On Thanksgiving day, I had the opportunity to participate in the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon in Atlanta, Georgia and it was awesome! Not only did I feel great about sitting around the rest of the day to eat and watch football, but I set a new personal record, cutting about three minutes off of my time from my first half marathon. At the risk of sounding overly cheesy, I had plenty to be thankful for.
If you're already looking ahead to next year - as I am - and planning a Thanksgiving Day run, this is an awesome one to do and signing up early is pretty low-cost for a half marathon (I think registration opens around May). There is also a 5k and a 1 mile run during the half so it's easy to get other friends and family involved.
Trying to Super-Cam and show off my gear.
The race started and ended under the Olympic rings next to the Olympic tower from the 1996 summer games, which was a really neat thing to see on the horizon as I was coming into the final stretch of the race. This picture is from right before I got started, though.
It's also really cool to run through downtown areas, particularly ones I've driven through a lot. It makes me realize how close together things actually are when I'm not getting caught in traffic and stop lights. Plus, it's kind of like being in school at night. At an intersection towards the end of the course, a cop stopped a group of us to let a few cars through and it was an oddly bonding experience to see and hear everyone's protests against this pace busting interruption.
The only other strange part of the race was that the pace teams seemed to be all over the place so that's something to look out for if you're looking into this race. I was booking a pretty steady pace after the first couple miles and was on target for between 1:55:00 and 2:00:00 and I had a run tracking app feeding me my pace every half mile. I knew I was gaining some extra distance and there's always an offset between chip time and gun time, but I began to notice something was amiss when the 2:15:00 pace guy passed me and then about a mile later the 2:00:00 guy passed me. I ended up going by two people with 1:50:00 bibs as well so it seemed like all bets were off for the pace teams.
Comparing the data to my first half marathon was interesting; I found out that I gained almost a quarter mile more in the Atlanta race and had a couple hundred more feet of elevation change, but I still cut about 16 seconds off of my average mile pace. I'm very pleased with the progress, but it definitely gives me more room to work and improve my speed.
My biggest take away from this race was a greater appreciation for the mental aspect of distance running. My body felt pretty good the whole way through - despite missing my opportunity to hit a bathroom before the race - so I was a lot more aware of my mindset while I was running. From about mile 7 to mile 12, I had left that stage of finding my pace and settling in to it and had entered the part where dealing with the monotony and consistent pounding on my legs was the more prominent obstacle. Having the latest Hardcore History podcast on the Persian empire helped with that, but at times I was even zoning out of that. The best remedy for this is about as simple as it is complicated since I've found that building up my mental endurance during training runs is as beneficial as physical endurance when it comes to distances in the 10 miles and up range.
I'm not sure where I'll be next Thanksgiving, but having done the 5k last year and the half this year, I know I want to be doing some kind of run. Not only does it make me feel better about gorging and lazing the rest of the day (read weekend), it's a great way to celebrate running as another thing that I'm so thankful for. Even aside from the physical benefits, I'm becoming more and more cognizant of how awesome the community of runners can be and I'm grateful for that as well.
I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving race experiences and where you're planning to run next year! If you haven't done a Thanksgiving day race before, I highly recommend earning your feast.