Gone with the (Head)Wind

Asheville Half Marathon Pre-Race

Ready to start!

Planning to squeeze in a race in March, I casually set my eyes on the renowned Asheville Half Marathon, taking place in the eponymous city on the 18th, thanks to its seemingly ideal condition for a fast time, with the net downhill and temperature in the low 30s; nevertheless, I struggled to decide if my would-be-53rd half marathon was worth driving four hours out and four hours back and spending even more money on a hotel overnight. The morning before race day, having already taken a PTO from work, I finally pulled the trigger on this runcation and headed out for the event Expo.

Asheville Half Marathon

PC: Asheville Marathon

Asheville Half Marathon Post-RaceI have raced in the vicinity twice in previous years and again was captivated by the breathtaking scenery and nature of Western North Carolina. Following waiting in line for a porta potty for nearly half an hour, I stepped up towards the front for a mass start of 2,500 participants, trying to minimize my chances of being stuck at a slower-than-intended pace due to the human barricade, which happened anyway. In spite of pacers with clear signs, an infinite number of slower runners clogged up the front, forcing me to maneuver around them and commence at an eleven-minute-mile pace when I planned to go out between upper seven-minute and lower eight-minute. Albeit I would typically appreciate this 31-degree start with the feels-like in the 10s, I did not foresee the nonstop vicious headwind and its impact on my running. Furthermore, as I suspected, the course opening up primarily downhill for the first two miles took more out of my legs than normally at this point. As I slowed down significantly the last several miles, specifically from the short climb and trail portion forward, I went from thinking I could realistically run between 1:52 and 1:55 to doubting I could even finish under two hours, as I saw the 2:00 pacers pass me with just over a mile to go; amusingly, while they stayed in proximity, they blocked the headwind and made the run less unpleasant. They left my sight with half a mile to go, then nearing the finish line, I saw them drastically slowing their pace, prompting me to look at my watch to see if sub-two hours was still within reach. I sped up as much as my legs let me, crossing the finish in 1:59:27 at 13.22 miles on my COROS. Considering how weak I felt approaching the final stage, I was thrilled I managed to at least salvage a sub-two-hour 13.1, even if I did not run close to my potential perhaps due to the spontaneity of this trip, lack of sleep, and/or simply not having the best day.

At the Expo the day before, I stood by a backdrop runners sign that asked what inspired us to run, for which I wrote, after pondering for a while, “Community!” I often wonder this myself, as I still do not know if I truly enjoy running itself but certainly love connecting with humble and disciplined individuals who share the same hobby before, during, and after any running event. I doubt I would run as frequently as I do without the availability of races or community.

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