The starting line at the Columbus Marathon. The fireworks were shot from the roof of the shorter building to the left.
Like a lot of big races, last Sunday’s Columbus Marathon introduced new security measures in response to the Boston Marathon. Knowing this inspired us to arrive downtown a little earlier than we would normally. So even though the first wave would not start until 7:30 a.m., Nancy picked me up at 5 a.m. to be sure we could park and get through security.
It’s a good thing we got there early, it took us a little while to find our pre-paid parking lot. When we first arrived downtown there were no other cars, but in just 15 minutes of driving around, traffic had really picked up!
Because it was around 38 degrees that early, we both were wearing clothes we intended to toss once the race started. (I made a trip to Volunteers of America the day before and picked up a nice pair of sweatpants for just a dollar.)
The security measures were immediately obvious. Only race participants were allowed to enter the fenced in area leading to the starting corrals (bibs required), and all gear check bags had to be clear. The nice thing about family not being allowed near the corrals is, it was much easier to walk around to get to your corral and the lines for port-a-johns seemed to go much faster. I really loved the less crowded atmosphere.
A band played on a stage near the actual start line. They did a good job and we could hear them better than in previous years!
Me, Pat and Nancy bundled up in our throw-away jackets and shirts while waiting in our corral.
Corrals were supposed to close at 7:00, half an hour before the start for the first corral. The last corral (where we were) didn’t close, but I think the first three did. There seemed to be several people with other corral designations mixed in with us.
While we were waiting for our start, I took off my sweatpants and asked a tall man near me if he could throw them to the side of the street. (I knew I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t want to drop them for others to trip over.) Unfortunately, he hit someone in the back of the head, and we couldn’t help but laugh. I kept my sweatshirt remembering that I was cold for a few miles after tossing my extra jacket last year.
Shortly before 7:30, an amazing tenor sang the National Anthem! There was a countdown and fireworks went off as the first corral started the race. The countdown and fireworks were repeated for each corral. It was great that we could be in the last corral and still feel as if we were part of the race from the start!
I took off quickly because I had a 2:52 finish time in mind. (I had a pace band on my wrist so I could be sure I was going to make my goal.) Nancy and Pat and a few other Buckeye Striders were behind me. In the first few miles, there were plenty of people to maneuver around (slow runners) and you had to watch for trash bags and clothing all over the street.
The course did not change this year, which is fine. I like the race and the course. One of the nice things about being familiar with the course is you can predict the side of the street to be on for upcoming turns and look for familiar sites.
I tossed my sweatshirt around mile 3 and felt great! Early in Bexley, I started talking to a very tall gentleman from Cincinnati walking his first full marathon at the age of 77. We chatted for a couple of miles until Nancy caught up to me and we went up ahead of him. We both needed to make a pit stop — luckily we were able to wait until we started heading west on Broad Street near mile 7 where there were no lines. Still, it took 3o seconds.
After the pit stop, we were about 60 seconds off my goal pace to finish in 2:52. My previous PR was a few seconds faster than 2:54, and I really wanted to PR again this year. We tried to go faster, but it was hard to tell if we actually were faster. We did a good job of trying to use tangents to our advantage, which helped. Still by mile 11 we were 90 seconds off my goal pace! Nancy enthusiastically suggested we pick up the pace as we started north on High Street. I was not confident I could do it, but with her urging I walked as hard as I could. High Street has a good sized hill in this section — I love the part where we are going down hill, but about halfway to the finish you have to go up hill, too. (Ugh!)
With half a mile to go, Nancy pulled slightly ahead and I just could not keep up with her. The crowds on the side of the street were huge! We turned the corner to the finish and the screaming from the crowds was very loud and made me want to walk faster. The brick street made it harder, but I went as fast as my little legs could go. (My arms felt as if they were falling asleep — they were numb and tingly.)
I love the race shirt and the finisher medal!
I finished in 2:51:53 — 7 seconds faster than my goal! Nancy finished 10 seconds ahead of me!
As I slowed down, I started to feel light headed, but luckily Nancy was right there and I held on to her as we walked. It passed quickly and we got our medals and space blankets, had our picture taken, had to hunt for a bottle of water. The medals are great!
We were handed a bottle of chocolate milk as we entered the food area. I chugged immediately. As we walked, we were handed a reuseable grocery bag with food in it then toward the end of the fenced-in area, we were handed a cheese stick and a tube of yogurt. Because there were no tables of food, there was no opportunity for people to grab extras. It was very well organized and the volunteers were great! The food inside the bag was a little disappointing — a granola bar, chips, pretzels and a banana — but everyone got one. Baby steps.
As we left the fenced in area, the crowds were away from the exit, so we could actually get out! Security did a great job of keeping people back.
Another walker found us and asked if we knew where to turn in our Competitive Walker bib and the three of us walked around looking. It took a little while because we were looking for a white sign with big letters (which lots of tents had), but it was pretty low and hard to see. Later I noticed there was a big orange flag with Competitive Walker on it, but it was hard to read. Right next to the bib turn in area we could check our results. I love knowing the official finish time so quickly!
A couple of the Buckeye Striders who finished the Columbus Half Marathon: Me, Barb, Nancy and Pat.
There were lots of tents with stuff but we were too tired to look at everything. A band played and there was a giant TV to watch the finish line. If I hadn’t just finished a half marathon, it would have been fun. We then went to the reunion area letter B for Buckeye Striders and waited for our friends.
Each year this race gets better and better! Race Director Darris Blackford does a great job listening to participants and making adjustments. No race will make everyone happy, but he does a pretty good job of making most people happy! I would definitely recommend this race for all of my walking friends.
There seemed to be a lot more crowds this year! It was nice having people yell our names as we went by. Early on Broad Street the crowds were pushing in too much making the street too narrow and that made it hard to get around slow runners, but that’s OK. There were plenty of very creative signs, which were fun to read, too. (Go Random Person, Go!)
There were lots of bands throughout the race! Love seeing the OSU Alumni Band and there is one high school drum corps that is great. A rock band sang Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” as we went by. Oh, yeah!
There were plenty of water stops. It seemed as if they popped up every time I needed one.
It seemed as if port-a-johns were an issue, but aren’t they always? Lots of people online complained about not enough before the start of the race. There were continuous lines at the ones near our corral. And there were long lines at the pit stops earlier than mile 6. We hit them early, but then needed one early in the race. I just did not want to get back in line with less than half an hour before the start.
I love the fact that there is a patient hero of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for each mile. It was fun giving high fives to them. But the Angel Mile is hard to get through and it is at a point where I want to pick up the pace. It makes me sad that I’m trying to get past them as fast as possible to finish at a goal pace.
Finally, I love that there is a Competitive Walker division, though it can be confusing to some. Only “Competitive Walkers” are eligible for awards. In order to be a Competitive Walker, you need to find the table at the expo to pick up a bib for your back then you need to turn that bib in after the race. The race director then goes through the turned in bibs and verifies each walker’s finish time. Because this year’s noncompetitive “walkers” had such great finish times, many of us assume they ran some or all of the race. But they are not eligible for awards, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I don’t really have to worry about it either way — the women in my age group are wicked fast!
The race was great — one of the best I have done! And I highly recommend it for anyone, especially my fellow walkers! (188)