Monday, March 1, 2010

Race Report - Williamsburg Half-Marathon

The Pied Piper and the Fife and Drum Corps.

After the amazing friend-frenzy that was Rochester Marathon, it became quite clear that the focus of my late-thirties running fetish HAD to be running with friends. I mean, let's face it folks, no matter WHAT the distance, the last 1/5th of any distance is the LEAST favorite. Why not run those last steps with someone who you know? RIGHT?

Well, I think that my Lima friends will laugh at this (maybe if only a little) but I kind-of fancy myself as being the "pied-piper of running virgins." It seems that the last year of my life has been spent telling our tale of training and running- of reading and writing- of eating and living ... I never intended to convince my friends to join us in our running frenzy, but I would be a liar if I said it didn't bring a smile to my face. The fact of the matter is that I really only thought that a few of you would join in - NOT SO MANY OF YOU!!! You are making it hard for me to slack off (and for that, I thank you)


In July, when I was still FRESH FRESH FRESH with tales of our maiden marathon, our family took a trip to Virginia to visit the best man at our wedding, Todd,  and his fabulous wife, Francine, and their four daughters. Francine and her eldest daughter, Bailey, had begun running and were very interested in our tale. I was in the midst of my Rochester Marathon training, so I headed out one morning for a pre-heat-wave run from Williamsburg to Jamestown Settlement and back. 9 miles later, I returned to find my husband and Todd jamming on their guitars (could have cared less that I got lost out there....)- BUT, I vowed to come back to run in the fantastic historical corridor that is Williamsburg.

As so many of us runners do, I searched the internet and found the Williamsburg Half-Marathon on the calendar, placed the bait for Francine and Bailey, and LANDED the fish. Francine and Bailey decided to begin training for their first half-marathon. (the third time that I convinced someone to run a race - now I, TOO, was comitted to the race.)

The weather this winter has been BRUTAL, and my husband and I knew that would be a factor for this run. Not only did the unusualy cold winter hinder my abilty to keep up with my training, but the nasty winter storm that hit our area on Friday hindered our ability to get to Williamsburg safely. ALL SCHOOLS in our area were closed on Friday - but as proud Western New Yorkers, we decided to get an early start to our trip. OK - H O R R I B L E driving conditions for about three hours and then H O R R I B L E traffic back-ups around DC and Richmond..... it took us over 10 hours to reach Williamsburg.


Sunday morning arrived. Francine and Bailey were certainly nervous for their first race, and I enjoyed being in the midst of their excitement. What to eat, what not to eat, what to wear, where to register, how to drink on the run, when to arrive at the start, how to meet up with the supporters, logistics, etc..... LOVED IT. Francine draws strength from her faith in God and the teachings of the Bible. While this is not the source of strength that I look to, I did take a quiet moment of the morning to share with her some passages from my new "Bible" of running, Born to Run, the book that I look to for insipration and strength. I knew that she was worried about the 2hour 30 minute cut-off for the race. I knew that Francine was concerned about running too slow.....

"You were amazing," Scott said.
"Yeah," I said. "Amazingly slow." It had taken me over twelve hours, meaning that Scott and Arnulfo could have run the course all over again and still beaten me.
"That's what I'm saying," Scott insisted. "I've been there, man. I've been there a lot. It takes more guts than going fast."

(Me **wearing my skort**, Francine, Bailey)

The start of this halfie was on the beautiful campus of William and Mary College. We were marched to the starting line by the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps - AWESOME!!!!
(the three of us marching to the start with the Fife and Drum Corps)

I am kind of glad that we didn't know the course before this race - we heard shallow whispers of  'hilly course' but we did not listen. What could we do about it, right? I remained focused on psyching up my running partners. We had a plan, and we were sticking to it. ... I insisted that Francine and Bailey run this half with the goal of finishing and having fun. We were going to try and stay under a 10:30 pace and feel it out as we run.

