Monthly Archives: October 2013

Big Hit Half Marathon

This weekend we returned to the race of our half marathon PR.  The weather could not have been more different than our last half two weeks ago at the Southernmost Half Marathon in Key West.  SOMO start temp: 80.  Big Hit start temp:  33.   I must admit, I am not yet into the winter running mode, and am not in practice in properly layering.  However, I luckily hit the nail on the head on this one.

We arrived early to get in a couple of miles before the race, since we were scheduled to run 15 miles this weekend for our WDW Marathon training.  We were not as early as we wanted to be, so we cut it to 1.5.  Even then, we were not able to get a restroom break before the start since the lines were so long by that point.  We decided we would just hit some along the way.  Not the best choice.

Downtown Louisville start

Downtown Louisville start

As you can see from the home plate in the race logo above, “Big Hit” is a baseball reference.  The race started just outside Louisville Slugger Field, a minor league stadium.  The finish was at home plate, but more on that later.  This is a small to medium-sized race with about 900 runners as far as I could tell from the bib listings.  As a result, the start was smooth, and not very crowded.  We lined up at the 11 minute mile pace sign, and we were on our way.

Big 4 Pedestrian Bridge

Big 4 Pedestrian Bridge over the Ohio River

The race headed out River Road for a short out and back before we headed back toward downtown Louisville.  It was a beautiful morning for a run, and we started out at a comfortable pace.  At about mile 1.5 we saw some porta pots off to the side of the course with no line.  Score!  Well, not really.  They were locked!  Teases!

Sunrise over the Ohio and the Clark Memorial Bridge

Sunrise over the Ohio and the Clark Memorial Bridge

Belle of Louisville

Belle of Louisville

After about a minute delay for that failed mission, we made our way down River Road, past the Belle of Louisville steamboat.  We were regretting not being able to make that bathroom stop before the race.  The comfortable pace was not so comfortable any more.  Just past mile two, at the water stop, we spotted some porta potties with only one person in line.  Great!  Well, not so fast yet again.  I think the two folks in the porta pots ahead of us, and the one in line, were the slowest restroom-break-takers I have ever seen.  That was a VERY frustrating 4 minute stop in the middle of a run.  We weren’t necessarily shooting for a PR, but we are a competitive couple, and it was still a pain in the rear.  If we didn’t have pains in the bladders, we would have moved on.  But we weren’t taking any chances.

After that annoyance, we continued on through downtown Louisville, past the KFC Yum! Center, and past the Louisville Slugger factory, home of the world’s largest bat.

World's larges Louisville Slugger

World’s largest Louisville Slugger

The race then took us out of downtown, where the 1/4 marathon race turned off, and we continued toward U of L and Churchill Downs.  This is a gorgeous stretch of the run, following tree-lined streets with stately old homes.  There were bands spaced along the course, which was great, and there was some good crowd support at spots along the course.

U of L - The sun never really came out from behind that cloud line

U of L – The sun never really came out from behind that cloud line

Much of the way out toward Churchill Downs, we had the great 2:30 pace group leader near us.  She cheered loudly for each and every runner she passed on the out and back portion of the course.  It was certainly a pick-me-up, and it was great to see all the smiles she caused.  We had made it a goal to catch her after our bathroom delay.  We did that by mile 6, and we were out of earshot by about mile 8.5.  The race turned around at mile 8 outside Churchill Downs and made its way back to Slugger Field.  (We got a cheer of our own from the 2:30 pace girl!)  I really like this part of the course too.  It is essentially a 4 mile stretch that feels downhill back toward the river, and it follows that same tree-lined street.

We were able to see the folks still heading out on our way back, which is always interesting. We saw the last of the runners heading the other way.  Right behind them were the sweepers.  Not just any ordinary sweepers.  The Big Hit doesn’t mess around when it comes to sweepers!

When the say sweepers, they mean it!

When they say sweepers, they mean it!

