Friends, I ran another race! This was only a half-marathon, but it was truly a feat in itself. Take cooler temperatures, an already hilly course, never-ending rainfall, and 13.1 miles and let’s just say the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon was the hardest race I have ever ran.
Let me start by saying, I feel like this was my first big girl race! We started by attending the Publix Atlanta Marathon Weekend Expo this past Saturday (February 26th), and it was so much fun. They held it at the Georgia Aquarium, which was a first for this race. While you were in a separate ballroom to the side of the aquarium (needed a paid ticket to get actual entry into the aquarium), we still were able to glimpse some views of the beluga whales and a large tank that had some whale sharks, rays, sharks, and tons of different fish. It was the perfect amount of aquarium views, and Nathan and I did not feel the need to pay the extra $30 per person to enter the aquarium since we have visited many times. This was on the smaller side of race expos (or so I have been told by others), but it was still a fun thing to experience for the first time. When you enter they had you pick up your race bib and then t-shirt. The t-shirt was a green long sleeve Adidas dry-fit style shirt, and I’m truly obsessed with it. You then were able to enter the expo portion. They had you enter through a section featuring Atlanta Track Club merch. I thought everything was great quality, and this was a great place to pick up a souvenir or to find a last minute race-day outfit. It was expected to rain on Sunday (the day of the half-marathon and marathon) so they did have some great windbreaker/rain jacket options available. After this section you enter into the sponsored part of the expo. This is where they had several different vendors and companies from around Atlanta showcasing their products and items. We stopped by Monday Night Brewing’s booth, where they had some free samples of beer to try. They also had some free discount cards that could be used at either of their locations. We then headed over to the Coke Zero booth where they were handing out a cold Coke Zero to each person. The Atlanta Hawks hosted a booth there, and they even had a fun basketball game to keep attendees entertained. They also had some more athletic vendors selling treadmills and watches. Publix had a huge section since they were the primary sponsor of the event. There were plenty of photo spots around the expo to document the race weekend. Our last stop was by the pace team booth. Here you have the option to sign up for a pace team! They will hand you a bib that you can put on the back of your shirt that basically says what your pace goal is for the event (mine was 2:15). After talking to the volunteers working this booth, this is completely optional and you can stick with any pacing group during your race as long as they are in your designated corral (I was in Group D). This was really about all there was to the expo. You were not given any free parking, and since this was the middle of downtown Atlanta, you were paying at least $10, no matter where you parked. If you do end up going I suggest not parking in the Aquarium parking lot since that was the most expensive in the area. We ended up parking at the World of Coke for around $12.
Fast forward to race day. It was in the 40s. A near constant rain since about midnight the night before. The streets were damp, and there didn’t seem to be any chance they were going to cancel the race. I brought my only pair of waterproof headphones, a protective ziploc bag for my phone, and we started to head towards the race. Since it is such a hard area to find parking, I had Nathan drop me off around Centennial Olympic Park, and I walked the perimeter of the park to get to the race start. I got to the race area around 6:30, with the race planning to start around 7:00 AM. There was troves of people headed that way, so there wasn’t really any issues with safety or getting lost. They did have a good number of portable toilets available for people to use and almost at every water stop along the course. The streets were damp when I arrived to my race corral area, and there was a light mist coming down. I chose not to risk wearing my AirPod Pros since I did not know if they could handle a heavy rainfall. Instead I chose to wear a cheap pair of bluetooth headphones I had bought years before at TJ Maxx. This definitely proved to be a mistake early on in the race. Everything was pretty well organized, and volunteers were constantly telling you where to go and line up. Since we were Group D, we didn’t actually cross over the start line till about 15 minutes after 7. They had a DJ at this area and someone on a microphone to guide people with directions and instructions.
