Saturday was the Doc Rock Half Marathon and Run in Jonesboro, AR, and it was my second half marathon for the month of April. This was the first time that I attempted to run half marathons in consecutive weeks, but I felt confident that it would go well. Boy, how wrong was I! I think my training and recovery are not fully to blame, but I still finished, so there is that.
I showed up early for the event, which I am prone to do, and picked up my race packet without incident. The race and health expo was held at the Convocation Center at Arkansas State University, and appears to be quite a big deal for the community. Since the expo was not open, I just returned to my truck to wait for more people to show up and the race to start.
The race started promptly at 7:30 am and with under 300 half marathon runners, it was the smallest half marathon that I have been associated with thus far. With the small number of runners, and wide course, there actually were no issues with crowding on the course, even at the start. Of course, with an open course, you have to fight the urge to run up front with the faster runners. As the race began, I noticed two things. One, it was a little warmer than I was expecting. In fact, Saturday turned out to be the warmest day of 2014 thus far. And two, there were more hills than I anticipated. The website for the race did show some hills, but after Whiskey Hill last week, I did not think this week would be any worse. Wrong!
The constant up and down of the hills along with temperatures over 20 degrees warmer than any of my 2014 runs led to a very poor run by myself. I was pouring sweat from mile 1 and there never seemed to be a reprieve from the sun. I have run in warmer conditions than this several times before, but it kicked my ass on Saturday. And as I climbed each hill, and sweated even more heavily, my mental resolve began to dip. I was not in the best of places by mile 10, but I eventually fought through this to finish the race. The only problem is when the race was supposed to be finished, it was not. My GPS usually differs slightly from the course, usually for passing people, water stops, and the such. By the end of a race, I have seen variations up to .14 over the posted mileage. No big deal, I anticipate these variations. Except on Saturday, my variation was .48 and the finish line was still not in plain sight!
In the end, the course ran a full half a mile long according to every person I spoke with. Even worse was that this half a mile was unnecessary since the finish took runners around the entire Convocation Center to finish at the north entrance. If the race would have eliminated the trip around the building, the mileage would have been closer to 13.1, and one last hill would have been avoided. The girl who finished when I did was much angrier about this course issue than I was, but that half a mile discrepancy led to my slowest half marathon by over 6:00! If the course would have been correct, I would have been close to my slowest race, but not that slow. But I finished, and that is always the goal.
Course: C: Lots of hills, not much scenery, and half a mile too long. The volunteers and support staff were wonderful and they could not control the heat. Every mile had a water stop, which came in handy as the race progressed. One of the race timers told me after the race that they had people switch from the half to the 5K due to the unexpected heat wave.
Swag: B+: The race shirt for this event was a hooded sweatshirt, which is different from any race that I have participated in thus far. From my talks with some of the race officials, the shirt was decided upon because this event is often very cool, like last year. It is funny that I was given a hoodie for a race held on the hottest day of the year. Of course, it was 32 degrees this morning, so the hoodie would be perfect today! All finishers received a good-looking medal. The medal is fine, it just happens to follow two great medals, so it cannot compare to the Germantown Half or Oak Barrel Half medals. The medal was the same as last year’s event, just with an updated event date.
Overall: C+: I wanted to like this event more than I actually did. It is for a great cause and has some amazing volunteers and support staff. I may revisit this post in a couple of months and see if this score is reflective of the actual event and not the way the heat zapped me on race day. All of the activities associated with the event attract the community, so it was odd that the half marathon is not better attended than it was. Of course, the hills and long course may contribute to this. And I am certain that the warmer than expected temperatures deterred some of the usual race day registrations for an event like this. Also, the Youth Villages 10 Miler was held in Memphis on Saturday, so that event certainly took runners away from Doc Rock.
One major silver lining from this event is that I am now a little bit better prepared for the Country Music Half Marathon at the end of the month. I know that it will be hot and hilly at that event, so getting in a run just that a couple weeks prior should be beneficial.
Update 5.19.14: Since posting this recap and discussing it with others, there has been more information made available. The race organizers mailed out thank you letters to all the runners as well as a Doc Rock 13.1 decal! In the thank you letter, there was one piece of interesting information shared. Apparently next year’s event will have a new course, which must be in response to the course being a little long the last two years. This was a very nice touch from race organizers.