I have a weird relationship with Savannah. My father’s side of the family comes from there (both father and step-father oddly). It was the place where my father died in 1966, the place where he is buried, and the place where his name is engraved among the honored police deaths. Though I have never personally lived there, and I had not been there since I was maybe 12-13, it feels almost like home. It was an odd feeling.
We drove up on Thursday and spent Friday hitting the Expo, walking along the river, having some good food, and trying to relax as much as we could before the race the next day. As usual, the expo at the Rock n’ Roll races are outstanding, and Rock n’ Roll Savannah was no exception. Very well run, easy to navigate, and full of useful items as last second issues arise, though we were lucky this time and really had not forgotten anything. We picked up our entries for the half marathon, the 5K, our all important shirts. Bought the obligatory hat and pins (now a tradition) and then made our way out of the madness.
Please Allow Me a Brief Prelude
We spent the rest of the day visiting my father’s grave, located at Forest Lawn just outside of town. As I said earlier, I have not been here since I was 13, so 40 years. It’s odd what you remember though. When talking to my mother about it a while ago I said I remembered a river, or water, being close to the grave. I distinctly recall my grandfather, who took us out there, becoming upset and walking away towards water. She said I was wrong, that there was no water.
We went to the office to get some sense of where his marker was, and found it pretty quickly. As I stood over the grave of the man I never really knew (he was killed when I was 3), I looked to the right and guess what was there … water.
Jennifer was with me so I was trying to hold it together, though I will admit to almost breaking down. I am not a cryer for the most part. Well, check that, I tear up at silly things, like the ending of “Toy Story 3”, or the beginning of “Up”, but family things never really get me upset. Except for this. When I was here at my younger age I remember breaking down and crying my eyes out, and now here I was, a 52 year-old man, about to have the same reaction. I am not sure why this is. I never knew him. I have vague memories, but they are the type that you are not sure you are actually remembering something, or just have heard the stories so much they have become real to you. It doesn’t matter really. The other thing that stood out for me was all around his grave were the graves of my other relatives that I was not expecting. Bland’s, Turner’s, everywhere. My grandparents (Cecil and Rose) two plots from his, my great-grandparents (Timothy and Mattie Lee) right next to them, my great-uncle and great-aunt (Timothy and Gladys) a few feet away, and my great great-grandparents (Harris and Ruby Turner) over to the right. My whole history under my feet. And I know very little about any of them. Something I need to correct.
Anyway, this is a RACE REPORT, so let’s get to it.
The news came out Friday that the expected temps were going to be very high. Unseasonable high, so we opted for singlets and got up early to walk down to the VIP area.
Side Note: If you are running a Rock n’ Roll and can afford it, opt for the VIP package. It is WELL worth it.
As soon as we walked out of the hotel we felt it. It was 75 and humidity was 100%. It was going to be a hot run, but we are from Florida. We train in this all the time, so we were not overly concerned. We also had planned on going slow and easy, so we were ready for the day. Others, unfortunately, were not.
We made our way to the starting corral and waited, along with about 20,000 plus others, to get started. The gun went off at 7:00 AM and we passed the starting line about 7:33. The plan was to fast walk the majority of the first half and then see how we felt.
I felt pretty good the first part. Was keeping my pace between 16-16:30 as planned, and got through in about 50 minutes. My feet started feeling it right at the end, which was odd because I have been running this distance with no issues leading up to the race. Not sure why this race hurt more. Heart rate stayed in the 140 range, so was optimistic about doing well in the end. The heat wasn’t at its peak yet, so hydration was on track as well.
The race took us through some pretty run down areas of Savannah. Neighborhoods where lines of houses were boarded up, brandishing signs of condemnation due to health concerns. If they were trying to show the best of Savannah they could not have picked a worse area to run through … I thought initially. But then the people came out. Here were people in an obviously run down section, at poverty or below it, with a bunch of (mostly) white people who have spent hundreds of dollars to run a race plowing through their neighborhood, and they lined the streets cheering us, wishing us well, clapping and motivating us. Even at one area where they were bringing our attention to a “death by cop” the citizen holding the signs were well wishing, yelling “all lives matter”, and telling us to “remember after the race”. It was impressive, and I hope it did not go unnoticed by the runners.
I was starting to hurt by this time, and Jennifer was ahead of me (as she usually is) when a police office (about mile 9) started announcing that the race was being shortened due to the heat and to return to the finishing line to collect our medals. At this point I was near the last person but there was a LARGE group behind me. Jennifer looked back and said she was going to keep going, and we had a group around us from South Florida that were going as well. I am not going to tell you it wasn’t hot. It WAS hot, but we train in this type of heat all the time. Even though we felt the heat none of us thought it was enough to make us stop, so we kept going.
My feet had started to hurt more so I had slowed up quite a bit, but was startled when a car came up beside me and asked if I was OK.
“Sure I am,” I said. “Just a little issue with sore feet. I’m OK.”
“The course has been cut off so you are free to make a right and head back,” she said. “It still counts!”
“No”, I stated. “It’s hot but I am feeling OK right now. It’s only 3 miles more.”
“Alright,” she answered. “You’re the last one so we have to follow you.”
I looked behind me and the horde of people who had been there 5 minutes ago were gone.
“Where did everyone go??” I asked.
“They all cut the course. You’re the last one that kept going!” she said. “Need some Gatorade??”
No. I am fine. Dammit.
I tried to start running a little more at this point but could only manage 1 minute intervals. My feet had enough by now, so I latched on to a few other runners and we kept moving toward the finish line.
Any race director who plans a course where the last two miles are mostly uphill should be slapped.
Now granted, these inclines were really not that bad, but with hurting feet and knees, it was the last thing I needed. But I persevered. I got through. Once we merged with the marathon group I wasn’t feeling like I was last anymore, and that helped. Crossing the finish, and getting that medal, felt good … better than normal because I knew I had given everything I had, and mostly because I had not given in the the temptation of cutting the course off short. I earned this medal. Slowest half marathon I have ever done (4:12:40), by a good 45 minutes, but I felt … right.
So, what does one do after a half marathon?
You get up the next day and run a 5K …
When I woke up I thought there was no way in hell I was going to get through a 5K. My feet were so sore, especially in the heels and Achilles, that I thought even walking was going to be a challenge. But I didn’t give in. The race was at 1:00 PM, which helped. I rested, walked around the room, and when we left for a late breakfast at 10 AM I was actually feeling pretty good. The feet were sore, yes, but I was walking decently, so I felt I could give it a good effort.
It was one of the best 3.1 runs I have had in a long time. When we started we were caught in a corral 5 ahead of where we should be, so just to keep up we had to run off the bat.
And it felt OK.
Holy Crap … I might be able to run this race???
I, as I often do, held back at first, thinking there was no way I should feel this strong after yesterday. The weather was a complete 180 degree turn. It was 61 degrees and raining (lightly), but once I got going, I was running 3-4 minute splits. I have NEVER run back to back days, well, since Gasparilla back in 2011. I never thought I could.
I proved myself wrong.
I still took an occasional walk break, but even when I did I never felt like I HAD to take it. It was more out of habit. The run was on a great course, starting and ending in a park and winding through the Police Memorial Trail. I finished in 48:21, the best 3.1 miles I have run in a year.
I have no idea what happened.
So, overall a great experience and one I will want to do again. The sad part is that one runner’s life was claimed during the race on the half marathon course, and this morning I read that another’s ended last night. My thoughts go out to their families and loved ones. No one should die doing something like this, but it is my hope they went doing what they loved to do.