For starters, it was warm. Not too warm. But it was muggy. Very muggy. My shirt was sticking to the back after just a few minutes of warming up.
Also, there are a lot of people. 57,754 finishers, to be exact. You can run your heart out on a daily basis but unless you ask your buddies on a training run to sandwich you in between their shoulders, step on your heels, and cut you off only to stop short before peeling off to a water station, nothing can really prepare you for race day conditions. I think that's part of the excitement and fun. Or torture, depending on how claustrophobic you are.
The morning started off peaceful enough. I work just blocks from the start line so I was able to sneak into the garage before they started road closures and hang out on the patio with my coffee and Clif "Z" bar while checking all the Twitter and FB updates for the race. While I did not shut my brain off in time to get more than 4 hours of sleep, I felt good having just been able to relax before the start.
Around 6:30AM I started to do a brisk walk toward the start area, where you could see runners filing in from both directions, depending on which transit station they got off at to get to the start. The funny thing about mass transit in a city that loves its cars is that you're surrounded by people who are suddenly foreigners in their own city. Everyone is turning around and doubling back to make sure they're going the right way, even though they've been there before.
A welcome site: hundreds of port-a-johns lining the road on the approach to the corrals. Very little wait and plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Nothing, and I repeat nothing is worse than when you have to do your business before a race and you can't clean up properly. Nothing.
By 7:00 it was time for the first five corrals to line up and get ready for the 7:30 start. You could spot plenty of pros, but many nervous faces. Something I strangely enjoy is the nervous shifting back and forth, jumping up and down, and retying of the sneakers that we all seem to do before the gun goes off. Some of us are unified in excitement. Others, in terror.
|I held my camera up over my head to get this shot. The boys behind me look thrilled.|
Toward the front of the massive crowd in corral A (first of the "regular" corrals behind the seeded and subseeded runners), we stood beneath the massive flag they fly over the starting line every year. Even for someone like me, who isn't exactly the most enthusiastic patriot, I can't help but feel a strong love and appreciation for our country. Politics aside, there we were, tens of thousands of us, just looking forward to a run. We had mp3 players, sweat-wicking gear and cool sunglasses. Some of the runners were in costume. We all had something to look forward to, from the finish line and beyond. None of us have to worry about war or famine or washing and wearing just one outfit day after day after day. We are SO, SO lucky.
With that exact thought in my head, the flags went down and we were off. Bumping and nudging, hopping and darting around each other so we could each find a space to settle into our stride. It took me at least a mile, I want to say, to hit my mark and feel like I was holding my pace comfortably without stepping on someone or having another runner breathing down my neck.
The course had it's usual fun and obstacles. Depending on whether you wanted to have someone throw T-shirts, confetti or Lord knows what else on you, you had to position yourself strategically. I am not one who does this race for the freebies, so I tried to stay more toward the middle, but I still almost got trampled when I had to stop short for something like ten people cutting me off to grab t-shirts and dinner coupons!
One thing I had forgotten about this race was the fake finish line. That's right. This is a shot of runners along the last stretch of the race, about to get their photo snapped at what looks like the end, but is really about 500 yards from the actual finish. You can't really see from this picture, but they are just ecstatic about this. So was I. Hopefully, my true emotions won't actually be reflected in my race photos :-D
When I finally reached the REAL finish line, I did my best to keep moving to get around people who stopped dead in their tracks, visibly wrestling with the pros and cons of throwing up on the street as their stomachs began to heave. Not the most attractive visual of the conclusion of a race, but that's what it was. It was climbing up into the 80's with 1billion% humidity. Here are some nice post-race shots, however, away from all the vomiting.
|The Finishers Field|
|No blood, but definitely sweat, which brought on some tears.|
Following the race, getting back to wherever you start is always tricky. Peachtree Rd. remains blocked for several hours as the last runners finish and then cleanup commences. Most people follow the course back to the nearest train station, which allows for a more amusing glimpse of what we might have missed while running.
|The sign behind the stage reads "Fur Bus". I did not stop to ask why. I love that the couple in front is about to make out and likely drunk at 9 in the morning.|
Fortunately, the hubby thought I ran hard enough, regardless of time, to warrant treats for both of us.
Poor kid was forced to eat pizza, too. Just because Mommy ran - it's a rough life.
While stuffing my face I could no longer resist the urge to check online to see if official race times had been posted. Upon finally viewing my chip time, you bet I poured myself a little bit more of that beer.
7:16min/mile pace? What???
Time to start training to try to get into the sub-seeded group!
Hope you all have a happy and safe Fourth of July!