Sunday, October 28, 2012

Atlanta Marathon Relay

After putting together a group to run in the Peachtree, I found out about the Atlanta Marathon Relay and thought it would be fun to put together a team. When I put out a call for volunteers, I got 8 responses, so we made two teams. We made up some cool t-shirts and had a couple of group runs to get everyone in the mood. Finally, it was race day.

The race is presented by the Atlanta Track Club and they are very organized. There were 4 legs, though they were not all the same length. The course is a loop of the city, starting at Atlantic Station and going counter clockwise, hitting most of the major sites around the city. I ran the first leg which was 5.5 miles through Georgia Tech and past Centennial Park, the Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Phillips Arena, CNN and the Georgia Dome. It was a pretty cool leg, though there was about about 300 feet of climbing with a net gain of over 120 feet.

The weather was pretty great for running, in the high 40's at the start with a slight breeze. We car pooled down to the start and arrived about 5:30 for the 7am start. The people taking the later legs took buses out to the exchange points and the bus for the first exchange left at 6, so the timing was good. I ended up running in my short sleeves with gloves and my visor. I checked pants, a long sleeve T and jacket for after the race and kept a long sleeve T with me that I ditched at the start. I'm pretty happy with my clothing choice as I felt comfortable the whole run.

I headed over to the start and tried to stay as warm as possible until the gun. My plan for this race was to start slowly. I knew there were going to be hills and I didn't want to burn out too early. I knew the guy running the first leg for the other team was faster than I am, but I also knew that our second leg guy was the fastest of us all, so I wanted to stay close enough so he could pass the other team during his leg.

This race was awesome for an entirely different reason than the Peachtree. The Peachtree was full of energy and I talked a lot to the runners around me. This race was quietly inspiring. Here I was running 5.5 miles and I was surrounded by folks who were going 26.2. I was just grateful to be out there. I paced by effort up the hills, walked at the top of a couple of the longer ones and took advantage of the downhills when I could. The first half mile was difficult, probably because I didn't warm up, I had a lot of nervous energy, but once I got up the first hill I had a sense that this was going to be my day. I can't say that I was blazing fast, but I was strong and never once felt out classed by the course.

When checking out the race map on Friday, I noticed that I was going to run a small portion on Baker St. I thought this was pretty cool. Baker St. in Atlanta is right by the Aquarium and Centennial Park. When I turned left on to the street I was pretty pumped. After the turn, I was even more pumped. The whole 2 block stretch of Baker Street was downhill! This was probably about 3 miles in and I opened it up and flew down that quarter mile stretch. Man that felt good. Of course, in this race what goes down must come up, so I slowed again as soon as we turned back to find another uphill stretch past CNN and Philips Arena. Just before mile 5 I looked off to my right to see the sun rising in the East. Unfortunately there wasn't much more sign of the sun the rest of the day, but that was a pretty moment.

Soon, I saw the yellow flag and heard the commotion of the transition point. I saw my team mate, slapped the wristband on him and it was done. I was probably about 30 seconds late stopping my Garmin, but whatever. I'd done it. I got one of those fancy foil blankets, a banana and of course my medal! They bussed us back to the start/finish area and my work was done. Fortunately I had packed some warm clothes to put on, because as comfortable as I was while running was as cold as I felt when I was done.

I changed and made it to the finish line in time to see the marathon winner come through at 2:23, just an amazing time on that course. As the runners from each leg made it back we talked about our stories and our runs. The only negative was that for them, waiting around for their race start was a very cold experience. I was lucky to have done the first leg. In the end, my team won our little internal race by 2 minutes. Everyone had a great time and it looks like our Peachtree group is going to be at least a dozen for next year.

I'm in awe of people who can run 26.2 miles, I really am. At this point, its hard for me to imagine that I'd ever want to put in that effort. On the other hand, the dominating thought in my mind after finishing today is that I cannot wait to do my half marathon. I know this journey is going to be difficult, but I'm amped to get into it.

Race moments

  • In the first quarter mile there was a man standing on a corner with one of those big Swiss cowbells hanging on a leather strap, ringing and ringing. As I passed him, I heard a shout from the apartment building behind him, "Stop that F'ing Bell!!! I'm going to call the cops!" Pretty funny, but I'm sure Id be pretty pissed at 7am on a Sunday morning too.
  • Favorite sign "I thought they said Rum!"
  • Coming down Baker St. I saw a race photographer aiming at me. I flashed a smile and the rock n' roll horns, I hope that picture comes out good!
  • As we were waiting for the first woman finisher a woman came running down the chute. They put up the tape and were cheering her in when they suddenly realized that she was part of a relay team and not the women's marathon winner.  Lucky for her they noticed too late and she got to run through the tape like a Kenyan!

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