With the Sunset 5K and the Appletree Half Marathon, I get to experience two very different races within about 18 hours. The 5K is a family event, starting at 6pm on a Saturday evening with lots groups walking or running together. The half marathon is Sunday morning starting at 8am (the marathon begins an hour earlier) with folks more focused, more nervous, and more aware of the number of miles ahead of them. So let me take you through my two-race weekend this past September.
With sun shining down and temperatures in the 70s, I decided well in advance that the Sunset 5K was going to be a walk rather than a run for me. And with that plan in mind, I managed to talk my husband into joining in for the miles. We arrived way earlier than needed to ensure a good parking spot. Packet pick-up was a breeze as I got my supplies for both races at the same time. We found a picnic bench in the shade to sit for the 30 minutes or so before time to line up at the start. It was peaceful to watch lots of folks wander the booths and kids run around in the field.
The 5K course is mostly a loop with one portion that is an out-and-back using an overpass. That bridge portion is the only area that gets tough as runners are trying to get back through while us walkers are headed out. This is a race I would advocate for families and friends, not for PR goals. The turnaround is at the site of the oldest apple tree in the Pacific Northwest. That is also where the only aid station is, so a double-blessed spot. The route back went around a fort and through some curves near an air field. We could see some sort of party in progress and considered (for just a moment) ditching the race for the cornhole games in progress. But the finish line and medals beckoned.
The final stretch to the finish line included (what felt like) a very steep hill with an energetic volunteer at the top cheering us on. A few more shaded blocks got us to the finish line. Due to the long line and the still warm temperatures, we decided to skip the after-party for some Thai take-out and early bed time. One of us had made the poor life choice to sign up a half marathon that began in about 12 hours.
Getting to the starting line of a half marathon less than 12 hours from finishing a 5K is a special kind of poor life choice. It is also the adventure that I have signed up for several Septembers in a row so I must really like apple trees. Or poor life choices. Or medals. It’s probably the medals.
The early morning sunshine and late summer temperatures meant I ditched the long-sleeve shirt before even getting out of the car. The start/finish line were the same one as the 5K, with a lot more miles in between. The course started with a loop into downtown Vancouver before heading toward the waterfront for some miles that would be out-and-back. As we went along the waterfront (just gorgeous), through an industrial area (don’t trip on the railroad tracks!), and through two parks (why am I not sitting on a bench?), I was grateful that the half marathon was just one time through the course. The marathoners would be doing all of this TWICE.
When the course got back through a waterfront neighborhood, it curved toward the same overpass as the evening before and near the fort and air field. This is just before the most cruel portion of the course. Rather than continuing the same curves up the hill and toward the finish line, we had a one mile out-and-back along a neighborhood street. Now I say one mile because that is what the mile markers say. But it is the longest one mile in the Pacific Northwest. I stuck close to the side with some shade and walked in the more sunshine covered areas. No PR goals that morning and that was just fine.
The signs along the course helped keep me going. Also helpful was the plan to stick around for the after-party this time so I could enjoy a burger and much sitting. The super-long mile finally ended, and I was once again headed up a steep hill and through some shaded final blocks to the finish line. I retrieved my medal, and a bonus Beast magnet for completing two races in one weekend. Both pieces shined while I listened to the award ceremony and enjoyed a well-earned cheeseburger hot off the grill.
Thanks for the adventure Why Racing. I’ll see you again soon.