Eric and I have come to find that running in an organized race has some obvious advantages over running by ourselves in the park. There are always medical teams or at least people at checkpoints with radios. There are Kenyans and Ethiopians who just glide, seemingly effortlessly through the distance. There are hundreds if not thousands of fellow runners who create a fun and competitive atmosphere. You've already paid for the race and gotten up so early to get there that you feel like you have to give it your all. There are many advantages. But I think one of the biggest advantages is the hydration stations and fuel stations along the race route!In our half marathon, there were water stations every two kilometers. After ten kilometers there were watermelon slices, water and electrolytes. Eventually, along the way, there was another electrolyte station, and according to some of these pictures, bananas...I think the bananas were from the Marathon two weeks earlier (judging by the 7-11 store behind the tables), but you get the idea!Usually, when we run in the park, we either bring some cash to buy water bottles from a vendor in the area, or we bring a small cooler that can hold about 6-8 bottles of water or Gatorade. Bulky, hard to carry on public transportation and there's always the risk of someone jacking it while we're on a lap around the park, it's not ideal, but it gets the job done.Another difference is that at the park we actually stop to grab our bottles of water, open them and walk about 400 meters until our mouths are wet and thirsts quenched. We usually do this two or three times during a longer run. This definitely cuts into our time as well as our endurance training, I think.I saw runners in the half marathon who would stop and walk through a water point, who were several hundred meters in front of me. As I ran, I would target runners a little closer than that to try to catch up to.But the walking through the checkpoints helped me to catch many people who were running the same pace as me, they were just ahead of me due to a faster start or they had been in a front group and kept a good pace in the first half of the race. Point is, if they hadn't walked, they would have more than likely finished ahead of me, given the similar paces.I tried, after having to walk 50 meters at the halfway point to drink my first Gatorade and not choke on watermelon, not to walk again. I was successful and I think that's what helped me to achieve the time that I recorded. It didn't feel good not to stop and take a break, but I told myself that the only way I was stopping was to stretch an uncomfortable knee or hip...both of those held up, fortunately, and I made it the last half of the race running the whole way. I know that's probably not an option for our next marathon, because I'm sure we're gonna factor walking into our training, but we can lessen it I think!I'm glad that the organizers put the water stops so close together and thankful for the volunteers who stood there for hours and poured water and sliced melons for the runners! This post is for those who got up as early as the runners and stood out there at dawn on the freeway to make our run safer and healthier!
p.s. Hey! Now that I look at these photos of race support (water and fruit tables) more closely, they are all from the marathon we ran on the 26th! Oops, they were on a web board for the Half Marathon! You get the idea! ;)