I must say that my first Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon will be a race I will always remember. My goal was just to finish and make sure I got under two hours. That’s a good 20 minutes from my best half marathon time, but I’ve been fighting a right hamstring injury (it wasn’t bad today) and I have done little training the past month. Well, I finished in about 1:55 and it was a fantastic experience. In fact, I’m still on a high from the morning and found enough energy to just mow my back lawn.
First, I got at Jennings Beach a little after 7 a.m. It took me about 25 minutes to get from the exit to the beach due to traffic (the ride would normally take 5 minutes). I knew what to expect traffic wise from what people told me, but it was worth parking close so I could go back to my car in case I forgot anything (I need that peace of mind).
The atmosphere was great before the race with thousands of runners getting ready whether stretching, drinking water or just sharing some laughs. I always get pre-race nerves, but today wasn’t as bad since I had already decided if my leg was hurting too bad I would just stop, plus I planned on starting out real slow.
After I walked to the starting line I realized I had to take one more bathroom break so I got back to the bathrooms in plenty of time for one more stop. I really hate having a weak bladder, but after seeing other runners stopping less than a mile into the race for bathroom breaks I knew I wasn’t alone with that issue.
I was told this was a flat course, but before the race one of the announcers said to be ready for a couple of hills in the first three miles and then at the end. So much for a flat course (haha), although they did change the course this year to eliminate a couple of hills in the middle of the race. Thank you race director!
In all seriousness this was the most scenic and appealing course I have run. The combination of beautiful neighborhoods and coastal roads made dealing with the heat and pain a lot easier. The crowd support was also terrific and the music by the bands on the course added more flavor. One of my favorite moments was hearing a young boy (maybe 7 years old) leading a band with a guitar in hand and his mouth at the mic belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” classic song. I think it took place round mile 6 and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
At about the 7-mile mark I got a sharp cramp in my left calf that luckily let up enough for me to continue. I thought I drank enough water the night before and in the morning but I guess I was wrong. I have a history of getting cramps in my calves when I run in the heat which can be very painful to deal with it. I took water at every water station (thank you to all the volunteers who were terrific!) and I think that was the only way I was going to make it to the finish line.
My hamstring held out enough and everything felt a million times better when I was surprised at the end by my girlfriend Jennifer and our four kids. I had no idea they were going to be able to all come and it quickly erased most of the aches I was feeling. Thank you Jen, you’re the best!
We all got to enjoy the post race party (the best I have experienced by the way) with a dip in the water and some pizza and fruit. The cold beach water was the best therapy for my legs.
To all the runners that made it to the finish line and even those that gave it their best try but came up short, congratulations! I know this wasn’t the hottest race day in the history of the event, but it had to be up there. It’s a mental grind to run 13.1 miles in any weather, but it’s especially gratifying to beat the heat!
Thanks for running with me!