Francine and Bailey started out strong, almost too strong for me. We were down near 9 minute miles for the first several minutes (even through the NASTY hills in the first mile - our first indication of what the end would be. Did I mention that this race was an out-and-back??? I know how much Michael loves that!!!) I pulled them back a bit and let many people pass us. The run through Colonial Williamsburg was gorgeous. While we never actually ran through the historical section, the houses and sights were pleasantly distracting. Our run quickly took us to a very hilly golf course that reminded me of the Boilermaker in Utica. By the first 5 miles, I would guess that we spent the vast majority of that distance climbing hills. (did I mention that this was an out-and-back?Ughhh)

Some of the most severe hills were coming up from some of the water crossings (over boardwalks.) At one particular bridge/hill, Francine and I passed a man who seemed to be struggling. We gave him a "WOOT WOOT YOU GOT THIS" .....and we found ourself a new running partner. Nick joked that it was my SKORT that got him motivated - he grabbed onto our energy and helped us through the majority of the race that was ahead of us. (Bailey latched onto another younger runner and they were off ahead of us like the hare to the tortoise.) Nick was great. He would put his hands to his mouth, forming a make-shift megaphone, and yell "GO FRANCINE"....."GO LAURA"...."GO NICK".... Nick was running his first half-marathon, too. He made us laugh and brought a great vibe to those HILLY middle miles. (particularly when Francine and I lost our sense-of-humor.) Francine and I held back a bit to reserve some energy for those hills that we knew were ahead of us. As we approached the water stations, we were greeted by members of the William and Mary athletic teams yelling "GO FRANCINE" .... Nick had been there. AWESOME!!!

I can't lie - this race was difficult. I was hoping that it wouldn't be. I needed it to be easy, particularly following my difficult winter training and my nasty drive to Virginia. LEAST OF WHICH, I really needed this race to be easy for Francine and Bailey. I needed them to finish strong and be happy with their race.

Francine and I took to walking the steeper hills in the last 3 miles. My achilles tendon started reminding me that it hates hills and Francine's knees were starting to require some tlc.  As we approached the finish line, and climbed the hills, we were feeling strong and were anxious to turn the corner to the indoor stadium finish. 2hours and 20 minutes after the starting bell, we finished. Bailey was five minutes ahead of us, Nick was two minutes behind her, and we crossed the finish line to cheers from our family and friends.

Facing a 9-hour drive home, Justin and I were in our car within a half-hour of finishing and were heading home. I didn't LOVE the idea of a long drive after a hard run, but the chance to run with Francine and Bailey for their first half was worth it.  

(I did a little searching for some results/reviews of this half marathon.  While the word on the street is generally mixed about the organization of the run, one thing is for sure: "An exceptionally challenging course - beginners beware. If you're looking for a PR, its not going to happen" - couldn't have said it better myself.  "This is by far the my most challenging race of the season. It's hilly but a very scenic route"  This is a race that challenges the veteran runners. To finish with the strength that we did is a testament to the strength of Atalanta and her fellow Running Femmes!)

Today's text from Francine when asked how she felt:
" a little achey in the knees, otherwise told Todd next time I will take AM off to recoup a little"

To which I said:
"So, that sounds like there will be ANOTHER?"

"He he... YES."

AND THAT MY FRIENDS, is how the Pied Piper does her magic


  1. Great race report! You worked your magic again!

  2. What a great report! Pied piper of running virgins? I LOVE IT! You are a missionary of Atalanta, sister girl. Many congratulations to you, Francine, Bailey and Nick!

    p.s. I am about to take a highlighter to the running 'bible', Born to Run. It is indeed a great source of inspiration. I cannot wait for our running adventures! xoxo

  3. I've been thinking a bit more about the challenges that this course posed. I know that it was a hard race, and I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't disapointed with my overall performance (not with my time, but with the way I felt as I ran) BUT I would run it again without hesitation. I now know that the hills are tough (and wouldn't have been deterred had the organizers simply said on their website that it was a challenging course) and would run it again because the sense of accomplishment at the finish line is better than the feeling of finishing a flat, fast course. Sure, beginners BEWARE, but beware for the sense of pride at the finish line (which is, by the way, up a massive hill) LOL

  4. your best race report yet, my friend. truly captures the magic (that you and I both enjoy) of pulling in the first timers. they are seriously the bravest folks i know! are you keeping in contact with nick? again...great work! sounds like it was fun. really!

  5. Loved reading the report. Can't believe you thought it was hilly! You're like the hill queen. You keep gathering up newbies and we'll have to name you queen of our running cult soon. :-)

  6. Woooo hoooo! So awesome and loved hearing all about it. I could even feel the ache in my knees and achilles tendons, but also the triumph of finishing a tough course! You rock!

  7. Well, you and Kari got me up to 7 miles now, and training for a half! So, Pied Piper Laura it is. :)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.