Also, anyone who has been reading the blog will note that I changed the name of the blog from the "Fitter in my Fifties Blog" to the "Runner of a Certain Age" blog. No reason for the change other than I think the new name is more fun.
But that's not what I wanted to write about here. What I wanted to write about was my experience last weekend in participating in 2 separate running events. The first, on Friday night, was the Electric Run NYC. The second, on Sunday morning, was the Rock 'n Roll Providence Half Marathon.
Electric Run NYC
When I first learned about the Electric Run a while back I almost painted myself into a really unfortunate corner. I had been keeping my eye out for events that I thought my wife and kids would enjoy as well and this seemed to fit the bill. So as soon as I heard about it I suggested it to my wife Andie and daughter Charlotte (Charlotte's older sister Natalie is away at college). They both immediately said they would like to go, and in fact Charlotte even told me she wanted to invite a couple of friends.
And then I looked at the calendar. The Electric run was scheduled for Saturday September 28 at 8:00 PM. The thing is, I was already committed to running the Rock 'n Roll Providence Half marathon at 7:00 AM the next morning. So that would mean doing the Electric Run, getting home at maybe 11:00 at the earliest, getting to bed by midnight if I was really lucky, then getting up by 3:00 AM the next morning at the absolute latest in order to make the 7:00 start time in Providence. That does not sound like a fun race weekend. But I already committed to doing the Electric run with Andie and Charlotte, and as this was the first time I was able to convince them to join me. I did not want to back out.
Then, a mere couple of weeks after the race was announced, the Electric Run sold out and the organizers announced a second race on Friday night. I immediately contacted them and asked to change our date from Saturday to Friday. The organizers were very sympathetic and accommodated me. Whew! Now we would do the Electric Run on Friday night and I would be able to drive to Providence on Saturday, go to the expo and be well-rested for the 7:00 start on Sunday.
On the day of the Electric Run, Charlotte and I, along with her friends Julia and Emily, left the house about 5:00. We drove to White Plains to pick up Andie at the train station and made our way to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. This was our one complaint the whole evening - the drive was long and painful. I was even concerned about us getting there for the 8:00 start. I needn't have worried as a) we made it in plenty of time and b) the start time turned out to be more of a "suggestion" (more on that later).
The Electric Run is a series of night time 5K runs in which the entire course is illuminated with a series of light displays including lighting effects, brightly colored inflatable structures and projections accompanied by electronic dance music. Participants are encouraged to dress in bright outfits - preferably with elements that light up - the wilder the better. While the girls all wore neon colors, I have to say that we were all put to shame by other participants wearing brightly colored wigs and tutus, and with all sorts of lit-up baubles.
We arrived at the field and were greeted by the blaring electronic music and the sight of lit up elements of the course in the distance.We checked in and were given our bibs, wrist bands, t-shirts and light-up "eye glasses" (which needed to be put together - I just made mine into a bracelet). A bit later they started making announcements asking runners to get to the corrals for the start. There were no strict corrals per se, they just held folks back for a few minutes while they allowed a wave to start down the course. We were in the second wave. While we waited we were entertained with electronic music and flashing lights, as well as an announcer talking to the crowd from an elevated platform while throwing light-up trinkets into the crowd.
Finally, after being held back for a bit longer, we allowed to start. The announcer asked runners to go to the left and told walkers to stay to the right. We planned to walk so we stayed right. Now, you may (or may not) have noticed that I have avoided using the term "race" in reference to this event. That's because this truly was not a race. To begin with, participants were not even timed. The start time seemed to be more of a suggestion than an actual start time. As a result the whole thing felt more like a 3.1 mile party than a race.
And what a party! The night was gorgeous and we had a blast making our way through all of the various light displays. Here are some pictures from the night's festivities:
First thing was packet pick up. I had already printed out my waiver so I was able to right to the desk to get my bib. The organizers actually had 3 tables - the first was to get your bib, the second your t-shirt and the third was your swag bag. The t-shirt was a nice black tech shirt with a pretty cool design, but the swag bag didn't have all that much swag in honesty. But it did have a cool car sticker - actually 2: "I Rocked 13.1" and "I rocked 26.2". Naturally I only intend to use the first one.
There was a lot of cool stuff to look at, even though this was a smaller race and therefore, I assume, a smaller expo than, say, one of the Disney races. Anyway, I was still able to check out a bunch of the displays and I bought a few things I needed - including some Gu and Clif bars - as well as one thing I wanted, a new t-shirt. I must confess that I'm not crazy about design of the shirt, but I really wanted to get one. What can I say - it's a sickness.
After visiting the expo I walked around Providence a bit. Providence really looks like a pretty city - at least the part near where the race was starting. The area included the Rhode Island State House and a pretty upscale mall called Providence Place. I checked out the park where the pre and post-race activities were to take place and even heard a little of the headliner band +Atlas Genius .
The +Best Western West Greenwich Inn was about 15 minutes from the location of the race start. I like getting to race events early so I'm not stressed, so I got up and left my room about 5:00. The race instructions suggested parking at the Providence Place Mall. Getting to the lot and parking was no problem at all. The only minor issue I had was figuring out exactly where to go once left the lot, but again that was just a minor issue.
