I signed up for my first 5k over 7 years ago, before going vegan, and before really having a passion for running. It was just a fun thing to try with my sisters. I got bit with the running bug and injured my ankle over training for another 5k shortly after. Then took a year off of running, went vegan during that time, and did that same 5k the next year which really started my running obsession. Running my first 5k was a nerve racking experience, I’ve never done a race before and didn’t know what to expect. Back then I had to zip tie loaner tracking chips to my shoes, thank goodness those days are over! 7 years, 13 half marathons, and many smaller races since – things have gotten a lot better – I can’t remember the last time I had to stick anything on my shoes!
I was challenged to write about a specific race experience, a memorable one that sticks out more either good or bad. But that’s not easy when each race has it’s own unique memories, but I can narrow it down to a few race experiences.
The 2011 Shamrock’n was my second half marathon and the primary reason I signed up for it was to support my sister. Well she ended up bailing on it due to an injury and I ran the entire race with an upset stomach making it a unique endurance test. I was still trying to dial in my training and what foods work the night before and what does not. I can say a huge plate of marinara pasta does not for me apparently.
Somehow I kept going even with a cramping stomach and tackled a lot of hills on the route. I even PR’d compared to my first half marathon and came across the finish line on Raley Field smiling.
The 2012 Parkway Half Marathon was the 4th half marathon for me and first race I ran to raise money for the non-profit company I work for. Truthfully I didn’t enjoy that, I’m not good at begging family and friends to donate money to a cause so I can run a race. But I tried it and supported the company’s running team. The Parkway Half Marathon is a unique experience because there are actually two half marathons, one for runners that goes one direction on the bike trails and one for walkers that goes another direction. I have mixed feelings on that too.
My training didn’t go so well when ASICS changed my favorite shoe which didn’t work for me at all, so I had to switch to different shoes. And there was a lot going on at work preventing me from logging the miles I really wanted to. Plus the race was on a Saturday messing with my Sunday-runday routine which I’ve become a much more flexible runner since.
We had a team “carb loading” dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory the night before and it was one of the worst and unsatisfying vegan meals I’ve ever had! The only decent vegan option on the menu was pasta with red sauce and hubby and I still laugh at how terrible it was – under cooked, sticky blob of pasta with flavorless canned tomatoes dumped on top. Plus there were communal bread loafs for the table I wouldn’t touch because other coworkers were contaminating them with butter knives.
The race itself was a little dry with half of the route going one way on narrow bike trails and coming back on the same route, the scenery didn’t change much and the first few miles were annoying trying not to get tripped by kids and other aggressive runners zigzaging on very narrow paths.
I was glad I ran it, it looked good for the company and a good endurance and patience test. But I haven’t signed up for this half again since.
The 2016 Shamrock’n Half Marathon was probably the toughest for me to get to the start line for, I remember riding to the race on that cold, windy, dark, and rainy morning with my sister wondering what I was thinking. The race organizers lovingly called it the Great El Nino Shamrock’n of 2016 and sent an email out a few days before to registered runners encouraging to take on the race despite the weather forecast. They had to completely change the race route to avoid flooded trails by the river and move the finish line off of Raley Field because of mud and flooding.
It was down pouring rain and there were strong cross wind gusts as my race wave started and I just chugged along with the other runners thinking this was going to be an interesting experience! I ditched the poncho around mile 5 when I got too warm and it was actually smooth sailing up until mile 10 since the city streets we ran on were shielded by buildings and the rain didn’t seem that bad. But the last 3 miles were a real endurance test after we crossed the bridge back into West Sacramento and ran completely exposed to strong crosswinds and rain on high river levees.
My drenched shoes were getting to me and I was feeling the crosswinds. Still I came in about 2 minutes slower than my target time which I was happy with considering the challenges and glad I showed up because it was a memorable experience that I proved myself in and changed how I feel about running in windy and rainy conditions for the better.
I took on the 2016 Peace-Love-Run Half Marathon less than two weeks after that and it was a completely different challenge! It was the first race of this series in Sacramento and there are some kinks to be worked out that my sister and I just laughed about after we crossed the finish line. Kinks that included not enough outhouses, no hand washing or even hand sanitizer at the start line, train interference on the route, route confusion due to lack of signs, and barely enough water stations.
Despite the problems and challenges for this half, I enjoyed it and glad I did it because the second half was actually a challenging hilly trail run on very narrow river trails and even with the mile mix up and challenges, I was very thankful to see the finish line and somehow still did really well. Who knows, maybe I’ll run it again when it comes back to Sacramento in January!
It’s hard to focus in on just one race experience because each race is a unique opportunity for growth and accomplishment. Whether good or bad, they’ve all been confidence-building experiences and a fun bonding experience with many different types of runners. Even after all of the half marathons, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a nervous wreck at the start line for my first marathon with the massive crowds of runners and overcoming that is a great growth experience taking on new experiences and challenges.
I’ve used Eventbrite to sign up for many of the memorable races and maybe one day will create my own race using their service to promote and sell tickets. My race would definitely have enough clean outhouses at the start, like the Run Rocklin Half. Proceeds would benefit animal rescue groups. There wouldn’t be mud or obstacles involved because I tried that once and have no interest in doing it again. The route would cover many scenery changes to break up the race nicely. There would be a long list of plant-based and eco-friendly sponsors on the race shirts. And a plant-based health festival at the finish line showcasing many great foods in a buffet and food demonstrations. The finisher medals would be made from recycled materials and water stations would serve vegan waffles with little maple syrup blobs cooked in for easy eating and fueling because birthday cake was a fun and unique option.
What features would your race have?