The inaugural Publix Women's Half Marathon and 5K was held on March 28th in my beautiful hometown of Savannah, GA. We couldn't have asked for better weather for race day! It was a chilly morning in the upper 40s, but was ideal for us runners once we started pounding the pavement of familiar streets in the historic Savannah downtown, Daffin Park, and Ardsley/Chatham Crescent districts. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun gently spread its rays of light upon us - welcoming us to spring in Savannah with azaleas freshly bloomed along our route. Coupled with the support of Savannah's local running clubs volunteering at the water stops and the contagious energy in the air, the Publix Women's Half Marathon and 5K was a gorgeous experience and a huge hit for Savannah!
Several months before the race, I was asked to be a part of the roundtable discussion consisting of Savannah Sports Council, Fleet Feet, My Agency, and various women of our local running community on the specifics of the first women's half marathon making its debut in Savannah. We were all excited about the potential of this race and as an active runner and participant, it was interesting to see all the details and collaboration that go into planning a race from providing input on the logo to race swag to what would entice runners to travel to Savannah. My blog title, Savannah: Where Running is a Pleasure, was a clever play on words for Publix's theme suggested by Christine Powell, Fleet Feet's Marketing guru. I liked it so much, I had to borrow it for my blog title!
When training season started, I was one of the Fleet Feet CREW coaches for the advanced morning group training specifically for this race. The dedication, determination, and sheer willpower of these runners truly amazed me. They came out in rain, early, dark, bitter cold (ok - for Savannah) mornings to log their miles and work on their speed and endurance to chase down their PRs on race day. Within those few weeks, I developed some wonderful new friendships with my fellow CREWbies. It's been a great training season and on those runs, we had the best conversations, shared lots of laughs, and offered helpful running advice. We supported each other in other races and my CREW graciously put up with me as I would whip out my GoPro to snap photos of them to display for my GoPro run photography :)
Days leading up to the race were so exciting with events like the exclusive Ladies Night at Fleet Feet with New Balance, where the first 75 ladies got a complimentary New Balance engraved glass champagne flute and EOS lip balm. Our local race Ambassadors, Victoria Ten Broeck (Victoria Runs) and Claudia Deen, along with CREW Coach Nicole Mannor (Who Gives a Fit) and local runner, Andrea Goto, gave us a sneak peak as they modeled some of the New Balance gear that would be sold at the expo. The expo was small and intimate, but just right! It provided runners with local popular vendors, such as Satchel, Leopold's, Adam Turoni's Chocolatier, and Nourish - to name a few. The swag for the race was AWESOME! Participants received spiffy New Balance gym bags embroidered with the race logo rather than another finisher shirt, car magnets with race logo, and Publix gave out strainers, water diffuser bottles, and earbuds. Sweet! The only negative comment I heard was the desire for diverse women's sizes in the New Balance race-themed apparel, which is a valid point for a women's race.
The eve of the race, I was honored to emcee Savannah's Team In Training inspiration dinner. Team in Training was the chosen charity for the race and we had pretty good participation, especially through Seacrest Partners, who had 2 teams raising money for TNT. Our honored hero, Diane Woods, is an employee of Seacrest and is celebrating 10 years of remission. The Publix Women's Half would be her 3rd half. Her speech at the inspiration dinner left us all in tears! What an inspiration! I am so proud to be a TNT alum. Such a great organization!
There was no early night of rest for me, but is there ever the night before a race? I got home around 9 pm that night and laid out my outfit and gear for tomorrow's race. I had my Skirt Sports skirt inspired by Kathrine Switzer with my "fearless" booty billboard ready to wear the next morning, along with my Team in Training race shirt. Once that was done, I waited to pick up my son, Alex, from Savannah Arts. His soccer team traveled to Dodge County. They didn't get in until late and I didn't get home until 12:30 in the morning. Ugh! However, I still managed to get up and run my own PR on race day - 1:54:57! Alex even volunteered at the water stop/cheer station behind Savannah Arts. It was nice to see him on the course!
The course was nice for us locals who run the same familiar streets over and over again. I started off running with the 2-hr pace group, led by Melissa Ramsey. It was awesome. As we ran down Drayton Street, we were reminiscing back to the Savannah Mile - where you run a mile all out. We talked strategy for this year's race and lessons learned from last year. As we turned the corner, we continued chatting about how perfect the weather was for race day. I ran with my fellow CREWbie, Cat Hudson, for pretty much of the race. We split up around mile 10 after leaving Daffin Park. I felt good so I kicked it up and ended up running with a stranger I met on the course. It started off with me complimenting her on her tattoo and we were running side-by-side for the next 2 miles, chatting about training and all things running-related. At mile marker 13, I still felt good and began to shorten my strides to increase my speed. My goal was just to run a sub 2. I ran through the finish feeling awesome...which means I could've kicked it more during the race.
Overall, it was an awesome race and so was post-race. We had City Hotel and Listen 2 Three entertain us with live music and there were beer and mimosas to celebrate. I'm looking forward to it next year! Registration is already open for 2016!