The American River Parkway Half Marathon is one of my favorite races. It ought to be because this was my 5th consecutive running of it. Not only is it a beautiful course, it supports the trail that I run on all the time. I know people that don’t like to run races where they train, but my theory is that the more I race on it, the better the training will be. It is also very nice that I can bike (or jog) to the race start. I like race mornings where I can get up around my normal time (or sleep in!).
This being my 5th time running the race, I will say that while the amount of shwag has decreased, it is always interesting. This year, in addition to the shirt, we all got an American River Parkway Calendar. It run from May to May, with pictures from the American River Parkway. Including pictures from past races, and one from Eppie’s Great Race. Eppie’s is a no swim triathlon (5.82 mile run, 12.5 mile bike and you finish with a 6.35 kayak paddle down river).
It was a weird run to the start line, because I was doing my normal run, but without the Dashing Dog (who was upset that I left without her), and I didn’t have all the stuff I have been running long runs with. No hydration pack, no water bottle, no bag of nuts, no salt tabs, nothing. Just two GU’s in my pocket. I was obviously excited because I was running a 7:30 pace to the start.
I was actually trying to beat the walker start. The American River Parkway Half Marathon has a dedicated course, just for walkers. If you are going to run, you are not allowed to do it.
I didn’t quite make it. I was about 300 yards away when they flooded the trail. I cheered them on, high fived the lead walker, and got out of their way as quickly as possible. Then I made my way to the Buffalo Chips tent. On the way there, I ran into a Dashing Fan, who happens to also be an archaeologist (like me). Turns out, I used to work for her current boss and have done a couple projects with her husband. It is a small world, after all.
Last year’s race was rough because I had ran my first 50 miler at Ruth Anderson the week before. I also forgot to tape my nipples, so I was THAT guy. However, it was my fastest half of the year, even though the trail was mismarked and we ran a bit long.
This year, they promised that the course was marked correctly.
Another thing that came back was the bagpipers. They make all the runners squeeze to the sides and have bagpipers in full regalia run through the runners. It is awesome. Plus they stand just past the start line and play as you run by. Also, very awesome.
Apparently when the race first started (in 2007), nobody was singing the national anthem before foot races (I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds good), so they had a friends daughter sing the national anthem. This year, she came back with 11 friends who were in a nationally known choir (I forgot the name) and sang one of the most beautiful versions of the Star Spangled Banner that I have ever heard (think Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl level). The guy next to me said that was the best version he has heard by far in the 100 races he has done.
Another weird thing about the start, I didn’t have to pee when I got there. I am sure it was because I had taken care of everything at home, but I usually have issues. Not today. I think I was fully in “Just a half” mode. After AR50, and several 15+ mile training runs, I was not stressing about this race. Then with my really nice 13.1 training run two weeks prior where I did 1:49 with negative splits (and no nutrition), I figured I could do well. I was shooting for a course PR, which was a 1:44.
We started running, and, as usual, too many people lined up too far forward. There were these three people running at an 11 min pace three abreast right out of the gate. I hate that! They even have pace markers to show where you should line up. Look at the signs people!
After the first half mile or so I caught up with this guy who I ran with for a few miles last year. Last year he pulled ahead after a mile or two. This year we ran together for about 5.5 or so. He was shooting for his “A” goal of 1:40, and I knew I didn’t have that kind of speed in me, so I let him go. But we noticed we were running miles long, and had built up about 50 meters in the first 3 miles, so we started working on hitting the tangents now that crowd thinned.
One thing that bugged me was that they reverted back to the course that I ran the first two years, but I didn’t find that out until mile 3.5. The website said we would divert south of the American River, which meant we would run on the parkway trail nearly the whole way, which meant more shade. Nope. Because of construction, they had to send us for 3 miles on the levee, which was fully exposed and gravel. I would rather run on dirt than gravel. This also meant we had to do three levee hill climbs, but on the bright side we didn’t have to do the long climb over the bridge. Also, we got to see the lead runners (sub 1:15 for the male, and the lead female set a course record with sub 1:18) which is cool.
At the half way point, we got off the levee and back onto the parkway, and after mile 7, we were in shade most of the way back. It was getting hot out there. Not quite as hot as the race in 2013, but it was warming up. Once I hit the shade, I picked up the pace a smidge. I had been fairly consistent to this point, with a slow first mile, but the rest were all within 12 seconds of each other. I bumped my speed up just a smidge. I ran the next 5 miles very well, as those miles were within 4 seconds of each other (save my one mile where I walked for 30-ish seconds, but it was only 20 seconds off.)
I also did something different this race. Around mile 9.5, I downed a second GU. This was the first half in about where I took a second GU. I usually run on a single GU right before the race, but I have had issues around mile 10 the last few halves. I figured I should try a little boost about that 75 minutes in.
I started really counting down the distance at mile 10. Just 5k to go, and I was ticking off every 500 meters. I had also noticed that I only gained another 30 meters or so. While it looked like I was weaving all over the course (I was), I was running the straightest line possible). I kept a solid pace until the 12 mile marker, then I picked up the pace. I was picking out people ahead of me to pass. Some of the people I could tell were struggling the last bit, so I told them how much farther they had, so they can push it to the end. I kept getting faster as I got closer to the finish. I charged up the last hill (which I run all the time), and booked it to the finish. The last 1.16 miles were at a 38 second faster pace than any other mile.
My goal at the start of the race was a course PR, which I nailed. A solid 100 seconds faster than my previous course PR (and my third fastest half). And that was four years ago during my first running of the race (on the same course too).
This wasn’t my fastest race ever, but it was probably my most consistent and well run race. I will definitely be back next year. Besides, it will be the 10th Anniversary. Of course I am going to do it.
On a side note, the medals each year are very similar, but they change the animal, the tree, and the flower, all of which live in the parks that are along the American River Parkway. This year’s is my favorite. I like the owl.