What a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:
The 36th Annual New Bedford Half Marathon
Last Sunday was a cool day, about 40° and windy, but no rain or snow. Somebody was looking out for us runners this time!
About six of us from The Melrose Running Club made the one-hour trek to New Bedford. We ended up parking on the street as the lots and parking garage appeared to be full. As we walked over to the YMCA to get our numbers and race packet we began to realize how cold it really was. Seeing the Atlantic, the wind seemed a lot colder.
The race organizers, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, had things well-organized. They had a guy at the exit door directing us to the entrance. There was a guy inside the gym looking up race numbers for everyone so we didn’t have to go find them on a sheet taped to the wall.
I stood in line for my number about 2 minutes and they had me on my way in another two minutes. Conveniently, they had about twenty porta potties in the parking lot across the street and that is where we headed next.
After taking care of business we all headed back to the car and changed into our running clothes. Because it was so cold I kept my long running pants on and wore my Under Armor shirt, a cotton BAA shirt that I love, my vest and my 2012 Boston Marathon jacket. Only one person gave me shit for wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day. But I seem to recall that orange in one of the three colors in the Irish flag.
Gail bundled up pretty well also but Jeff wore shorts, shirt and a running jacket. As we walked to the starting line it felt cold. Being that close to the ocean each breeze was especially bracing.
I chowed down on a Cliff bar and tried to get RunKeeper ready for the race. Several times my phone reverted back to being a phone and I had to re-start RunKeeper. But, unlike my Garmin 410 watch, it found the satellites in no time and didn’t freeze up on me.
Here is a link to an article written by Tim Weisberg of The Standard-Times of New Bedford. He was on the media truck and has a good account of the lead pack of runners in this race. The page for this article also has related stories of interest.
A media truck. How cool is that?
The race was very congested for the first mile as we moved out onto Purchase Street. At about 1.25 miles we got to the I-195 overpass. I thought this was the hill that some people joked about and others seemed to respect. It wasn’t that bad. The road went down the other side of the highway and shortly after rose again. I thought, this must be the hill. I could feel my legs working now and Jeff started to stay in front of me.
At about mile 3.5 we hit the hill that everyone was talking about. The elevation went from about 75 feet to 175 feet in about a half mile. Now my legs were working! Other people were working harder and I passed a lot of people on this hill.
I took the hill a lot easier than I could have. I planned to save my energy and use it to cover some ground on the flat sections of the race. My buddy Jeff kept moving further ahead and part of me tried to keep up as part of me tried to run smart.
This is Garmin’s elevation map which somehow misses the last hill at mile 12 completely.
As I crested the hill I felt that easing of effort to move forward like the wind had changed direction. We had some downhill and then another hill at mile four. This was our last hill until mile 12. But everyone had talked about one hill. Including the highway over pass I had just run up three hills? This surprise series of hills caused me to use up more energy than I had planned.
As I approached mile three I took my first GU. With two hills down, I could see the next one. I had a 500ml bottle of water with me and washed down the GU. My plan was to get over the “hill” without wasting too much energy, but that was not working out. I hoped the GU this early would help compensate for my lack of course knowledge.
The course was mostly flat for the next eight miles with minor hills here and there. We were on main thoroughfares that offered us a grand tour of some of New Bedford’s neighborhoods.
New Bedford is an old New England city with a proud and storied past. At one time it had been the whaling capital of the world. Those days are now long past and the city reminded me of Hartford in many ways. Like so many cities with once flourishing economies the streets are now lined with nail shops and hair salons, auto body shops and dicey looking corner stores.
These great old cities strive to re-invent themselves and adapt to the times. It is not easy and does not appear to be hugely successful in either New Bedford or Hartford. I saw a lot of empty store fronts with hopeful “For Lease” signs in the windows.
As we came down Rockdale Ave and turned onto Cove road I got my first good view of the Atlantic. I love the ocean and tried to look out at its beauty as much as possible. Many runners had their heads down and were digging deep as we passed mile seven. I still felt okay even though I knew several miles back that I would not be setting a new PR. Somewhere around here I took another GU and finished my water bottle.
Cove Road turned right onto West Rodney French Boulevard and headed out onto the peninsula. After tucking inland for a half mile or so we were back along the ocean from about mile 8 to mile 9. For the first seven miles we had been in town and off the water. It may have been 40°, but with the sun and absence of wind I was way over dressed.
Somewhere around mile four or five I had to execute a complicated move to get 3 GUs from my jacket pocket into the pocket of my vest which was under my jacket and running belt. I managed this maneuver while holding onto my running gloves and a bottle of water. I did all of this because I was so hot I was thinking of taking my jacket off. Fortunately I left my un-zipped jacket on.
Running out onto the peninsula, the cool breezes hit us and I was happy to zip up my vest and tuck my jacket back into my belt.
