Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, AKA the race I was going to run with my sister, Kristen, in October, but that was postponed over a month because of the government shutdown. The majority of the race is on the George Washington Parkway, which is managed by the US Parks Department and therefore they couldn't grant special event permits during the shutdown.
So over a month later I found myself waking up at 4:30 am alone to get ready for the race. Not only did I have to train for another month and run alone, I also had to run in colder (and darker) weather by a month. But I managed to get another few weeks of long runs in and was feeling ok for the race. At 5 am I got an Uber Car and directed him to Hoffman Plaza where I had to catch a bus to the start. The trip went smoothly and we arrived at the parking lot at 5:30 and I was on a bus soon after.
|riding the bus to the start|
Runners on the bus were mostly asleep. We arrived at the starting line at 6 am and were forced of the warm bus. Not long after we got there the sun started to come up.
My bus arrived right before the huge rush of people so I was in and out of the porta potties in no time and just picked a spot near the bag check to hang out awhile before handing over my warm clothes.
|pretty trees by the bag check|
I wasn't as unbearably cold (even though I hadn't planned for the 5 degrees colder it was in Mt.Vernon than in DC) as I expected and decided I would go forth with my plan to wear shorts a T-shirt and gloves. I headed over to the start around 6:50, easily got to the 8-9 min pace corral and after a short speech and national anthem we were off at 7.
For those of you not familiar with Mt. Vernon or the GW Parkway, it is positioned along the Potomac River and surrounded by trees. For the first two miles it was silent but for the pounding of feet. There was also a little morning fog in the air and I felt very one with nature. The parkway is full of rolling hills and the first two miles of the race were mostly downhill, which makes it hard to go out slow. I decided to take advantage of the downhills and my second mile was my fasted (not exactly ideal).
The first eight miles were absolutely gorgeous. The trees were all shades of fall and we had river views every once in awhile, but it was a lot of the same, which made it hard for me to keep my pace up. There were a few people cheering along the parkway. Several people were on bikes riding on the trail and I saw them cheering several times along the route (thanks!).
Soon enough we could see the bridge and it looked massive. The hill on the bridge wasn't terrible, but we were on the pedestrian path, which narrowed from the road quite a bit. A few people started walking on the bridge which made it hard to pass people and keep my momentum up.
Apparently the photographers didn't want to spread out and were stationed one after another on the other side of the bridge.
I started eating my Gu right before mile 8 and was still working on it here at mile 10.
I had read in a few race recaps that there was a major hill on the Maryland side of the race right before the finish, but I didn't know how major. So when we had a few uphills I thought maybe we were done. Until I got to the actual hill at mile 12 and knew this was the hill they were talking about. According to my watch it was an elevation gain of 130 ft in one mile and I slowed down by almost a minute to climb it. Luckily after that hill there was some downhill, but then we hit the gravel portion of the race. I read that it was like 70 ft, but either I don't know distance or something changed because it was more like a quarter mile on gravel.
I saw the 13 mile sign and decided to kick it up for the final .1. Only we couldn't see the finish line and with every turn we made and I still didn't see the finish line I think I slowed a bit. There had to be 6 major turns in the last .1 as we looped through the National Harbor shoreline. Finally the finish!
Official time: 1:51:40 an overall 8:32 pace.
|finish line selfie the namesake bridge in the background|
At the finish line we got a medal, gatorade, water, a banana, bagels, and a beer. They didn't have any heat blankets or anything, but bag check was quick. They had a band playing and a few booths, but I exhausted my interest in the area before they got around to announcing the winners. We had to walk a few blocks back to buses to take me back to the Hoffman Center where I jumped on the Einsenhower Metro.
|The bridge, the Potomac, the course, and me!|