I ran the Des Moines Half Marathon for the third time this weekend, this time with the added twist of the I-35 challenge thrown in the mix. After finishing the Kansas City Half Marathon on Saturday, I cleaned up and we grabbed lunch before heading out for the 3 hour drive to Des Moines. It’s not the most exciting drive – I took a nap, drank lots and tried to stretch out my legs. After doing packet pick up in Des Moines (quick and easy!), we checked into our hotel and settled in for a evening of rest, rolling and some yoga stretches.
I like this year’s shirt color – my favorite so far! Very fall appropriate.
One of the nice things about the Des Moines race is that it starts at 8 am, so you don’t have to wake up super early. I had time to go down to the lobby and grab breakfast. One of the invited Kenyan runners rode down with me and I told Darrell I was a little tempted to follow her and pick all of the same foods for breakfast. 🙂 I have a feeling there’s a little more than breakfast choice that influences her race success compared with mine.
I confess, I assumed that I didn’t need to look at the course maps or anything because it had been the same course for the previous two years. It wasn’t until I headed out of the hotel and realized that everyone was walking in a different direction than I was that I realized maybe something had changed. It turns out, lots of things had changed. The start and finish weren’t on the bridge like it has been in years past, thanks to some construction. Another difference this year was the assignment of runners to corrals based on the projected finish time. It didn’t look like they were rigidly enforcing the corrals, but I didn’t challenge it. I actually lined up in the back in the “un-corralled” group because I was planning on taking my time. They got all of the corrals off in quick succession and I do feel like there was less jockeying for position since I was more closely grouped with people of the same pace.
The start was a little confusing, in that we first moved across the 5K starting line and everyone turned on their Garmins to start racing. We turned a corner – and there was another starting line? Again, read the race day packet. A map of the starting line was probably there and fewer of us would have been confused. Turns out, there was a 5K start line and a half marathon/marathon start line.
Similar to the last two years, we spent the first two miles in town (although a different path through town) before the half marathon split off from the marathoners. As always, that split was well signaled with lots of volunteers pointing you in the right direction.
In years past, we spent several miles running through parks before heading back downtown for the last couple of miles. This year, we only did a loop of Gray Lake before heading back to town, which meant lots of town time. I do enjoy the park and lake time because they’re flat and gorgeous in October.
I also find the asphalt a little easier on my feet as opposed to the concrete of city streets. The only glitch in the race for me, which was overall extremely well supported like always, was the fact that we didn’t get any kind of aid station until well after mile 2. It was insanely humid all morning, so I was grateful for having my own water bottle. Not only did we go quite a while before getting an aid station, but that poor aid station was having a really bad day. It was a huge mess. They only had water – no Gatorade refilled – and not much water at that. Fortunately, that was the only glitch with aid stations and support. After that, it felt like there was an aid station every mile and a half or so. All of them had lots of enthusiastic volunteers, plenty of fluids and fuel at several stations (gels at two stops, bananas/oranges/candy at others).
After we left the park, we had a trek through some boring city scenes (sorry Des Moines!) as well as some nice, friendly neighborhoods, with trees and spectators out in their yards.
It was also in this stretch that I came across a bacon aid station. Yep, they were handing out bacon at mile 9. I passed.
Not only did the course change take out some lovely park time, but it added a heinous and huge hill at the Capitol building.
The capitol and judicial buildings were lovely, but I’m not sure it was worth that massive hill at mile 10. There were also a couple of out and back loops in the last four miles, which is never a fun to pick up miles. All in all, I was exhausted and it was the least fun part of the race. Yuck.
As I was coming through mile 12, I was weirdly emotional about this whole thing. I was almost done with my second half marathon in two days. It’s been less than 3 years since my first half marathon and about 4 years since I decided to start losing weight and taking control of my health. It amazing to me how much my life has changed and it was because I decided to do it. There’s more to it than the decision of course – I’m blessed with a supportive family and the financial resources for healthy food – but it started with me. It started with the decision.
Thankfully, as I was about to break into tears, Darrell texted met to tell me he was at mile 13 with Oliver and Oliver wanted to run in with me. For so many reasons, that 0.1 miles was the best of my life. Oliver is such a huge motivation to keep running, to keep making healthy choices and so finishing that huge challenge hand in hand with him was beyond words. Still get goose bumpy thinking of it. 🙂 I was honestly a little worried I’d be disappointed to run this course slower, because I PR’d here last year, but it was an accomplishment just to finish this! My time never really crossed my mind.
After the end of the race, we grabbed medals and pics and a piece of pizza. I love that Oliver told me that his heart was beating fast. No kidding, kiddo.
I hope the course goes back to its prior route after the construction downtown, but regardless, I love the support of this course. The spectators and volunteers are fantastic and always enthusiastic. I’ll definitely be back to run this race again!
Do you have a race you come back to over and over?