The night race. An exotic sounding race that appealed to a night owl like myself. Fueling for a night race is always a logistical consideration, or nightmare. As our race began at 7 p.m. we could easily drive down race day as Georgia is only 3.5 hours from our home. Mike and I knew we needed to eat an early lunch but our road choices were limited. “Where do you want to eat,” he asked me. “Wherever is fine, I have a stomach of steel.” Since I’m a vegetarian we stopped at Subway where I ate a veggie sub on wheat. If this story had a narrator they would interject here with “she did not have a stomach of steel”.
Georgia, No Peace I Find
When I discovered an alien themed night half marathon in Roswell, GA, I knew I needed to run it. The fact that the Braves were playing in their new stadium the same weekend solidified the plan. My boyfriend, Mike, is a lifelong Braves fan but had never seen them live.The race website claimed it was the flattest course in Georgia, so Mike decided to sign up as well. We were both looking forward to avoiding an early morning race alarm for once.
Mike has a friend in Roswell who graciously agreed to host us, so upon arrival we went to his place and relaxed a bit prior to the race. Before long it was time to head to Riverside Park where the race started/finished, and also where race day packet pickup was held. The shirts were unisex sized so sadly the small was still huge on me. It was a cute, soft shirt I would have gladly worn often had they offered female sizing, but c’est la vie. Gu was provided in the packet, but mine was coffee flavored. I have never grown to like coffee and do not drink it, nor eat things flavored like it. I offered it to another runner who excitedly accepted it.
Although I have lived in the south my entire life, I didn’t think just HOW hot an August night in Georgia would be. The 7 p.m. start times tricks your brain to assume it will be cooling off, but heat just lingers long into the summer evenings and carries the humidity with it like a shawl. The park offered little shade and people were huddled in the few covered spots they could find. We found a semi-shaded area to sit, but the ground was crawling with ants so we quickly got up again. We instead killed time exploring the small, yet lively, vendor tents and split a free Bai water a sponsor was giving out.
As I stood sweating during the National anthem, I knew the heat was going to make the race a struggle. The course weaved through the shady park paths at first, but then dropped us off on black asphalt roads which intensified the heat. Now I haven’t run every race in Georgia, but I quickly started to suspect that the website’s claim about “the flattest course in Georgia” was a lie. Once on the roads it was a constant uphill climb. At one point, exhausted and grumpy, I complained about the website’s statement to a runner next to me. She informed me it had been a flat course the first year, but the route had changed, although the website was never properly updated. Yet another case of “not everything you read on the internet is true”, especially when a race director is trying to sell their race.
My energy was fading from the heat and I was drinking far more water than I should, but it was boiling outside. Around mile 8 we were given an otter pop, which was the only fuel offered outside the Gu in the race packet. However, the cold and sugar of the otter pop were much appreciated and I gratefully devoured mine. I was even lucky enough to be given a grape one, my favorite flavor. As an added bonus we finally got some downhill slopes after miles of incline.
The sun was finally going down, but the darkness didn’t bring much relief. The humidity was still oppressive. Once full darkness hit the 2:15 pace group went flying past me. This was a huge blow to my ego and I fully gave up trying to push my pace. This was clearly going to be my slowest half marathon ever. I started to do a walk/run combo, and had a nice conversation with a British man about how horribly miserable the race was. Towards the end we were routed back on park paths where it was pitch black, not an ounce of light. Thankfully I had brought a headlamp even though they weren’t mandatory.
Finally, the center of the park with the inflatable alien finish line were in view! I crossed, so thankful to be done. Looking at my watch I learned I had finished in 2:13. Clearly the pace group which had blown past me had decided to aim for a 2 hour finish instead. 2:13 still meant it was my slowest half marathon, but I had already mentally prepared for that outcome. More concerning was my watch distance only showed 12.6 miles. I asked another runner and his watch also tracked the course short. Great, it was my slowest half and it wasn’t even the full distance.
I greedily took the ice cold towel a volunteer handed me and wiped my face and neck. Mike wasn’t far behind me in finishing and we sat speaking with fellow runners while cooling down. There was not a lot of excitement in the air, all the runners were drenched in sweat and half dead. Mike was doing surprisingly okay as it was only his second half marathon. I personally felt miserable. Not even the sparkly gold alien head medal could lift my spirits.
We went back to clean up before dinner. I laid on the floor in the fetal position half napping while Mike showered. My stomach felt sour and I was drained of energy. During my shower I threw up unexpectedly. I despise throwing up, and word of warning, a veggie sub is not fun coming back up. I figured it was a one time deal due to drinking too much water while running so I pressed on to the restaurant. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I threw up twice more at the restaurant while waiting for food, both times thankfully making it to the bathroom first. Once my stomach started to stabilize, I forced myself to eat a flatbread pizza and finally started to feel human again.
After a deep, peaceful sleep I was 100% again. To thank our host we had bought him and his girlfriend tickets to the Braves game as well. Although the race was a huge disaster, the game was wonderful with multiple home runs and the Braves winning. As I was feeling better I was even able to drink a beer at the game, a feat I was not able to perform after the race. The happy moments at the Braves game easily neutralized the negative memories from the night before. I left Georgia happy, although I will never recommend that race to anyone, nor will I go back for redemption.
*Author’s Note: As I’m sure you picked up, I did not enjoy this race. I would like to say that I did check their website again recently and they are now saying the course has been measured so I assume they received some complaints about the short course from my year. They have also since removed the “flattest course in GA” claim, and they do now require headlamps. So I assume they are working to make it better. They did offer free race photos, one of which I included above.
If anyone has ran this race and loved it, I would love to hear your experience in the comments below. Have you ran it and hated it like me? Also share your misery! Running and races are personal, everyone has a different story. I love to hear them all.
Race: Area 13.1
Location: Roswell, GA
State #: 4
Chip Time: 2:13:50
Age group: 16/38