As we approached the turn onto South Rodney French Boulevard, I saw The University of Massachusetts Marine Research Station on the water front. That’s what I saw on the building but the official name is UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST). That was exciting to see.
We always hear about the dot-com whiz kids and hackers who make a million dollars on a smart phone app. The less sexy engineering, biology and other pursuits going on in this facility will produce a corporeal result that will not fill the shelves of Best Buy but may fill your plate and the buildings along Main Street in New Bedford and countless other seagoing communities. This is a place where ideas are turned into reality: money, jobs and occupied store fronts. There isn’t much that’s more exciting than that.
SMAST was almost exactly at mile 9. About a quarter-mile down the road we passed the US Coast Guard Station and as we turned left onto South Rodney French Road the Butler Flats Lighthouse came into view. It’s an odd low-lying light that looks like it is anchored in an enormous iron pipe. It’s not on an island or shoals even. It’s just sticking out of the water. Not the most attractive lighthouse in New England by far.
We hit mile 10 on this road and at some point an enormous seawall arose on our right to block our view of the ocean. As East Rodney French Road turned into Cove Street this enormous wall turned left and we actually ran through the flood gate opening in this wall. The wall continued on the other side of the road and must have been thirty feet high. I had seen a huge wall like this on the other side of the peninsula but it never dawned on me that this held the ocean back when a hurricane or ‘Nor Easter blew through here. I was awed by engineering once again on this trek.
Cove Street brought us off of the peninsula and back into town. The road then turned right onto County Street and we ran through a residential neighborhood. The people of New Bedford deserve a lot of credit for coming out to support us. There were people on the curb in most residential areas and they were enthusiastic. Some handed out water or orange slices. They were just great. Thank you.
County Street turned right onto Kempton Street and then we turned onto Pleasant Street for the final hundred yards or so. As we passed mile 13 on Kempton Street the road started to decline and I said out loud to no one in particular, “where is that finish line”, and the guy next to me said “I don’t really care to see it”.
I was surprised to hear a statement like that but even more surprised when I recognized the voice. It was my buddy Chuck who I ran the Hartford Marathon with. We were both shocked. What were the chances? He said he had been following me for a while but did not know it was me.
We chatted for a bit between strained breathes and as the finish line came into view we both got down to business and hauled ass in for the last 50 yards or so. I was spent and he finally got ahead of me about 50 feet before the finish line. We had missed each other in Hartford but in New Bedford I recognized his voice!
My regular readers know what happened in Hartford. It was an adventure and test of will power to say the least. You can read my Hartford recap HERE.
After the race we went to the Y for some great food including fish sandwiches and fish chowder. It was good and hot and filled me up. Perfect. The cold drinks were Polar seltzers. Love the local flavor!
As we left to go to a bar, I needed to hit the porta potties again. The first four were occupied to I went to door #5. These were in a parking lot next to a busy street. I heard a large truck and figured it must be stopped at the light. But it began to sound like it was in the parking lot and I could hear two guys walking around outside and they sounded busy. So I’m standing there and it begins to dawn on me that they are here to collect these things and I’m standing inside of one! I began to pee with greater urgency and got the hell out of there.
Sure enough, there was a huge truck and trailer in the lot and two guys getting ready to load up all the facilities and haul them away. Now that would have been one hell of a ride down the highway!
Since we had just run 13.1 miles and it was St. Patty’s Day we headed for a local Irish Pub just down the street from The Y. The place was packed and they had two Irish bands. We were there for an hour or so and had fun chatting with other runners and quaffing a few ales and stouts.
At some point my friend Gail started talking to this guy. I had no idea who he was but thought he must have been someone she runs with. It turned out to be Geoff Smith. He seemed like a nice English guy and hung out with us for quite a while. On the way home I learned that this Geoff Smith had won The Boston Marathon TWICE and ran for the UK in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics! I didn’t get to talk to him much as my ears do not work so well in loud bars anymore. But I did get to shake his hand as we left.
A few years ago I managed to keep up with a runner who made it to the Olympic qualifying event a few years back. I was chagrined that I was able to keep up with her for several miles AND carry on a conversation. Now I can say I’ve tossed back a few with an actual Olympic athlete and Boston Marathon winner! I wish I could have talked to him more but I had no idea who he was and I was too tired to focus hard enough to partake in a conversation.
On the way home my “friends” talked me into running the Eastern States 20 Mile Race. I had just run a Half and not very well and was not in the mood to think about another race. But peer pressure and my ale weakened will gave in to the cajoling and I said yes.
For me this will not be a race, but a run. I’m going to call it my LSD Insanity Run. LSD means, long slow distance. I’ve been thinking about what to wear for the past few days. I’m going for a good time, not a fast time.
Run well my Friends,
© anagelin 2013