I had a blast running the Brooksie Way Half Marathon on Oct. 2! I had heard nothing but great things about the Brooksie Way since its inaugural running in 2008, but I believe it's an event that has to be experienced in person to be truly appreciated. I'm thrilled to have finally taken part in it this year, and I hope to participate in it again for many more years.
I was pretty nervous about the race; not for any specific reason, but because I just seem to get nervous before any race in which I run. Between that nervousness and watching a lot of sports on TV (Tigers playoffs and college football), I didn't sleep very well the night before the race. I could've tried going to bed at 8 p.m. and I don't think it would've made much of a difference! I finally fell asleep sometime after midnight, and of course it seemed like my alarm clock went off a minute or two later.
My wife and I got to the campus by 7:00 a.m., about an hour before the scheduled start of the race. Fortunately, we quickly found a parking spot within reasonable walking distance of the starting line. That gave us plenty of time to park, get in a Porta-Potty line, check in our extra gear, and do a little warm-up jogging.
The starting line area was getting crowded by the time we made our way over there, but it was very easy to find the gear check, Porta-Potties, and starting corral. The PA announcer was very helpful explaining where people from each race were supposed to line up, and I thought the corral was nicely organized for a race of this size. The only frustrating part for me was that the start was delayed for 15 minutes at the request of the sheriff's department, which I believe was due to traffic issues.
I was nervous and ready to run – my nervousness goes away once a race begins, so I'm always eager to start running – and it felt pretty cold just standing in the starting corral. So I was hoping to get started right on time at 8 a.m., but the delayed start ended up being no problem at all in the grand scheme of things.
The extra 15 minutes went by quickly and were probably a big relief to many people in the Porta-Potty lines as well as the late arrivers who were delayed by the traffic congestion. At 8:14, the Men of Grace did a great rendition of the National Anthem and then it was race time!
The first few miles felt very comfortable, and my nerves went away as soon as the race started. I focused on getting through the congestion of runners that inevitably occurs at the beginning of large races, and then I tried to settle into a comfortable pace as quickly as I could. It was very nice running along Walton, Old Perch, and Avon because those miles were mostly downhill or flat. There was some good entertainment along the course, including Stephen Clark (WXYZ-TV Channel 7 news anchor) and his band The Trending Topics, who were playing along Avon just east of Livernois before the runners and walkers turned onto the Clinton River Trail. The next few miles also went well, as the route followed the Clinton River Trail into , through the , and onto the . Maybe those first miles felt a little too comfortable, as I passed the 10K point (located in the park) in 45:05, for a pace of 7:15 per mile – about 13 seconds per mile faster than my goal pace (yikes). Half marathons are about 21K, so I was almost halfway through the race at that point. I knew I wasn't doing a very good job sticking to my plan of starting out conservatively for the first several miles so I could maintain a steady pace on the hills.
I slowed down a little toward the end of the Clinton River Trail portion of the course, and then slowed down even more during the mile that wound through downtown Rochester and ended near the park. I stayed at a pretty steady pace on the Paint Creek Trail, then ran my worst mile of the race on the stretch that included the hills on Tienken between the Paint Creek Trail and Bridgestone. I was able to speed up a little and gain back some time over the few miles of hills on Tienken approaching Brewster, up Brewster to Dutton, and on Dutton to Adams. I was able to speed up a little bit over the final two miles to finish relatively strong.
My goal was to beat my previous personal best in the half marathon – 1:37:55 (a 7:28 per mile pace) – and I did it! I finished in 1:36:39 (a 7:22 per mile pace). I did an awful job of following my ideal race strategy of starting out conservatively, running steadily on the hills, and finishing strong. Instead, I started out too quickly, was humbled by the first stretch of hills on Tienken, and managed to hang on enough over the last few miles to meet my goal despite my average pace slowing by a total of seven seconds per mile during the second half of the course. In a way, I think starting out too quickly may have been a good thing because I don't know if I would've been able to do much better on the Tienken hills even if I had started more slowly and tried to conserve energy early in the race. I suspect those hills would've taken a lot out of me regardless of how fast or slowly I was running before I encountered them. Every race has been a learning experience for me, and this one was certainly no exception! I'm thrilled to have set a new personal best in the half marathon, but that was just the icing on the cake after participating in such a great event in our community. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was focused on my training and goal time. But after the race, my thoughts kept turning to the event as a whole and how much fun I had participating in it rather than my exact time or pacing.
Here's a summary of some of my thoughts on the Brooksie Way:
- This is a great event that is well organized, well run, and well supported. I believe our community is very fortunate to host and benefit from the Brooksie Way, and I had a lot of fun participating in it for the first time.
- This is the biggest of the three half marathons I have now run so I don't have a lot of events to use for comparison, but the logistics seemed very good to me for a race of this size. A big thanks to all of the race organizers, volunteers, supporters, and everyone else who helped make it such a great experience for the participants.
- In my opinion, the half marathon course is very challenging, yet not to the point where it's unbearable. I like the layout of the course, despite the tough hills, and I think the different types of terrain and scenery are great.
- I'm looking forward to running the Brooksie Way again! If you haven't run or walked it yet, I recommend trying it next year. With half marathon, 5K, and one-mile events, as well as options to run or walk, there's an event to suit many different fitness levels. And I believe is definitely worth a read.
Did you run or walk the 2011 Brooksie Way? If so, how did it go for you and what were your thoughts on the event?
If you haven't participated in the Brooksie Way yet, will you consider running or walking it in 2012?