It was finally time for our corral to start the race. I had already set up Nathan to be notified through their athlete tracking program. So he would be notified when I crossed the 5k line, the 10k line, and the 15k line. He did say it was slightly hard to keep up with, but I did think it was a super cool feature of this race. I felt great at the start of the race, and probably went a little too quick towards the beginning, but there is always a desperate need to separate yourself from the millions of runners around you. They had hydration stations with water and powerade every 2 miles. The course was truly an experience, and even though I have now lived in Atlanta for 4 years, I didn’t recognize anything until the latter half of the miles. The course did bring you through some fun historic spots like the MLK Center, and neighborhoods like Little Five Points and Virginia Highlands. The last couple of miles were around Georgia Tech, which made for really fun spectators that last portion of the race. I think this race during normal weather is probably so much fun, but it was a pretty miserable race in the rain. The rain was very cold, and I’m pretty sure it was either hailing or sleeting at one point in the race. At least half of the race was uphill, so if I have any training advice for you on this race weekend, it is to not skip out on your hill workouts! They are basically “rolling hills”, and there were truly too many to count on the course. Even the finish line was on the very top of a what felt like, never-ending, hill. My headphones died about 20 minutes in, which definitely made for a “fun” race. Despite that, I do feel like I was very mentally prepared for this race, and I kept myself entertained by talking to other races or thanking volunteers and spectators. Despite the horrible conditions, there was still volunteers at every stop, and there was never an issue with traffic or cars on the course.
I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty details of this race, because it was just hard and challenging. I told Nathan at the end that it wasn’t testing my physical stamina, it was testing my mental endurance. I feel I had prepared pretty well to be able to hit a PR, but trying to hit that pace on the day of the race would have resulted in injury in these kind of conditions. I barely recovered after the race with a warm bath, and I am still feeling slightly under the weather 3 days later. There was a lot of what they call “dead space” on this course, especially in the last couple of miles. It made for an even harder race than expected. At the end of the race you were awarded your medal, and they did have a station set up with some random after race snacks (literally gogurt, cheez its, and bananas from what I remember). I did not stick around in the area because I was desperate for warmth, but I know they did have some engraving stations for you to engrave your race time on the back of the medal which was a really cool touch! I did not have Nathan waiting for me at the finish, one, because it was pouring down rain, and two I really didn’t want him to have to pay for another day of parking. It was difficult navigating the road closures and trying to find a good spot for him to pick me up when I was walking on tired legs. I eventually found him, and enjoyed a warm biscuit on the ride home as a post race reward.
Overall, it was honestly a very hard race. It was challenging conditions. I felt like I started at a disadvantage. It is always disheartening knowing you could have done better if the conditions had allowed it. I am very proud of how I handled the race and my pacing, even if I had to walk for portions. Running on wet blistered feet is no joke, and I didn’t want to make any injuries worse than they already were. I do think this would be a really fun race on a normal weather weekend with all the spectators out and cheering. I also think this would still not be my top choice for a race. If you have never been to Atlanta before, I think it would be a great way to experience the city in a weekend, but I probably wouldn’t recommend doing it more than once. And for those living in Atlanta, it definitely was not the most exciting race by any means.
I am excited for many more races soon! I hope to be signing up for a 5k and 10k race over the summer, if just for some validation that I am a good runner and can enjoy a race! I would love to PR these races, but if anything it will just be a part of my marathon training. I’m planning to sign up for a marathon in September in North Atlanta that was literally made for the purposes of getting a Boston qualifier. It is 26 laps around a 1 mile flat course. It is bright and early on the morning of Labor Day so it will definitely be an experience. I’m really hoping for a Boston qualifier with this race, but I know I definitely have a ways to go on decreasing my time, especially with higher mileage. I have also been talking with Nathan about possibly doing the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World in January of next year. This would be the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon all in one weekend. I have never ran a race at Disney before, despite being the biggest Disney fan, so I am feeling slightly overwhelmed at the planning and preparation behind it. I definitely feel like I’m only just starting my racing journey with higher mileage, and I am so thankful for the best supporter in my husband Nathan as I pursue a lot of big racing goals over the next few years!
Let me know any RunDisney race tips down below if you have done any of the races or Dopey before!