After running last year’s race, I knew that being among the last to finish in Turner Field would mean I would have to be among the first to finish in SunTrust Park, so signing up for this year was a no brainer, even with expectations for a much hillier course. Bib pickup was convenient to me as it was at the Mizuno Experience in the Battery, a mixed use development located around the stadium. This was super convenient for early bib pickup which I did on my way into work on Thursday morning. Also available at early bib pickup were game tickets, so I was avoiding crazy post race lines for game tickets which made me super happy. I also was given a pass for the Delta deck on race morning. Red deck was the listed parking, but has only 1,000 spaces, so I was concerned about that. Early bib pickup just makes my life easier on race day and I’m glad when it’s convenient for me to get to.
Race day instructions were to arrive early so I planned to arrive at 6:30, an hour before race time. I parked with no traffic issues and headed to take a few photos for the Run Chat Hunt that started June 1. I knocked out local stadium, public art and a bridge all of which were part of the race course early on. I couldn’t stop during the race! I hit the real bathrooms (hooray for no porta potties) in the stadium before the race and ended up lining up about ten minutes prior the start. I got in near the front of corral D (party in the back!) hoping to get ahead of the mass of walkers (from the beginning, not the occasional break or interval folks) I dealt with last year. I chatted with a runner and volunteer and had fun in the extra few minutes the start was delayed by. And soon enough the party in the back was sent out on the course. Congestion was so minimal at the start that I was able to take my first walk interval as planned. No one was around me and I knew I needed to save energy for the hills at the end. I settled into my intervals unless I was running a downhill. That first downhill was down from the stadium to Circle 75 Parkway.
A fun part of the race was getting a shoutout from fellow runners who saw my Sparkle Athletic unicorn skirt getting a “sparkle!” and “we have a unicorn!” as I took advantage of the Windy Ridge downhill. I knew it would mean the uphill on the way back, so I reminded myself to hold back some. The leaders on their way back passed me zooming along. Mile 1 had only one short uphill of note, but at least three good downhills and my pace was 11:28, which is crazy fast for me. I just hoped I still had enough gas for the uphills. I know I didn’t push too hard on my intervals down Windy Ridge as I knew Parkwood Circle was coming.
As the pack rounded the corner and saw the hill on Parkwood Circle, at least one person let out a sigh of frustration. It reminded me of when I saw the updated course map two days prior. I gave it a good attempt at a run interval up and made it a little over halfway for deciding walking would be better for me. I think I could walk faster anyways. I joked that hill could give Cardiac Hill a run for its money. Luckily the top section was flatter, but there was another uphill on Powers Ferry. I kept reminding myself a good downhill awaited and so did the mile two sign. My legs were screaming at me, but I willed them to hang in for a little more than a mile. Water stop number two was the one I decided dumping water on my head would be a better use of the water and it was a little bit of what got me up the hill going back to the stadium. Thumbs up for two water stops on the course!
I pushed to just get through my run intervals on the hill and heading back across 75. After turning onto Circle 75 Parkway, it looked like one more uphill remained. I got up a decent amount on a run interval before my last bit of walking and realized I was close enough to push it to the end when I saw the three mile sign when I was at the top of the hill. Downhill, a turn and then I was turning on the warning track and I kicked it up a notch passing people on the warning track. My finish time was 39:51, so I beat 40 minutes, which is always one of my goals. Cooler temps helped a little with the humid morning as it was still in the 60s at the finish, although it didn’t feel like it. I can not believe I was able to do the time I did on those hills given all I went through in the month of May with terrible runs. A day later and my legs are a lot more sore than normal, so I know I pushed harder for the finish. I fought off that inner voice that said “you can’t” with “yes, you can” a few times on this course, but especially in that third mile.
Running is a huge stress reliever and this run was so needed for that. I love the running community and while I have quiet and introverted moments, interacting with people at the race was a highlight of my weekend. The race going better than expected is always a good thing.
Have you had a race turn out way better than expected?