As a Boston runner, there’s just certain iconic road races that come to mind. Boston Marathon, of course. Falmouth Road Race…which is pretty much the celebrity running party of the year, and New Bedford Half Marathon. The 38th annual New Bedford Half Marathon was held on March 15th, 2015 at 11AM. Race registration started at $50 and goes up to $70 the week of the race. The race generally sells out and there is no race day registration; however, this year the race director made an exception.
The race calls itself a fast course, but I think that might be because some of the fastest local runners are running it that day as part of the USATF competition, and it’s an optimal Boston marathon prep race.
For a while, many of us wondered will the race go on? As mother nature and global weather change dumped 100+ plus inches on Boston, races were dropping of the schedule one by one… in fact another race that was rescheduled for the same day in NH, was cancelled instead. New England runners have just become accustomed to race day cancellation disappointments. Luckily for me and all the other runners, New Bedford race director, volunteers and the City of New Bedford were fully dedicated to putting on this race! Cancellation was not even a thought that crossed anyone’s mind.
But first the beginning:
Back in January with my eyes full of hopes and dreams, I added New Bedford Half Marathon to my schedule as a goal A race… I really thought that with decent speedwork and dedication, I could focus on a major PR for my half marathon time. Then my plantar fascia drama started and I just tried to hold onto any fitness I have. The snowstorm after snowstorm did not help my training. And because I’m just THAT lucky, a few days before the race I happened to catch my annual cold nightmare of the year. I drank cups and cups of tea, honey, lemon, orange juice and rested hoping to get better by race day.
So there I am on race morning trying to convince myself I’m not sick. It worked for about as long as 8AM when my friend came to pick me up for our drive to New Bedford where I asked if we can do an emergency pharmacy run as I loaded up on more advil, sudafed (already had) and nasal spray before our drive down south. New Bedford is about a 70 minute south of Boston from us and for the most part on that day we hit no traffic going there or coming home. I proceeded to cough medicine myself up to the point of being a zombie.
We got to the New Bedford YMCA where number pick up was really easy. I expected it to get a bit crazy with so many runners, but the race volunteers had multiple tables set up based on race number for pick. The race had strong security but not overwhelming and annoying. They quickly scanned through all bags that would go into the Y and were only allowed in the locker rooms and not the gym part. The locker room was toasty to say the least, but there was a good amount of lockers in there for the girls. We showed up about an hour early as due to snow there was limited parking and we wanted to make sure we had no problems. Got lockers, changed, got bibs and were all set and ready to run. They had many bathroom options from the YMCA indoor to porta ones outside.
10 minutes before the start, Sonia and I left the safe warmness of the Y and walked the two blocks for race start that was already packed with runners. I know the race had pace groups, but it was hard to find as the excitement took over. We took a photo and parted ways.
At this point, I still had delusions that I could run a decent race, not a PR race, but a decent run. And then the gun went off. Immediately I felt like a cliche in a movie… you know that scene where someone busts their face on the floor and slows down to slow motion… well don’t worry I didn’t fall, but every step from the start felt (and was) in slow motion for me. My limbs and mind just felt fogged as the days of lack of eating and drowsy meds took it’s tool.
Within a mile, I changed my goal from time to just trying to finish. There was the option to drop out, sure… but here’s the deal, I love running races and even when I’m not racing per say, I like finishing. The idea of dropping out just because I knew my time was going to be terrible felt ridiculous to me. The other things that went through my head was the city and volunteers put a lot of time and effort into clearing the snow off the roads so we could all run, so of course I should take advantage of the offer. And most importantly, this was 13.1 miles, only half the distance of a marathon and if I was ready to drop out, what am I going to do next month when the Boston Marathon comes up? There is not enough time to train and catch up. It’s just not possible for me this year. The only thing I could do is embrace the suck, endure and get it done with. The pain and perseverance is what makes us runners, and ultra runners sign up for things that most people consider crazy. Or maybe it’s the masochism.
The course is quintessential New England. It has rolling hills, crazy winds and a beautiful seaside view. However, unlike many New England small races, the course is closed to traffic. The locals and police were super encouraging! Even when I was half crawling in my walking break, the police would stop traffic to give me priority.
New Bedford as a town/city has its charms and troubles. There’s lovely old architecture with cobblestones, churches and other signs of how historic the city is. And then there’s the uneven road and giant potholes that turn parts of the race into obstacle courses with fast food chains that can be anywhere middle America.
The course is a single loop from what I can tell and a good chunk of miles are on the ocean side. This helps balance out some of the rolling hills that hit you in the first and last few miles, but it will not serve as much protection from the wind.
Aid stations were every 2 miles with water, but I didn’t see anything that looked like calories/fuel. I did see a medic table at many of the water stops, so I’m sure if I needed something I could have asked. I didn’t feel hungry (or pretty much any thanks sudafed!) but it would have been smarter had I carried some fuel for this race.
I kept my run walk method where every mile or so I would need to walk to catch my breath… as runners would run by me and pat me on my back telling me I could do this. I must have looked really pathetic? Or runners are just that friendly. It was great to spot many familiar faces from TARC events and other running events! Makes you remember just how small our running community is even in a sea of so many faces!
I don’t know how, but eventually I got to the final 2 miles and I said to myself, there, that wasn’t so bad! Except the final two were on a hill with a headwind! With enough panting and determination, the finish line came in and I pushed my little heart and lungs and stubby legs all the way across.
I ended up finishing 1:57:12, 27 minutes slower than my January goal and 20 minutes slower than my average half marathon time leaving me completely wiped out for the next two days.
The post race food was pretty neat. The city is known for fishing so the post race fuel included clam chowder and fried fish sandwiches.
and the race shirt was neat, as green is my favorite color when I’m not wearing pink.
Overall while I would rate my own performance a C, the race would be an A in my group. It has great swag, post race food (although I would have liked a non-fish option), seltzer! (polar was a sponsor), closed roads with supportive police at intersections, small but big feel (local race with many runners!) and an overall great vibe. Sure, I would like to flatten most of the hills and create a wind barrier from the wind, but then it wouldn’t be a New England race. Plus if history means anything, it’s one of the few races that we can rely to not get cancelled due to weather with full local support! Something that’s getting a little rare lately, (yea looking at you Hampton beach, Hyannis, Salem and all the other canceled races).
Hopefully next year I can run a redemption!