Can you believe the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K has already come and gone? We spend all these months training and planning for race day and build up all this anticipation and excitement for race weekend and - in the blink of an eye - the weekend is over as quickly as it started.
The race, held on April 2nd, fell on a very wet and balmy weekend. The weather wasn’t quite as ideal as last year’s. In fact, the Doppler radar showed Savannah completely entrenched in various shades of deep dark green. Ugh, Mother Nature can be so iffy. You never know what you’re gonna get (channeling my inner Gump) and since you can’t control the weather, you can at least take charge of the situation given. I knew I was going to run this thing - rain or shine - so I went ahead and prepared myself mentally to run in the rain (which meant just throwing a visor on top of my stack of clothes).
Well whaddya know? Someone must’ve put on his/her boogie shoes and rocked out a mean rain jig, because although cloudy, the rain thankfully held out for the race. I’m glad because with 70% of runners coming from out of town, I would hate for the race to be canceled and their missed opportunity to run this beautiful course - which by far, is my favorite locally! You are truly running through the prettiest parts of Savannah. Half marathoners run around 12 historic squares, while the 5K weaves around 4. It’s the perfect “run tour” to view the city’s historic layout, rich in architecture with the magnificent homes and wrought iron fences (which inspired the race logo), Spanish moss-draped oaks, lush green trees, bright and colorful varieties of azaleas in bloom everywhere, historic Grayson Stadium, and a finish line right around the iconic fountain in Forsyth Park. Trust me when I say this course is absolutely gorgeous!
I woke up to a dreary gray and cloudy morning, however, Forsyth Park was teeming with excitement full of runners dressed in bright pastels and neons. I made my way to the start line area and waited for my cue to begin singing the National Anthem to kick off the race. As I stood there waiting, I spent those minutes being present and taking in my surroundings. I watched all these runners (obviously the majority were women, with a few men sprinkled here and there) with big smiles on their faces. Some looked nervous, some were checking their watches, and some were bunched up in groups taking selfies at the race start. I closed my eyes briefly and could feel the intensity of their energy, soaking in their chatter and laughter. When I opened them, I was looking at women of all ages, color, shapes, and sizes. It was an amazing scene to see women empowering one another. I took a deep breath and exhaled, getting all the nervous jitters out, and couldn’t help but feel thankful to be a part of this community and proud of Savannah for putting on a women’s race!
I had just been a part of the Runner’s World Getaway, a running retreat for women, over on Hilton Head Island a few weeks ago. I left feeling renewed, energized, and empowered. Deena Kastor, a bronze Olympic medalist was our featured guest and most of all, a huge source of inspiration. We talked a lot about women empowerment and supporting one another. There has been a tremendous increase in the numbers of women running and the numbers continue to grow. In a study provided by Runner’s World, 61% of half marathoners in 2014 were women. In 1990, women made up just a quarter of all runners. In 2014, it spiked up to 57%. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t quite that long ago when women were prohibited to race more than 1.5 miles. How insane is that?!
Just this week, I received my Runner’s World and Women’s Running magazine subscriptions - all of them highlighting the great Roberta “Bobbi” Gibbs and the movement she made for women in running. In 1966, this 23-year old’s Boston Marathon application was returned stating that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” Boy, did it light and fire, which only made her more hell bent and determined on running the Boston Marathon. On race day, Bobbi hid in the bushes waiting for her opportunity to jump in with the other runners and became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Not only that, she ran it fast! She completed it in 3:21:40 - beating more than half the field - wearing her brother’s Bermuda shorts, a bathing suit, a blue-hoodie, and some brand new men’s size 6 Adidas (back then, there weren’t any running gear for women). Wow!
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of when this 23-year old female defiant became the catalyst spurring the movement for women to participate in the Boston Marathon. It didn’t happen immediately. It wasn’t until 1972 when Title IX was enacted and women were officially allowed to run Boston. If you think about it, the first US Women’s Olympic Marathon was only introduced in 1984 (with Joan Benoit Samuelson winning it) and Bobbi Gibb wasn’t even recognized for her three consecutive Boston wins until 1996! Put it into perspective and you’ll see it hasn’t really been that long at all! And now look - we have races that are dedicated to women and in my hometown! Now that’s not to say that the Publix Women’s Half & 5K is only for women. Men are welcomed and encouraged to run it also!
As I finished belting the last notes of the National Anthem, I made my way to the start corral and found my girlfriends. I didn’t set a goal for the race and just wanted to run what felt good to me. No pressure! We had the best time running the race - gabbing the miles away and laughing at our silly selfies along the route. We would occasionally offer words of support to one another, as well as the other runners along the course. We were completely blown away by how far ahead Joy Regina was in taking the lead. She’s a fast one! It was truly inspirational to see her go! We cheered on our training pals who were in pursuit of some impressive PRs and they both killed it! I ended up finishing in 1:54 and I’m pretty happy with it! I felt great at the finish which means I could’ve given more effort. I’ll try it for another half marathon. It’s best to see how I can do without drinking beer the night before ;)
I was so happy for my friends who smashed their goals, as well as their personal bests. I was also proud of my friends who ran just for the pure enjoyment of being part of this beautiful running community. Most importantly, I was proud of all of us who toed the line and completed the race! You go girls! There were so many smiles and laughter on the course and that is such a beautiful sight to see. Overall, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K was a great race, despite the weather, and I’m looking forward to running next year and seeing this race continue to grow through the years!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!