Not knowing if my legs have sufficiently recovered from the recent ultramarathon and with Hurricane Elsa on my path, I waited until half an hour before the deadline to sign up for North Carolina’s renowned The Scream! Half Marathon, occurring on July 10, 2021, and descending from Jonas Ridge to Mortimer, from 3,930 feet to 1,572 feet, with five or six climbs making appearances throughout. I have recently completed multiple downhill half marathons, and none of these with regard to finish time has been giving me a particular advantage. Yes, when you are running downhill, you let gravity take over and do not exert as much cardio, but the significant impact on your quads and different types of muscles used fatigue your legs so rapidly that, when even the slightest bit of climb enters, that section feels exponentially more challenging to overcome maintaining an ideal pace. Factoring in the summer heat, I did not know what to anticipate for The Scream! Half Marathon, but I stayed optimistic and hoped for a near-1:50:00 finish, ludicrous ambition for the middle of summer.
The runners were picked up and transferred to Jonas Ridge from Brown Mountain Beach Resort on a shuttle, and following packet pickup, waiting time, and announcements, we collectively walked (while some jogged) a quarter of a mile to the starting line. As we were lined up, I decided to walk forward from the middle of the pack to see if the event provided a timing mat at the start; if not, I planned to move closer to the lead pack so that my official time would be as close to my actual time as possible. Thank you, OCD. I began moving, and all of a sudden the front runners ran, and I, perplexed, started my Garmin and running many steps behind the start, telling a lady to my left, “This is the most random start I have ever experienced.” I barely even noticed the tiny starting chalk mark and ran inward, and I spoke to participants who did not even know the exact start location. The first couple of miles comprised minor rolling hills, following which the descent launched. My knees and feet heavily pounding the uneven pavement understandably worked my muscles intensely, and whenever I was met with a climb my legs did not allow me to push hard enough to keep my pace, especially the final one right before the finish. Multiple runners in front of me walked uphill, and each time I saw them I became psychologically drained. My official time reads 1:56:28.9, albeit my actual time should be about 10 seconds faster based on where I stood when the officials began the clock.
Following the finish, runners were transported back to Brown Mountain Beach Resort, where we shared complimentary lunch, beer, and sodas, dipped ourselves in the lake, and even played with an alpaca that ended up spitting on me twice prior to the awards ceremony. These post-race festivities made this event feel more like a vacation than a race. Let’s see if my legs will be “screaming” when I wake up tomorrow!