The 2011 San Jose Rock-n-Rollhalf-marathon took place on Sunday, 2 October 2011. This is the third time that I’ve run this race and it seems to get better every time.
I enjoy running the same races year after year because after one or two times, the course feels like a regular running route – just with a couple thousand (or hundred) extra people running with you. I signed up for the 2011 SJRnR at the 2010 expo. Earlier in the year, I entertained thoughts of setting another PR at this race. But, with the health issues I’ve faced since July, my aspiration was simply to finish.
The expo was a more positive experience this year than last – I think I was just in a better mood this year. The volunteers working at the expo were energetic and humorous, which is always nice. The RnR shop seemed bigger than last year with a more varied selection. I didn’t buy a t-shirt hoodie as I have in years past because they didn’t have one but I did buy a commemorative SJRnR t-shirt. Even though I get the race t-shirt and know that I’ll get a t-shirt for signing up for the next year’s race, it’s become my tradition to buy a t-shirt.Dodge was a huge sponsor – they had a test drive for charity going on outside the convention center and a huge display in the expo. The volunteers that were trying to get people to stop at the Dodge booth were funny – they were handing out temporary tattoos (adidas stripes?) and were telling us that the stripes would make us run faster. Of course I took them!
The variety of exhibitors at the expo was great. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around and looking at the products and races that were being promoted. I bought some energy bars and nuun tablets, signed up for next year’s San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon, and sampled some delicious grape tomatoes.
Race day dawned slightly overcast and gray. Although I didn’t check a gear bag – why bother when the hotel is a hop, skip, and a jump away from the finish? – the gear check area was uncongested, well-organized, clearly marked, and running smoothly. The long string of port-a-potties ensured that lines kept moving and wait times were bearable.
I moseyed over to my start corral, lining up at the very back of it. The start corrals were clearly marked and delineated. The energy at the start of a race is always high and today was no exception. The singing of the National Anthem began and I was very gratified to see men removing their hats, people putting their hands over their hearts, and others shushing those who continued talking, oblivious to the solemnity of the moment. The silence leading up to the cheer that inevitably accompanies the words, “of the free,” always chokes me up and did so again on race day.
The gun went off and the race began. It took my corral a bit to get to the start but the energy never flagged.
I had no race strategy going into the race, even though I knew I likely wouldn’t be running the whole thing. I did know that I needed Gu at mile 4 or 5 so that my energy wouldn’t drop too much in the later miles. But other than that, my plan was to run when I could and walk when I needed to walk.
I spotted a tall skinny blonde lady at the start of the race and decided to use her as my pacer in the early miles. She ran with a loose, easy stride, as if this was just a training run for her. I liked that. And I liked the fact that she was tall enough that I could see her even when I fell back during the aid stations. She was running at a good pace and I’m proud to say that I hung with her for about 6 miles.
The last 4 miles of the race were a slog. It was getting warmer and each passing minute was pulling me further from that 2 hour 30 minute benchmark that I foolishly clung to despite my fatigue. And lack of proper training! When the 2 hour 30 minute pace group passed me, reality set in but some competitiveness kicked in, as well. I decided I would beat 2 hours and 45 minutes and I would not let that pace group pass me.
The ambulance at about mile 12.5 picking up a runner made me glad that I realize my own physical boundaries. The runner had collapsed from dehydration, we all assumed.
The finish line announcer was as fantastic as last year. She was energized, encouraging, and enthusiastic. As you run up to the finish line, you can hear your name being called and then there she is – a little blonde lady giving runners high fives to make them smile as they cross the finish.
The SJRnR is a very well-organized event. The bands and cheer groups along the way are excellent distractions. The volunteers at the aid stations are friendly and encouraging. The aid stations themselves are large enough to serve the number of runners.
I would recommend the SJRnR for anyone looking for a flat and fast half-marathon. I look forward to running this race again in 2012.