We continued back through downtown Louisville and made our way back to Slugger Field.  The route takes runners in through the center field fence, around the warning track, down the third base line, and finishes at home plate, which makes for a great experience to end the race.  We finished our 11th half marathon strong, with a pretty decent pace for us.  It was more than twenty minutes faster than the SOMO just two weeks prior, and knowing that we blew about 4 minutes on bathroom issues, we felt pretty good about our time.  What a difference 40+ degrees makes!

Home Plate Finish

Home Plate Finish

Not a fan of the steps to get out after 13.1

Not a fan of the steps to get out after 13.1

Great use of the scoreboard for the spectators

Great use of the scoreboard for the spectators

A lot of people make a big deal about running through Angel stadium at the Disneyland Half (me included) or Champion Stadium at Disney World, but having the opportunity to finish on home plate at Slugger Field tops both of those for me.  Sure, the crowd is smaller than Angel Stadium, but the experience is certainly better than finishing in some parking lot.

I like to think the Big Hit is an undiscovered gem.  It has a great course, good organization, enthusiastic volunteers, and a really cool finish.  Maybe I am just biased because it home to our PR.  So be it.  I hope to be back again next year.

Southernmost Half Marathon – Hot and Gorgeous


I wonder how many will land here after they Googled looking for something totally different?

Hot and Gorgeous.  That is how I would describe the inaugural Southernmost Half Marathon (SOMO).  It was hot.  Really hot.  It was gorgeous.  Really gorgeous.  It was memorable for the good parts, and just as memorable for the not so good.

I had been looking forward to this race for quite a while.  I love Key West, and having the chance to get a closer look by running through the streets and past the landmarks was something I could not pass up.  Luckily, this race fell during our son’s fall break, so we made a vacation out of it.

We came to the keys the weekend before, and spent the week enjoying all they had to offer.  This also gave us time to attempt to get adjusted to the heat.  My wife, Joyce, and I ran a couple of times during the week to see what it was like in the heat.  We knew it was going to be a challenge, just like it was in Disneyland, maybe even more so.  I was just glad I was not running the marathon.  We picked up our packets early on Thursday before the Saturday race while we were in Key West.  In a nice twist, they provided hats in addition to t-shirts for all the runners.

Then, on Saturday we got up early and headed down to Key West for the 6:45 a.m. start.  The race started right outside the Rum Barrel restaurant.  This was a smaller race, with 650 or so runners between the Marathon and Half, so the start was very smooth.

Past the Duval Street Lighthouse

Past the Duval Street Lighthouse (so fast it was blurry)

We headed out toward the Truman Annex and into Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.  This route was classic Key West, and provided some great scenery.

Tree-lined streets in the early dawn

Classic Key West

As we exited this area and headed toward the beach, the sun was starting to rise.  Although it made for a gorgeous atmosphere, we knew it was about to feel a lot hotter.

The sunrise did not disappoint.  It was truly priceless.

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Then came the beach stretch.  That is when the heat started to announce its presence.  It is one thing when it is hot and dark out.  It is quite another when it is hot and the sun is up.  The stretch along the beach provided us with some great views, but was also a challenge since there was no shade to help.


They had a conch train of cheering fans and cowbells that made a couple of appearances.  This was a cool idea, since there was not much of a crowd on the rest of the course.   There were a couple of pockets of ardent supporters though.  One group at the beach was still there, misting hose in hand, cheering on the remaining marathoners hours later when we were on our way out of Key West.

The Conch “Cheer” Train

We ran out Roosevelt along the beach to the turn-around at about mile 7.5.  The heat really started to get to Joyce at that point, and by mile 9 she was really struggling.  At first, we extended our walk breaks, but in short order we were simply walking.  The last four miles ended up being mostly a walk, punctuated by an oncoming mass participating in the cancer walk, which happened to share part of the same course.

On our way back. . .