Starting at about 6:30 folks started getting into their corrals. I was in corral 9. This made me wonder how big the corrals were - and the answer is that they were quite small. I think there were 14 in all. The only other race I did that had corrals was the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which had about 25,000 participants and only 8 corrals. As it turned out, the starting chute for this race was pretty narrow and the individual corrals were quite small - only a couple hundred in each. To give you an idea, I was in corral E at Disney World and I went through the starting gate 40 minutes after the race started. In Providence I was in corral 9 and went through the gate less than 10 minutes after the race started.
The course wound it's way through several Providence neighborhoods. The course immediately crossed to the east side of the river and continued in a large loop around the city. We were able to see a fair bit of the city, and again I was impressed by what a nice city it looked to be. Between miles 2 and 3 we ran past and entry road to Brown University but we did not go into the campus - pity. The first half of the course was a bit hilly but not bad. I'm pretty used to running hills and this didn't bother me at all. The second half of the course was very flat. The nicest part for me was between miles 7 and 8, when the course run next to the river. There was a mist on the river which distorted the opposite shore - it was absolutely beautiful.
The Rock 'n Roll Marathon series is known for their on-course entertainment and this race did not disappoint. There were so many bands on the course that it seemed as though you could hear music playing for most of the race. I think there were about 10 bands along the course route. I understand that they bring in local acts and the talent level was very high. Having this level of entertainment really makes the race go much more quickly. I would say that this race compared to the Disney race in terms of entertainment. The quality of the entertainment may have been better at he Disney race, but it was more evenly dispersed throughout the course for Rock 'n Roll. The same could be said of the course itself - the "highs" of the course (running through the parks) at the Disney race might have been higher, but there were also long stretches of nothing. The Providence course was consistently interesting and challenging throughout. In fact, I would have to tie this course with the Disney course as my favorite.
The crowd support on the course was good but not great. I hate to speak ill of supporters along the course and I won't here - they are such an essential part of an enjoyable race experience. Still, taking Disney out of the equation (it really isn't fair to compare the crowds at any race to Disney), when I compare the crowd in Providence to, say, Fairfield, I have to day that Providence pales a bit in comparison. Still, there was a lot of support on the street and some of the more inventive signs I've seen (my favorites: "Smile! You're not wearing underwear!" and "Don't poop!")
Finally, the number of water stations was fine. It wasn't an overly hot day so they didn't have to go overboard. There were also a couple of GU stations as well.
This was my strongest half marathon yet by far. I was really pleased with my results. First of all, I managed a PR by about 15 minutes. Regardless, I maintained a pretty consistent pace throughout. (The only exception was mile 5 when I had to make a pit stop) I also felt very strong all the way through and was even able to "dig down" and find something extra for the last mile or two. At about mile 7 I saw a pace team ahead of me but I could not read the time on the card. I figured they were probably the 2:45 pace team, but as I approached I realized that they were the 2:30 pace team! I ended up passing them and stayed ahead of them for a while, but I think that they poured it on at the end to make their pace time and ended up catching up to me. Nearly perfect weather (except a bit warm at the end), a reasonable course and me feeling strong all resulted in a run I felt really good about. Plus I've been listening to podcasts and reading about race preparation - including nutrition - and I think that helped as well. All in all, by far my strongest race yet.
After crossing the finish line there were tables with water, +POWERADE , bananas and bagels. There was a bit of confusion here - this was considered a "security area" and once you exited you were not allowed back in. I knew this because, well, I actually read the race information! There were a lot of folks who missed this, though, and left the area with no water or anything. When they tried to get back in they were turned away. However, the organizers were accommodating and runners could simply walk up to the tables at the edge of the barriers and ask for whatever they needed. I knew enough to pick up a banana and Powerade before leaving the area. One we crossed the finish line we were given our finishers medal. They had also set up tables with bananas, bagels, water and
I've been hearing lately that having sports drinks during a race is not a good idea so I only had water during the race, but I know that sports drinks are good for recovery so I drank the Powerade right away. I also know that eating something with protein is important. So, I picked up my bag from bag check where I had stored a +Clif Bar , which I ate while walking around and working the kinks out of my legs. I also had my picture taken in front of a "Rock 'n Roll Marathon" backdrop. I contemplated watching the +Atlas Genius concert, but the Jacuzzi at the hotel was calling my name. The good folks at the +Best Western West Greenwich Inn had agreed to allow me to check out late, giving me the opportunity to get back, relax in the Jacuzzi for a while and take a shower before the drive home.
I had mentioned earlier that there wasn't much in the in the swag bag. That said, the main things you are looking at getting from a race are the shirt and, of course, the medal. I already mentioned the shirt - a nice black tech t-shirt with a pretty cool design. The medal is really nice. It's a cool design featuring the logo from the race (with a graphic of loud speakers). Also,it's a good, substantial, thick medal that is high quality. Based on the pictures I've seen on the Rock 'n Roll Marathon website I anticipated a nice medal and I was not disappointed.
So, would I do the race again? I would say that there's a very good chance I may do this race again in a few years. But I definitely will do more Rock 'n Roll Marathons. In fact I'm already signed up for the Rock 'n Roll Brooklyn 10K and the Rock 'n Roll USA Marathon in Washington DC. I am running the Brooklyn 10K with my daughter and I am very excited about that! More on that later.
Final Note: Just before posting this I did a 23 mile training run, after which I felt MUCH better than I did a couple of weeks ago after to a 20 mile training run.