On August 24, 2014, I finished the Hotlanta Half Marathon in 2:28:40.
|Photo courtesy of TrueSpeedPhoto|
The Hotlanta Half Marathon, an inaugural event directed by one of my local running friends, Rachel Langelotti, and sponsored by Orion Racing, features the most lively local half marathon course that I have seen to date. With a route that begins at Underground Atlanta and takes runners past the Georgia Capitol Gold Dome, underneath the Olympic Rings to Turner Field, along the Atlanta Eastside Beltline Trail, through Piedmont Park, through the Georgia Tech campus, through Centennial Olympic Park, and back to the start in the late summer heat, this race certainly lives up to its name.
The August temperatures had taken a bite out of my running since the Hot To Trot 8 Hour Run at the beginning of the month, when I had completed 29.5 miles during the allotted time. Two weeks later, a 21-mile training run in the middle of the month had been particularly brutal. The dog days of late summer make for tough running even for smaller runners, and, although I have continued to drop pounds in recent weeks, I am still a long way from peak fitness. Fortunately, I placed no pressure on myself for this half marathon, and I decided early on that I would be running this race simply to enjoy the company of friends and to earn some cool bling in the form of the inaugural race medal.
The Hotlanta Half Marathon greeted me with a family atmosphere as soon as I arrived at the start with Rebecca, a fellow runner who had carpooled with me, and I quickly spotted several familiar faces. I enjoyed catching up with a handful of friends, many of whom were volunteering for the event, before I made my way to the back of the crowd to begin my run at a carefree pace. I had planned to use my timer to complete this race with the same three-minute-run/one-minute-walk interval routine that I use during my normal group training runs on weekends, but I would have to improvise a strategy instead, since I had accidentally left my timer at home.
|Photo courtesy of Rebecca Watters|
During the first three miles of the course, as we ran past the state capital and around Turner Field, I enjoyed the company of Paul, a fellow GUTS runner with whom I had finished a handful of recent events, since we were both moving along at a leisurely clip. In typical August fashion, the weather was deceptively cool during this early stretch, but I knew that the heat would soon take over with force. I was impressed to see volunteers handing out water even during the first couple of miles. Running without a water bottle at an inaugural race is always a gamble, because organizers often underestimate the resources, so I was happy to note that we would all be in good hands because of the plentiful aid station supplies at this particular event.
As I left the Turner Field area and ran underneath the Olympic Rings on Capitol Avenue, I ended up in a conversation with a fellow runner from the Marathon Maniacs group, and I enjoyed talking with him for the next several miles as we ran similar paces. After a brief turn through the Georgia State University area near the Capitol, we reached my favorite section of the entire race. The Atlanta Eastside Beltline Trail, a concrete path that gradually descends for a couple of miles down to Piedmont Park, is one of my favorite routes to follow on weekend training runs because of the artwork that lines the stretch in the form of elaborate graffiti illustrations and interesting sculptures.
The rising temperatures started to take hold as I reached Piedmont Park and passed the halfway point of the route, but I still had a smile on my face as I ran with the occasional improvised walk breaks, which I usually took on notable inclines. The eighth mile of the race was a lot of fun, since I always enjoy running and people-watching at Piedmont Park on the weekends.
The heat began to take a toll as I reached the ninth mile, but a cup of watermelon that some aid station volunteers handed to me provided a good physical and mental boost. Mile 10 of the race was a good excuse for me to relive old college memories as the route twisted through Georgia Tech campus and exited by Bobby Dodd Stadium. The next couple of miles on Centennial Olympic Park Drive were mostly flat and forgiving, but I nonetheless increased the frequency of my walk breaks because of fatigue.
The last mile of the race was a slow one for me, but I still enjoyed the scenery of the route on the bridge road that passed by the CNN Center and before making a sharp twist for the final section back to Underground Atlanta. I picked up my running pace with hopes of reaching the finish line before two and a half hours had passed, since that had been my modest goal all along.
I crossed the finish line of the Hotlanta Half Marathon with a time of 2:28:40, placing 785 out of 1177 finishers with a pace of 11:21 per mile. I was pleased with the outcome, because my pace echoed that of my normal weekend training runs over the summer, and because I would be pacing myself even more conservatively for an ultramarathon the following weekend. I am confident that faster times are inevitable as I continue to get back into shape. After I crossed the finish line and ate a banana, I joined the volunteers to hand water bottles to the remaining finishers and to congratulate friends for a short while before returning home.
The half marathon is always a fun distance, and this new Hotlanta Half Marathon is my new favorite race of this distance. I loved the scenic route, I loved the excellent organization, and I loved seeing so many friendly runners and volunteers along the way. Thanks to Rachel Langelotti and the Orion Racing crowd for a perfect inaugural event that I hope to see again and again in the years to come.
See you on the trails.