Back in the summer when I was figuring out my race schedule and training plan for the rest of 2013, it occurred to me that on the weekend I had a 12.5 mile planned, there was a half marathon starting and finishing in the very park where I’d be doing my 12.5 and covered much of the same ground I’d be covering anyway. When I also realized that it, along with the other 2 half marathons I already had planned, would qualify me for Half Fanatics, it became a no-brainer. A few clicks later, I was registered.
So Half Fanatics is kind of like a club for people who like to run half marathons. The minimum requirement to qualify for membership is either finishing 2 half marathons in a 2-week period or 3 in 90 days. I never really thought that I would get an opportunity to qualify so when I saw that I did, I jumped on it. I also became really excited about it.
On October 13, 2013, the day had come for me to begin my quest.
The day started out with fairly good running weather. It was foggy, so it was humid but temps were not too bad. Even once the fog lifted it was overcast for a while. It was right around mile 6 before the clouds lifted and the sun came out.
I am one who obsesses over weather. That is the one thing that can ruin my run faster than anything, even faster than hydration or nutrition issues. I don’t do well in heat and sun so as long as it’s overcast, I am usually ok. If the sun comes out and temps start rising, I can have problems and they can happen fast! So the sun was not a welcome sight to me that day. By mile 7 I had abandoned the run for the most part and resigned myself to walking only. However, here is where I came to appreciate what I would consider my favorite part of the race. National Guardsmen were riding the course with us on ATVs. I guess one of them could see that I was having a hard time and kept circling around me, talking to me and encouraging me. It felt like I had my own private escort, and it helped me so much. Before long, I was right back at running. Somewhere between 8 and 9 my runner’s high kicked in and my legs just kind of did their thing without me having to worry about it. At mile 11 I was struggling again. By mile 12 I was just ready for it to be over and 1.1 miles later, it was.
Overall, this was definitely not my favorite race, and it has nothing to do with struggling in the sun for a few miles. It was a very small race, less than 200 runners. While I appreciate a course that is not crowded, when you have 200 runners spread out over 13.1 miles, not only is it not crowded, it is pretty much empty. So, except for the National Guard escorts (which I LOVED), it really felt more like a training run with course support than a race. It was also boring. The only real scenic areas were in the park and along the Memphis Greenline. I’m on those trails all the time anyway so it wasn’t new for me. The spectator support was non-existent. We went through a few residential areas but no one seemed interested.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Like I said, I loved having the Guard riding along side me at times.
The awards were really cool, too, for the winners. I also really loved the start. Again, it was foggy out, and instead of a vocalist to perform the national anthem, there was a violinist. It was beautiful and serene.
Finishers did get a medal, which is always fun.
The after party was fun, too, with a band and Mexican food. The only bummer about that is they ran out of plates so I didn’t get any food. A funny story about that is what happened as I was leaving. I had given up on food and started walking the quarter-mile back to my car, all downhill. I was almost to my car when I heard a guy behind me trying to get my attention. He ran all the way down the hill to tell me they had found more plates. Bless his heart! I thanked him but there was no food in the world that was worth walking back up that hill for.
The most unique feature of this race is that it is the only green certified sporting event in the state of Tennessee. Everything about this race is designed to reduce the carbon footprint compared to that of a traditional event. The tech shirt we got as part of our registration is actually made from recycled milk cartons and feels so soft.
They asked that we bring our own water bottles to cut down on race waste, which I always do anyway. They had battery and cell phone recycling stations at the start/finish line area. The awards that I mentioned earlier were made by locals artists out of reclaimed wood from the park, and were really neat.
Would I do it again? Maybe if I needed a training run of around that distance at around the same time, as was the case this time. As a stand-alone or target event, I wouldn’t recommend it unless a person needs a race with virtually no crowds. I do hope the event continues for many years to come. It raises funds for the Shelby Farms Greenline, which is important to me.
With that, I was one-third of the way toward my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic.
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