With most of the local races either cancelled or virtual, Albany Running Exchange had been scheduling COVID Safety Plan approved races. I completed a half marathon in November 2020 and in April 2021. Both of these races were held in hilly Altamont, NY.
In March I ran their five mile race and then in May a point-to-point 10 miler. Although the weather did not cooperate, the course was along the river and the bike path, mostly flat or downhill and in Schenectady, NY.
So I signed up for the Race 4 The River Half Marathon as my 51th Half Marathon (45th if you don’t count the 2020 virtuals) for several reasons:
- It was a ‘real” race.
- It was local and I could sleep in my own bed the night before.
- It was local so I would know a lot of the runners.
- I was familiar with most of the course as it was similar to the 10 miler than I ran in May.
- I convinced some friends to run it too.
- It was advertised as having a Net Downhill Course and FREE BEER, Food, and LIVE MUSIC
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. But I do run 3 miles several times during the work week. All my weekday runs are mostly group ones.
And on the weekends, I try to do my Long Run. Usually most of my miles are with one or more of my running friends. However, some shorter races did interrupt my mileage (as I mention below).
The logistics were also complicated for this race. Either you parked at the start and got a ride back to your car after the race or you parked at the finish and got a ride to the start (or pay for the shuttle).
My preference was to park at the finish (even though that meant getting up earlier.)
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
Usually on the weekends, I do run 10 miles. But this month I skipped a few in favor of a vacation and racing. It’s amazing how quickly the endurance that you built up leaves.
I picked up my race packet Friday evening
and carb loaded on the usual pizza and debated about what to wear the next day.
It was supposed to be cooler and less humid than any of my previous races. I hated to jinx it but the weather seemed perfect!
I got up around 4:15 am on Saturday morning (ouch) and was on the road by 5:15 for my 40 minute drive to race parking.
The race started near Mabee Farms at 7:30 am and ended at Schenectady Community College (SCCC).
I parked my car at SCCC, the finish for the race. I had almost signed up for the shuttle so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting back to my car after the race. However, my friend Karen offered to drive me and the others (Alyssa, Sherry, Stan) to the start if someone would drive her back to her car after. I accepted so that I wouldn’t have deal with masking and walking to the shuttle.
I met everyone at 6:00, left my car in the designated parking lot and we drove to the start which was about 15 minutes away.
There was plenty of parking in the grassy lot.
We were very early so we had time to walk around and sightsee.
It was a little chilly so we hung out in the barn.
We also noticed that in addition to porta-potties, there were REAL restrooms (always a great perk.)
Finally, it was time to head to the start. So we parted with our jackets and checked them at Bag Check. I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle (since it was already hours since my breakfast.)
The race started at 7:30 am. There were no waves, just instructions to social distance.
This was a FIRST annual race so there were no reviews to read. I had hoped that when they said it was a flat/downhill course, they were not lying.
Sorry to be a broken record about not training well. But it was summer and my goal for races these days is FINISH happy (that is not injured and ready to do another.)
The race began near Mabee Farm Historical site. The first mile headed west, mostly on Route 5S. We ran along the road and fairly soon connected with the Erie Canal Bike Path.
In other words, the canal was on our right and most of the race was run on the path with water views. I ran the first mile with Alyssa and Karen. We chatted and chatted. It was great catching up since I don’t run with them often.
My legs were feeling good so I ran ahead caught up to an old friend, Elisa. More chatting which made the miles pretty painless. She is faster but slowed down because she was planning to run about 7 more miles after the race.
The scenery was pretty. The Mohawk river changed to being on the left.
The first water stop was a little after mile 3 at Pattersonville Bike Path parking on 5S. This was my first walk break. I used my paper cup (as I did in my previous in-person cupless races). That waffle kept me going and so I decided to wait on my Gu,
Most of the race is a blur. I was feeling pretty strong. Soon Stan caught up to us and the three of us ran together until mile 9. I’m not sure I ever ran a whole race with someone but it was a lot more fun than running alone.
Around mile 5, I finally got hungry so I stopped to eat my Gu (trying to eat and run slowly) and walked again at the second water stop little before mile 6 at Iroquois St/Bike Path.
The course was pretty flat and shady for the most part. The temps were rising. I was glad to have worn a tank and skirt. The third water stop was around mile 8 at Kiwanis Park. I walked again. This time longer.
Around mile 9, some annoying hills appeared. Maybe there weren’t big hills and I was just getting tired. I tried to run up them but it was more like a slog.
At this point, my lower back started to ache and I waved Elisa and Stan ahead.
For the first time in the race, I was running alone. And I was walking more and running slower.
The final water stop was around Mile 11 at MH Bike Path lot. I ate another GU – Chocolate Smores. Ugh! This flavor made me very nauseous!!
Elisa had slowed down and Stan ran ahead. So I continued to run with her.
I hadn’t considered winning an age group award but at mile 12, my competition (Joan) passed me by (She wound up 4th in 10 year AG awards anyway.) For a millisecond, I thought that I should try to pass her but nah, no reason.
Elisa and I continued together on the bike path until Schenectady Community College. We raced each other through the finish line…and she beat me!
I was so happy to have finished that I didn’t care.
Stan had already finished. Soon Alyssa and Karen finished. Then Sherry.
And finally El.
So group picture time…
Post Race Activities:
We grabbed our lunches and I headed to my car to change clothes and shoes.
There was a band, beer, food, etc. at a restaurant nearby. There was a shuttle but since it was only .2 miles, we decided to walk.
By the time we got there, we were hungry.
We stayed for several hours listening to the band and chatting…about running, of course.
Additional Race Reflections:
This was a first annual race. Many of the other local races are still cancelled so this racing company has been trying to hold a few races. I am so glad they are. It was so fun to be out there and soak up the racing atmosphere again.
- Ample parking at the start and finish.
- Real restrooms at Mabee Farm
- Bag check
- Well marked course.
- Varied scenery including river views
- Shuttle to the start (if needed).
- Flat course.
- A real race.
- Well organized.
- A lot of pre-race information.
- Decent Post-race food.
- Cool medal.
- Free Beer
- A real race.
- Cupless water stops.
- 10 year age group awards.
- No photos.
Would I recommend this race?
I liked the course. It was well-organized. I bet more runners sign up next (if COVID ever ends.)
Walking definitely slowed down my pace the last few miles.
All in all, I was very happy with how I ran the race. My splits were more consistent than usual. But also the early miles were much slower than usual. Given the flatness of the course, I could have probably run faster but you can’t talk if you run fast. lol
Not expecting a PR and faster than my last five in-person half marathons. I need to be realistic…maybe those faster half marathon paces will not happen again. (But hey, I’m not giving up…)
Two 5ks and another Half Marathon.
I’m also linking up here:
Happy Running! Have run a real race yet? If so, how did go? Are you planning to run one? Please share.