A Race in Charleston (no, I didn’t win)
Our beach front condo in Charleston, S.C.
By Valerie Quintanilla
I started running around 2002. I was working at a public relations agency on the Home Depot account. Home Depot sponsored a now defunct Denver race called The Governor’s Cup. I convinced my team lead that running the 10k qualified as client relations,and thus I was able to expense my registration. Don’t judge (well, do if you must, it’s not like I’ll ever know), I was 23 years old, my first job was at a PR agency (you try doing extras on that salary), student loans just kicked in – times were hard so I was being creative. Plus, I did get face time with client contacts, so everyone won.
After the race, I came upon a table with a group of lively women who called themselves the Colorado Columbines – an all women running group in Denver, Colo. All ages, abilities, and interests welcome. New to the world of running, I signed up. Nearly 10 years later I have traveled to the mountains, California, Oregon, and now South Carolina with various members of the group to run races. I completed my first marathon with the group, my first snowshoe race, many relay races, I love spring/summer track practice, I’ve made lifelong friends and running partners, and so much more. And, the running group membership pays for itself with discounts at Runners Roost and Boulder Running Company.
In December one of my favorite running pals mentioned a group was heading to Charleston, S.C. to do a marathon, The Second Annual Charleston Marathon. I immediately committed (after making sure there was a half-marathon).
|Three of us were doing the half;
four were in for the full 26.2.
There were seven of us making the trip, six flying together. We all managed to meet up at security. The sextuplets route: Denver to Chicago O’Hare > O’Hare to Charleston. We’d be in by 5 p.m., within minutes of our American Airlines buddy who was routed to Charleston via Miami.
When I saw those beautiful two words I always long to see upon check-in: “upgrade confirmed” I was immediately suspicious. What exactly did ORD have in storefor me today? Not only did I get to ride shotgun, but on a Triple 7. My reclining seat had footrests! C’mon, I’m only Premier with United (read my overview of the 2012 United Mileage Plus policy changes), there had to be a catch. In my few years of being a frequent flyer I’ve come to know ORD all too well. We have a hate-hate relationship: O’Hare is to me what Newman was to Seinfeld.
Arriving inthe Windy City I found a “travel alert” email. Due to weather, our flight was cancelled. Damn you, O’Hare! We found ourselves stuck in the airport for seven hours with two flights cancelled and finally (thankfully!) ended up on a flight to Charlotte, North Carolina (yes, I know, wrong Carolina, but at least we were getting to one of them – we weren’t in a postion to be picky). So, upon arrival in Charlotte we dragged ourselves to Hertz, rented a minivan and made the four-hour drive to Chucktown.
|Jane took first in her age group!
Oh, man that wind was ferocious. Mother Nature slapped me across the highway like a ping pongball. To our dismay, not only did the wind last the entire drive, but also was equally vicious in Charleston. Remember how we were doing a race in a day and half? Great.
It was frigid in Charleston. Frigid! A Pacific Northwest native, I know a little something about the temp variance from a dry climate to humid. So, when I saw temps projected for 55 degrees I knew it would be chilly, but when running I warm up quickly in more humid climates. That in mind, I’d packed shorts for the run and a light long sleeve shirt. Stupid, stupid, stupid: I should have known to have a back-up pair of running pants.
Those frigid winds pounded us THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE RACE. Realizing the wind would be unrelenting a few of us bought running arm warmers at the expo. That was about the best $10 I’ve ever spent. I had those puppies on till about mile eight. My long sleeve stayed on the entire race – definitely unexpected, but it was necessary to shield the wind. The whole race I wished I had long or even short pants. Around mile eight my calves began threatening to rage against the machine for leaving them exposed. Luckily, the cramps stayed at bay, allowing me to finish strong.
All in all, it was one of my best halves. Generally, I get my surge around mile six and by mile 10 I’m hurting, with three miles to go. I’m not sure if it was the wind or maturity, but I maintained a nice, steady pace for nine miles, then I charged.
Those last couple miles (for the half, the marathoners weren’t so lucky) took us out to the water, so it was quite scenic. The race bibs had runners’ names big enough for spectators to see for cheering. I passed a girl with about .25 of a mile to the finish. As I was bearing down on that finish line I could hear, “GO ERICA!!” from the crowd. Damnit, my name is not Erica. I was going to have to race this bad boy in. Till I heard the screams I really believed I was giving it my all. I took a quick peek behind me and sure enough, there was the redhead right on my tail. No way, sister. You’re not getting in first. I hit it into gear. Amazing how .05 of a mile can suddenly seem so long when someone is trying to pass you. By the skin of my teeth I held her off! I am very competitive, and I often joke that I’m a worse winner than loser. But, the reality is, I LOVE being pushed. So, I walked right up to Erica to thank her for that extra push and the fun finish. She wouldn’t even look at me. It was really disappointing. If we’re being technical, we didn’t even really know who “won” because it’s unlikely we started at the same time with the big crowd, that was told by our chip times. I’ve had some of my most fun races leap frogging people and then talking to them later about how fun it was to push each other – most of the time I’ve never even met the person before that day.
|Best part: post-race beer!
The finisher area was pretty interesting. For food participants got shrimp and grits. Oh, yeah, I found my new favorite post-race grub. Throw on some jalapenos, douse it with hot sauce, and I’m happy. But, the beer line. We must talk about the beer line because to me this is the most important logistical aspect of the race (after making sure the distance is accurate, natch). It was a good quarter mile back and they were only able to help two people at a time. By the time my running/beer buddy and I made our way to the front they were nearly out of the good craftbeer, meaning only some light beer was left. First of all, let’s think this through: you’re dealing with runners. Racers have either completed a half or a full marathon, do you really think they are worried about calories at that moment? It baffles me as much as the excessive amount of extra large shirts race organizer orders. I hate when I end up with a nightgown despite asking for a small – simply because the folks manning the shirt line don’t check bibs that list the size ordered. Second, at this point none of the marathoners had even crossed the finish line. So, the people who really deserve the good stuff are going to get stuck with a light beer – trust me, if they drink beer, they don’t want light. Sheesh. So, that’s my vote for “Area for Improvement”for Charleston race officials next year. Mad props on the post-race food, major fail on the beer line.
All in all, it was a great race – a good reminder that Mother Nature is always in charge and deserves our respect. I would definitely do the race again. And, proceeds all go to the arts!
The race course started out through some cool parts of historic Charleston, looping through neighborhoods and stayed flat pretty much the entire way. I think it was around mile seven that we got our only real hill. It wasn’t that bad, and it came complete with a down to complement the up, so I was happy. PS – I missed my PR (personal record for a half) by about a minute. My guess is the wind held back a lot of PRs that day. Oh well, there’s always the next 13.1!
Sadly, it didn’t make me feel better when all the locals told us it was unseasonably cold and the forecast for the day after we left was in the 70s. Win some, lose some.
We checked out Fort Sumter the day after the race. I grew up in Vancouver, Wash., the home of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Not gonna lie, Sumter ain’t got nothing on Fort Vancouver. To me, it was a bit anticlimactic. If you find yourself in the ‘Couve, check it out.
Anysuggestions on our next destination race?