I didn’t know I had any more races on the schedule this year either! But when the random chance to run the Wilmington Historic Half Marathon popped up, I went for it.
Of course, I say the Wilmington Historic Half, but by the time I registered it was sold out. Unless I wanted to run the 5K, just the challenge was available – run the 5K at 7am, then the half marathon at 7:45am. What the heck, I figured, I’ll do it as a training run for the WDW Marathon in January, and I signed up.
The key element in all these Wilmington races is that my parents live just outside the city, thus providing a place to stay and a ride to/from. I flew in the night before and then my dad dropped me off at the race start in Riverfront Park Saturday morning.
Unfortunately I had to get to the staging area extra early in order to pick up my bib – there was no expo, and most people had their bibs sent in the mail. But since I had signed up so late, my bib was waiting for me at the race start. I’m an Early Person anyway, and was able to walk right up to the bib pickup table with no line. Hooray!
Then I did the usual prerace thing – y’know, pee, wander around aimlessly, eat a snack, pee, wander, pee. The temperature was around 50 at the time, which was a bit chilly, but good race weather, with the high eventually getting to 75. And they were playing Christmas music over the loudspeakers the whole time, which was nice.
(For those of you wondering, unicorn won my Instagram poll.)
After a recorded rendition of the national anthem, we were led over to the 5K start, which was in a side street off the park. It was self-seeding, with the faster runners encouraged to start toward the front, but no waves or corrals or anything enforced.
Since I was doing both races, I need to make sure I finished fast enough to make my way over to the half marathon start, and I didn’t want to get stuck behind a wall of slow people. Likewise, I didn’t want to get swept up with the speedsters and start too fast, so I took up a position about a quarter of the way back.
Then we were off! If I had only run the 5K, I’m sure I would milk this recap for a full post, but since we’ve got another race to cover I’ll make it brief. For starters, here is the single blurry shot I took during the 5K. My running-while-snapping skills are rusty.
We started our run along the river, hanging a left just before mile one. From there we struck off into the streets of downtown Wilmington for a long out-and-back section. About halfway into the second mile, we turned to run parallel to the first mile, but this time a street or so inland.
There was a water stop a little after the two mile mark, which strikes me as an odd place to put a water stop – wouldn’t halfway through make more sense, if there’s only one? Shortly after that we found ourselves running along the river again, back to Riverfront Park and the finish line.
As for how my race went personally, I pretty much nailed what I wanted to do: keep it chill but not too chill, since I wanted at least 10 minutes of padding between finishing the 5K and the half marathon start. I kept a steady pace over all three miles, and ran up just as the national anthem was playing again for the half. I wound up with just shy of 15 minutes to spare before half marathon go time, which was perfect.
THE HALF MARATHON
I stripped off my throwaway layer and took off my gloves just as the group was led to the start line for the half. In the moment, I felt decent: no too tired, nothing hurting.
I did put in headphones for this second race, figuring I could use the musical push. It so happened that I saw a girl wearing a shirt that said “I am the one thing in life I can control,” and I said to myself, aha! I should just listen to the Hamilton soundtrack during the race! No muss, no fuss, no messing with playlists. I did exactly that, skipping three songs and repeating most of one, and it was just about the perfect length.
While the half was again self-seeding, it was a little more organized. There were pacers at 15 minute intervals, and at a few points the crowd was held and then released to make ad-hoc corrals. I was in the second wave, and none other than Bart Yasso counted us down! (Remember when he liked my tweet?)
Then it was time for race #2. (Some of the following locations might be familiar to those who read my recap of the Wilmington Marathon.)
We started off on another inland street and survived a brief out-and-back before heading back toward Riverfront Park. Next we bypassed the area and crossed our first bridge just before mile 3. The bridges were a bit of a challenge in this race, not just for the usual reason (INCLINES) but also because of the weird grating in the middle. There were strips of fabric you could run on, but it didn’t make it any harder to get a good grip. Luckily those portions weren’t very long.
