Last weekend I traveled to San Antonio to run the Stars at Night half marathon. I signed up because I wanted a race to get my weekly running miles back up after a long hiatus from distance running (this was my only half marathon in 2017!), and bonus! I figured it would be a fun weekend getaway for the first half of winter break when the kids are at their Dad’s (which is always depressing for me, even 7 years post-divorce).
It was a good idea in theory.
We arrived at the JW Marriott, site of the race, around 2:30pm, in plenty of time to check-in, get my packet, and head downstairs for the 5pm pre-race meeting (5:20pm start time). It was my first time at the hotel, and while it was lovely (and large), it was also a holiday zoo, crowded with runners and families and Christmas festivities. The young woman checking me in asked if I was “here for the race” and I said yes. She asked me what I was running, and I said the half marathon. She looked at me blankly and asked “How many miles is that?”
It still startles me when people don’t know how long half marathon/marathons are. I consider it common knowledge.
I said “13.1 miles” and she blurted out “Oh my GOD, well, good luck with THAT!” as she turned around and looked outside.
Did I mention it was pouring out? It was pouring out. Did I also mention that most of this race was not on a road, but on trails through the golf course? Trails that, as I would soon find out, became absolutely submerged with water?
I was not looking forward to a wet, cold, dark 2.5 hours.
Initially, I was really intrigued and excited by the race. I’ve never run an evening race (my pre-race nutrition plan took some strategizing since usually I wake up, eat a bagel with peanut butter, and race 90 minutes later), and we were required to wear head-lamps since it would be so dark. It was *supposed* to be a fun, Christmas-y jaunt through Hill Country and holiday lights, a night adventure.
It was an adventure alright.
We started on time (ish), after huddling in mass in the pouring rain, grumbling, outside the hotel conference center for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 4-5 minutes. The first 3 miles or so was through the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, which confused me a bit, since I thought the race was supposed to be through the golf course (we would turn off and enter the trail into the woods around the 3.5 mile mark).
As you might imagine, there were no spectators or people cheering … just a few hundred of us, running through the rain through a neighborhood, quiet. It was weird, to be honest … like a very large, dejected, cold, wet group run.
Once we turned on to the trail, I felt a momentary (and short-lived) excitement. THIS is what I came for – an evening trail run with lights and scenery and nature!
Y’all. It was so wet. And muddy. And cold. There were points where I had to high step through nearly knee high water, or “run” with my arms out at 90 degree angles, trying to steady myself, and not fall flat on my ass as my feet surfed through slick mud. I saw more than one person go down on the course, and a few who looked like they just gave up, as they abruptly turned and left the trail.
At some point, maybe mile 9, my arm got so numb that I could no longer feel the vibrations from my Garmin watch letting me know when I should do my run/walk intervals (I had it set to 3 minutes running/45 seconds walking). I got creative and ran through a song, then when it ended I would walk for 30 right-foot steps, then run until the next song ended.
The race officials elected to move the finish line inside, which made for a weird end (although fitting with the entire weird experience, I guess), so we ran through the loading dock area into one of the conference rooms. My husband caught me coming in – notice me carefully run around the metal grate as I approached.
The video, and picture, does not at all capture just how frozen and soaked I was. What my husband should have captured on video was me attempting to talk for several minutes after I finished. I was so cold that I couldn’t speak properly – my words were coming out all slurred. He observed, with a nervous laugh, that I sounded like a stroke victim.
My official time was 2:26:55, which, although it seems really slow compared to my last half marathon a year ago (2:17:28) is actually my 3rd fastest half marathon of 7. So I guess all things considered it wasn’t a bad time, given the conditions.
Would I do another night-time half marathon? I actually liked the novelty of running at night, and it would have been fun if the weather wasn’t so horrible and the trails weren’t so hilly and treacherous. I prefer larger races with more energy and people (it was kind of … weird… running in the dark through the woods) but I’d love to do a (shorter) evening fun run in the future.