The race started at 8:15, and Columbia is about an hour from my parent's house in Northern Virginia, where I was staying over the weekend. I left the house at 6:00, in case I got lost or hit traffic. You never know what can happen when you're in the DC area. Fortunately, I got there at 7:00, and was able to park and check in without any issues. The race started right next to the Columbia Mall, and google didn't have any issues finding the start line.
However, checking in was when I received my first bit of bad news. I spoke to a man who had run the race before and stated about the course: "It's not bad the first half - only rolling hills. It's the second half that has the steep hills. But you can walk those. Everyone does." Umm - what? And yes, I know this course elevation is widely available on the race site, but who has time to look at that?
I spent the next hour killing time in my car, and debating on how many layers to wear. We had a break from the rain, thankfully, but it was 45 degrees and cloudy with a little wind. But it was supposed to clear up and be 50 and sunny during the race. Not a huge difference if you're a spectator, but five degrees and sun makes a world a difference when you're running. I went with the two-layer, long sleeve over the short sleeve combo and was feeling good about my decision until 8:14 when we had a break in the clouds and the sun can shining through. Oh well, too late to run back to the car to drop of the extra shirt now. The gun went off and we started to run.
As I expected, we hit a hill immediately. Nothing too steep, but it went on a while. After a short recovery, we hit another hill. And then another. Again, most of them weren't terrible, but they grinded on for what seemed like forever. I was really wishing I hadn't spend the little training I HAD done on the treadmill. The course went on like this for most of the first six miles when we finally had a nice long downhill. Problem for me is that it was TOO steep (I'm a horrible descender), so I didn't really make up any time there. Others were flying by me, so I should probably work on this skill!
We meandered through the neighborhoods of Columbia. It was a nice course with many of the neighbors coming out of their homes to cheer. That was fun. We did have one stretch that was kind of on a highway, but the police and volunteers were out in full-force, so we didn't have any issues with traffic. Seriously, this was one of the best-supported races I have been to. They did a great job.
I was OK physically until about mile eight. I figured this was when the wheels would start to fall of, and they did. The second half of the course was harder not because of the steepness of the hills ( I actually think they were about the same as the first half), but you were just so tired and beat down that the hills felt harder. And yes, I had a to walk more than I would have liked. Stupid hills.
The course was mostly a circle, with us returning on the main road back to the starting line. This was great because, other than one small hill a half-mile out (which was mean), we mainly had a descent back to the finish. HAZZAH!
Not sure why this is hazy, but this is the race village.
And the finish!
This is where I would normally post a photo of my finisher's medal, however, they didn't arrive in time for the race, so they are being mailed to us. Yes, that's kind of a major faux pax, however, this race was so well-run in every other aspect, that I can overlook that. If you're in Maryland next year in mid-April, you should check out this race. There is a 5k too!!
Columbia Half Marathon: 2:13:18