Miles 3 through 5 were spent on the other side of the river, largely on roads, if I remember correctly. We did pass Battleship North Carolina, which was fun, although we didn’t get nearly as close as in the Battleship Half Marathon.
Also akin to that race, at mile 5 we had to scale the dreaded Cape Fear Bridge. Happily I had enough juice to power up it without walking, and equally happily, that was the last bridge of the race! Doing it twice at Battleship was brutal.
After crossing the bridge we quickly found ourselves veering off into the suburbs, with the next four and half miles or so on a local trail that circles Greenfield Lake. This made for some pleasant views and broke up the monotony with some small wooden bridges and such.
By mile 11 we were heading back the same way we came after the bridge, with a water stop straddling the two sides. I hadn’t even noticed the people far ahead of me the first time around. Here’s to keeping such a close eye on your feet it distracts you from all the people who are way ahead of you!
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked a whole lot about how I was doing during these segments. To be honest, there’s not a ton to tell – in a good way! Was I smashing it? No. No I was not. BUT, as in the 5K, I was doing exactly what I came to do: a training effort at a steady pace.
Naturally I got more and more tired as I went along, but I never stalled out, bonked, nor even took a walk break outside of the water stops. Inclines were tougher but never broke me. I didn’t manage negative splits without the magic of Disney to help, but I reminded myself that I was actually 3 miles further in than usual with the double race, and I kept plugging along.
By the time I found myself back in downtown Wilmington, I was tired, but I wasn’t beaten. Like I said, no walk breaks for this race! The course took us onto the Riverwalk boardwalk area, and I pushed myself to pick up the pace just a little. In fact the entire final mile of the race was along the river. Thankfully the handful of the pedestrians stayed out of our way. 😂
There was one particular guy – I think he was wearing an olive drab durag if I remember correctly – who cheered during the 5K and in two separate spots during the half; he popped up that second time around this area, the final half mile or so. I remember him particularly because he was HYPED and had so much energy every time I passed him, even though by that point he had been spectating for a good 3 hours or so. That is exactly the kind of spectator that keeps you going. If you’re out there, durag guy, thanks!
Either there was no 13-mile marker or I missed it, and you know how your GPS watch doesn’t always match up too well with the official markers? In this particular case it wasn’t terribly far off, and I was so happy when I saw the finish line right after the turn off the Riverwalk.
They called out my name as I finished, and Bart Yasso himself told me where the challenge medal pickup was! I was impressed that rather than rest on his laurels he was actively handing out medals and such. Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to ask for a selfie, but since he was right after the finish line and clearly busy I didn’t want to bug him.
POST-RACE (FOR ME THIS IS THE HALF MARATHON)
While I was by no means fast, I managed to beat my time at Wine & Dine a few weeks earlier by two minutes or so, which is pretty good for having run a 5K immediately before. I even finished in time to hear them call out the awards. I certainly wasn’t getting an award, mind you, but the fact that I made it pleased me.
What pleased me more was cashing in my free beer tab from my bib. Yes, it was just after 10am, and yes, a beer sounded like exactly the right thing in that moment. Sugar! Carbs! CARBONATION! I love carbonation!
I flashed my ID and selected a Landshark lager. The other options were I want to say Bold Rock cider and Michelob Ultra or something? Regardless, in that moment the Landshark tasted like the greatest beer I had ever had in my life. I’ll have to try it again sometime not after I just ran a race to see if it really is that good. 😂
With my beer downed, I was finally able to call my dad, who picked me up and took me home. All in all, a successful effort.
Oh, the race swag was pretty sweet! In addition to a pullover for the half, we got adorable Wilmington beanies and, special for the challengers, a bottle opener. Post-race refreshments included water and granola bars, plus the free beer and free barbecue (I didn’t try the latter but it’s North Carolina so it’s probably good?). The medals range from large to ENORMOUS; the half includes a spinner element, and challenge runners also got a ribbon slider.
Ultimately I had a good race and wouldn’t hesitate to sign up again. Wilmington seems to have a thriving race community, with multiple organizations putting on events. I hope my parents don’t move anytime soon!
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See ya real soon!