The OUC Half Marathon was such a fun race!
A local half marathon, hosted each year by Orlando’s premiere running store, Track Shack, takes more than 4,000 runners through the streets of downtown Orlando and nearby neighborhoods. In addition, the neighborhood route takes runners by more than 10 lakes including the scenic Lake Eola, which I’ve read about multiple times on Orlando healthy living blogs.
Meghann, Mary and I arrived at the race start with about 30 minutes to spare Saturday morning, just enough time to park, walk to the start, take a few pictures, and stand in a very long porta potty line. Luckily Mary went to University of North Florida and is therefore very familiar with Downtown Orlando. Having her expertise made it very easy to find a parking spot.
None of us had specific goals for the race other than to have fun. A few months ago when we decided to sign up as part of the bachelorette festivities, I hoped that Meghann could pace me to a half marathon PR of under 2:12. But, when my marathon was postponed 2 weeks and therefore only 2 weeks prior to this half, I changed my goals.Instead, each us treated this like a fun long run not stressing ourselves out and just enjoying the gorgeous weather.
The race started perfectly on time at 7am, and due to the small size, Meghann and I were crossing the starting line just a few minutes later.
This was also the first race that I’ve run sans Garmin. Gia has asked that for the next few races I run during December I leave my Garmin home so I can focus more on enjoying the run since I’m not formally training. Meghann wore her Garmin but never once shared our pace. Instead she’d tell me to slow down if she saw we were going to fast or would try and move ahead of me a bit to motivate me to pick up my pace. During these first miles we didn’t speak much but instead pointed at different sights and enjoyed the spectators and course entertainment such as local bands and 19th century holiday carolers.
I also chose not to carry a water bottle or wear my CamelBak for this race. Therefore, we took advantage of the 9 water stations on the course, beginning at mile 1.5 to ensure that neither of us overheated since it was 60 degrees at 7am and 70 and sunny on the course. While it was definitely warmer weather than I’ve had in NYC and Philadelphia these last few weeks but luckily the humidity wasn’t unbearable.
Along the course people cheered us on as we ran past thanks to Meghann’s bride outfit. Kelly put together a great, running friendly race outfit for Meghann to wear on the course featuring a tank top printed with her wedding date, a veil and crown. While some people cheered her on as a princess instead of a bride, it made for a nice diversion. It also helped a few of our readers find us in the field which was so fun! Sarah and Becky both said hi to us during the race and Sarah stuck with us for a half mile or so. She looked super strong considering she was running her first half marathon.
Around mile 7 my hamstrings started to scream louder and I found the need to slow my pace a bit. By the time we reached the water stop at mile 8.5 I found it harder to start running after the water stop. We decided to start walking for 30 seconds each mile, giving my legs a bit of a break. While I realized this probably meant that a PR wasn’t in the cards, I made it my goal to still run a sub 2:20 half marathon. I took a Vanilla Gu around this time in hopes that it would boost my energy.
Around this same time I heard two women cursing their legs and talking about a recent half. It was so fun to find fellow runners down in Orlando who ran Philadelphia just two weeks prior too! We ran alongside them for a few minutes, talking about Philadelphia and other recent races. At this point I also started to savor the many signs put out along the course by OUC. They were very motivating and a great way to keep my mind off my tight hamstrings and tiring legs.
The back half of the course took us over a few small hills and a long brick road stretch. The half marathon covered 2 miles of brick which weren’t very friendly on the feet but at least we both knew they were coming. The lakes and warm morning sun made this part of the course especially enjoyable even though my legs were ready to be done. At one point, as I saw signs for the 5k which started a few minutes after the half, I asked Meghann why we never considered the 5k as a fun bachelorette weekend event. I guess it’s just not our style.
We crossed under Highway 408 and back into downtown, right around mile 12, which is when I hit the wall. I literally wanted nothing more than to be done. My legs were extremely tight and exhausted. Mentally I was checked out. Meghann did her best to pass time by telling me stories and pointing out her favorite places around the city. We were expecting to find Mary around this point so I tried to move my focus to watching spectators, similar to what I did during the marathon when I grew tired. As we heard a drum line around mile 12.5 Meghann told me that when we made the turn I’d be able to see the finish. I can do anything for just a few minutes. I started to push my pace, sprinting towards the finish line. We found her about a quarter of a mile from the finish and from there on out it was a full out sprint to the end.
My 11th half marathon was finally done! While it was no PR, I was pretty proud of my body for pushing through 13.1 miles just 2 weeks after 26.2 miles, especially since I didn’t rest much in between. 3rd fastest half marathon done!
I would recommend this half marathon to anyone looking for a small race that is PR friendly. In fact, part of me wants to run another Florida (flat) race on fresh legs just to see what’s possible! The course was very organized, there were 9 water and Gatorade stations, 1 Clif Shot station, and plenty of porta potties!
Do you prefer larger or smaller races?