Sunday, April 17, 2016

Salt Lake City Half Marathon

I have to admit that I was lukewarm about running the Salt Lake City Half Marathon this year.  I had run it once before, and while it was a great race, it was in my hometown.  I’ve lived in the Salt Lake City area for almost 40 years.  Where’s the adventure?  Where’s the excitement?  But the timing was right, and the SL Half would be a good training run in preparation for the Red Rock Relay in May and the Yellowstone Half in June.  As the race date approached, I started to realize what a great race this was going to be.

The race expo was held at the Fairgrounds.  As we rode the local light rail, Sue and I reminisced about the last time we’d run the Salt Lake Half.  We’d stayed together the entire race.  I’d set a PR.  It had been warm enough to have beer after the race – not always possible with Utah’s fickle weather.   It was my first time actually attending the race expo, which was well staffed and quite fun.  There were lots of vendors, a few good deals, and the opportunity to see some of the latest and greatest in running gear and nutrition.  Lots of people milled around.  Everyone was excited about the upcoming race.  Walking away from the expo, we overheard two gentlemen speaking French.  They were a father and son who had come all the way from Montreal to run the Half Marathon.  Wow – this race is a bigger deal than I thought.

The Marathon organizers had partnered with the Utah Transit Authority to offer free rides on Trax (the light rail) to the start line.  We took them up on it, and got to the start line just in time to check gear and get to our corral.  Then we were off. 

The course is truly beautiful.  It begins at the University of Utah, climbs into the Avenues where it runs through some historic neighborhoods and past an old cemetery, then descends through Memory Grove and into the city.  It runs up South Temple to 9th East, up 8th South to 11th east and into the Sugarhouse area.  We turned east before I got to my first apartment in Salt Lake City, but we ran past the little house where my husband and I lived when we were first married.  At 21st South the marathon runners turn east; the half runners go west to 6th east, then through Liberty Park, then down to 2nd east with the finish line at Library Square. 

Me and Sue after the race
At 59 years, 11 months and 17 days, if I wasn’t the oldest in my age group I was pretty close to it.  I had no chance whatsoever of placing in my age group, so I made the decision to just give it my best.  Race day adrenalin kicked in and I was able to keep up with Sue for the first six miles (no easy feat).  I slowed down on the first major hill.  Sue didn’t.  I didn’t see her again until the finish line.  She finished in less than two hours, set a PR, and took first place in her age group.  Sue is a rock star.  But between keeping up with her and accelerating my own pace on the downhills, I was able to set a new PR as well.  OK, it was only 7 seconds faster, but hey – it still counts! I checked the stats after the race.  If I had been 60 I’d have taken 3rd place in my age group.  Oh, well.

The finish line was festive and family friendly.  There was a good assortment of post-race snacks for the runners.  Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes entertained the kids at the playground area.  While we made a beeline for the beer tent, we did pass several other vendors on our way.  Live music played, and the racers and their families reveled in the sunshine and the joy of achievement.

I read the results this morning in the Salt Lake Tribune.  Of the top 5 male finishers, all were local.  Of the top 5 female finishers, 4 were local.  Yes, this is a hometown race.  And now I proudly claim it as my hometown race.  Want a great race?  Come to Salt Lake City next year!  I’ll see you there.

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