confronted with it! That’s why doing a holiday race, especially a half marathon, can be a great way to stay motivated all winter long. At least I get a little training in before the race instead of giving up entirely until the spring, and after a less than stellar winter race performance, you’re motivated to get back in the saddle and log those miles! (At least that seems to be the case for me, anyway). And the fun holiday race atmosphere softens the blow (like I needed another excuse to dress up in costume).
The days and nights before the race had been a little rough for me between not sleeping and a tummy bug. But after finally arriving at the start/finish, seeing everyone in their holiday costumes, taking pictures with the inflatables and the snowblower, and feeling the general pre-race excitement pulled me out of my funk. After all, how petulant can you be when you see your running coach dressed up as Bumble the Abominable Snowman? With flashing Christmas lights?! And the Holiday Half and 5k is definitely one of those big seasonal events that everyone you know signs up for, so it was fun wandering around and happening to find more friends in the crowds.
I kept my jacket on for as long as possible, and then put it in bag check about 15 minutes before the start of the race. This year’s bag check was greatly improved from last year, with a more efficient process, including numerous reminders to runners to prep their gear check bags in advance to that they could just be handed off to volunteers.
The race started about five minutes late, and there wasn’t a wave start or corrals, so it was a little congested for the first few miles. The roads used for the course are just big enough for the number of people at the event, particularly at the beginning of the race. It’s essentially an out and back course, so there are lots of opportunities to say hi to friends running faster or slower than your pace, which is nice. This helps a lot, since the somewhat winding course can make the 13.1 miles seem longer than it is.
There were tons of fabulous volunteers at the aid stations and along the entire course, cheering on runners and handing out gels, water and electrolytes. Another nice detail about this race was that volunteers were given a $45 race voucher to use on any Foot Traffic event. There were also several caroling groups on the course as well, adding to the holiday spirit!
I ran the first 6-7 miles comfortably at a pace faster than I had expected, but the last half of the race was much slower. My pace tanked. I felt fatigued, mentally and physically. I was grateful for the fun atmosphere, the costumed runners,the volunteers, the carolers, and all of the random strangers cheering on the course–it made the event fun in spite of my lackluster pace, especially the last few miles. On the return back to the start/finish, the sun was blinding, and there was a bit of a headwind, both of which were making my eyes water. I tried to remind myself that it’s a NICE thing, a GOOD thing to have such beautiful sunshine mid-December, while also hoping that my eyeliner wasn’t running down my face (hot mess snow princess is not a good look). Adding to my discomfort was my sports bra, which was chafing on my side (no, it wasn’t a new one, and yes, I’d worn it a million times before). I was thankful that I’d had at least a little foresight into minimizing my discomfort and had used some RockTape on my feet to prevent blisters!
I was so glad to cross the finish line and to be done running. It was nice to finally have that adorable finishers medal in my hand, and to stop moving my legs. Although I’m glad I did the half marathon for the sake of getting in the mileage, one of the main reasons I opted for the half instead of the 5k was because the Foot Traffic website said that only half marathon finishers would receive the medal – but at the race, all finishers were given a race medal. I was also told by a friend that she had registered late and therefore had received a cotton shirt instead of a tech shirt, but I was confused by the fact that there were STACKS of extra tech shirts at the race, but that she couldn’t exchange her cotton one (unless she paid an additional fee). It didn’t bother me and I’m sure it didn’t bother most runners, but it would be nice if the information was more consistent. I want to add that I loved the design of the medals and event shirts–one of the cutest designs ever!
After the race, the after-party was fun. There were samples of Trail Butter, and Kind Bars. The line management through these areas could use a little improvement–at one point there were two long lines of runners merging into one line for food, because there wasn’t any clear single path for a line (maybe some chalk or some tape on the ground, and an arrow outside of the tent?) There was also a beer tent, more food and snack tents, and also a warm indoor space for taking photos and checking out the vendor booths. I really enjoying being able to get some warm vegetarian bean soup with some Dave’s Killer Bread, as well as a free Deschutes Black Butte Porter! After a chilly half, warm substantial food tastes delicious.
I was definitely a little sore after the race–but I think my pride was hurt more than my legs! But the race experience overall was definitely a positive one, and I think that the 2014 Foot Traffic Holiday Half & 5k is definitely a fun, large, holiday/December event.