We finally made it back to Whitehead Street and trudged to the finish line back at the Rum Barrel to complete our 10th half-marathon.  Our time was over 20 minutes slower than our time at the Columbus Half just two weeks before. What a difference the temperature makes.  Still, it was great to be able sit on the top deck of the Rum Barrel and watch the Marathon finishers come in, and there is no shortage of post race shopping and entertainment in Key West.   


This was a tough run.  The type than can make someone really contemplate why they do this.  It was no fault of the race organizers.  They did a great job.  The course was beautiful and flat, the volunteers were awesome, the race swag was cool, and it was in Key West. However, it was South Florida in October, and the weather was challenging.  It ultimately won out on this day, as far as time goes.   But we finished.  We got to see parts of Key West we had not seen in our many prior visits.  We got to spend time together (though I was grumpy for a few miles of it), and we got to take part in a unique event.

In the Keys, you will often see a sign that says “If you are lucky enough to be in the Keys, you are lucky enough.”  That thought can be applied to so many things in life.  If you are lucky (and blessed) enough to be able to run 13.1 miles in Key West, you are lucky enough.  So true, and that is what I will take away from this run.  No matter how challenging the heat was, the course was just as beautiful, and we were blessed to be able to be there to experience it.  I would certainly recommend it if you ever get the chance.

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Mill Race Half Marathon

This year marked the inaugural Mill Race Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5k, which took place in Columbus, IN.  We ran the half marathon as part of our training for the Walt Disney World Marathon  coming up in January.   I must say, for a first year event, it was stellar.  Even the governor of Indiana, who is from Columbus, participated in the 5k.   The event included a two day expo prior to the Saturday races, as well as an after party in downtown Columbus.  That after party included rock climbing, activities for kids and adults, and even a zip line through downtown Columbus.  We had to leave right after the race, so we did not get to experience that firsthand though.

As for the race,  I must say I was a bit worried as the weekend approached.  The weather man was calling for high temps in the mid-80s, and I was having flashbacks of the heat of the Dumbo Double Dare.  However, the morning started out in the upper 50s, and we could not have asked for better weather for the first part of the race.    The race started in downtown Columbus, just outside the Cummins Corporate Headquarters.  (Cummins is the world’s foremost manufacturer of diesel engines – which explains the medal you will see later).

Quiet Starting Line

Quiet Starting Line

Not So Quiet Starting Line

Not So Quiet Starting Line

The race then wound through its namesake, Mill Race Park.  The park was beautiful at that time in the morning, with sunlight streaming through the trees, and fog rising from the ponds.  It was really a great start to the race.  There was a rather narrow stretch right after the start, but it was nothing compared to some of the Disney races we have been in.

Entering Mill Race Park

Entering Mill Race Park

Gorgeous Morning For A Run!

Gorgeous Morning For A Run!

After exiting Mill Race Park, entered the streets of Columbus.  The city is known for its architecture, and the race course took us by several interesting sights.  All in all, it was a great course:  Flat, with plenty of great sights and shade.  The crowds were awesome all along the course, the volunteers were very enthusiastic, and the bands on the course were great.  It seems the community really embraced this event.  Below are some of the views from the course.

We were really impressed by this race.  The course, again, was great, and we saw some wonderful sights along the way, including one particularly touching running group.

“Today, I’m Running A Marathon With My Hero: My Dad.”

Since this was a training run on the way to the WDW Marathon, and with the questions about the weather, we were not really gunning for a PR.  However, for the first 11 miles, we ran a pace that was faster than our prior best.  In the end, we missed it by about 2 minutes, but it was good to know we could get close, especially after the beating it felt like the summer gave us.

The crowd for the finish was great, and we got a very unique medal out of the effort, which paid homage to Cummins.  After this inaugural event, I cannot wait to do it again next year.

Great crowd lining the finish.

Medal with a Cummins Engine on it!

Medal with a Cummins Engine on it!

Now its off to the Southernmost Half Marathon.  No doubt that one will be a hot one, but it is Key West, so I am not complaining!  There is no shortage of icy drinks to cool you off. . .