It was January 1, 2013 at about noon and I had just awoken from my NYE gig with an epiphany. Looking to start the new year fresh, I decided to push myself to do something I thought I’d never do. That thing…run a half marathon. When I tell you that I’m not a runner, I’m dead serious. I think the longest I’d ever run was 5 minutes on the treadmill and when I got off, I felt like I’d been to hell and back. There were opportunities in the past to run 5Ks and 10Ks and fortunately for me, work always seemed to get in the way. This would be different. Looking for support and accountability, I somehow talked the wife into doing this “fun” activity with me.
We found a date in the middle of April when I wasn’t DJ’ing and thought that would be a great time to take a break and do this. Looking for a reward for the run, we decided to do it in SoCal (no humidity) where we could leave the City for a weekend, visit friends, possibly catch a tan, run the race and then eat some amazing food at our favorite spots afterwards. I found a race called “The City Challenge Urban Race” in Huntington Beach, CA on a running website. We paid the $45/ea and signed up.
To train, we used the Couch to Half app. It was really helpful. Our biggest training hurdle, however, was the fact that the winter weather in NYC was rainy and cold with a few snow days thrown in there for good measure. This made running outside tough. We ran on the treadmill for the majority of the training period but knew we needed at least a few outside runs before the big day. I luckily had a gig in CA 2 weeks prior to the race so I got to run in CA twice and then Tara and I ran twice more in the City a week prior.
About a month before the race, Tara and I were sweating bullets because both of us didn’t feel ready. Then an e-mail came from the race organizer with a link to the actual race website. I get so much e-mail every day that I just filed this one and thought I’d look at it closer to the race day. Tara, however, asked me the evening it came in, “Did you go to the website and read about the race?” She then proceeded to read me the details.
We thought this was PERFECT! This would be a great beginner race (Amazing Race style) with no real pressure. We now were REALLY looking forward to it especially since we signed up as a team and could run it together.
Fast forward to race day. We both were feeling good and were hoping to post some good times. Neither of us had yet to run the full 13.1 miles (the furthest we’d gone was 10 miles). So the unknown of our time was kind’ve exciting. Anything under 2.5 hours and we’d be ecstatic. There were probably 200 runners, which, come to find out, is a small race. About 3/4 of them were running a 5K or 10K. The other 1/4 of them were running the half marathon.
The race structure and rules were interesting. When the race started, we were given an envelope that had 12 puzzles and riddles that led to 12 items. Those items were spread throughout the city. You had to photograph your teammate with each item. None of the 12 items were in order geographically. So not only did you have to figure out the items, but you had to map your route to get to them. There was a strict 4 hour time limit. You couldn’t place if you weren’t at the finish line in 4 hours. Also, you were judged not only on your time but also on how many items you got correct! Lastly, there were no waters or energy packets being handled out at any of the 12 places. It was available only at the starting and finish line.
The race started and we spent the first 45 minutes at the starting line figuring out the puzzles and mapping our run. Considering that neither of us had great knowledge about the City, we (I mean Tara) figured them out pretty quickly.
We found the first 2 items pretty easily.
We got tripped up on the next 2, spending about 30-45 minutes in the vicinity of the items until we finally found them.
What we realized was that this race was HARD! A lot of these items were 1-2 miles apart except for 2 of them that were 3 miles apart. In training, we started to get into a rhythm about 4-5 miles into the run. But this race never allowed for that. So it was definitely tough. We got 9 items in and realized that we were NOT going to make the time limit.
We decided to forgo the other 3 and just run to the finish line. We finished at 4 hours and 4 minutes…just late enough not to be able to place. They still graded our clue/item sheet anyway and we found out that we got all 9 items correct. The “grader” said that only a few people were able to complete all 12 and even then, the majority only
got about 9 of them right.
I had started the “Map My Run” app once we solved the clues and took off running and according to that, we did the run portion in 3 hours and 17 minutes.
But even that is misleading, because, for a few items, we were running around in circles slowly (which lead to a slow average pace) trying to locate them. So I know we could’ve posted a better time had we just been running in a normal race.
Also, the adrenaline you feel at most races totally dissipated after the race started because no one was running the same routes. We saw maybe 4-5 teams in passing the entire day. Here are some of our mile splits below. As you can see, we had moments where our splits were really low compared to the rest (at mile 6, 9 and 11) but I know we could’ve been at around 10:00/mile or so throughout the majority of the race had it been a bit more straightforward.
13.1 miles is no joke. Here’s a pic of us post race!
We did end up eating some amazing sushi at the end of the race at our favorite sushi spot on the planet, Sushi Sho, which made the race and trip worth it.
After that, we hung out with good friends and drank wine before crashing out. We headed to the airport the next morning. How did we feel? We were a little sore but recovered pretty quickly.
Overall, this was not a good first race to do. This was more like a fun adventure for a family than something to mark progress. We probably won’t be doing this race again.
In fact, Tara and I, who, before the race, had sworn off running any other races once we finished this one (this race was as a bucket list item), decided we needed to put a real race under our belt. So we’re going to do the Wine and Dine NIGHT race in Orlando November 9th (bonus is that my mom and one of my brothers are going to run it with us). Not only do we have confidence that we can do it, but now we have a bit of an idea of what all goes into it (both the training and the actual race), so we’re looking to train harder and post some really good times. Stay tuned.