Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Race Report: Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon

First time in Parkersburg...
If you follow my race reports, you probably know I travel a whole heck of a lot – which includes a lot of flying.  Early on in this journey, I decided that I would try to attain “status” on one airline – more if able.  Delta and their SkyMiles program have a “medallion” program that is attainable by flying at least 25 segments and spending a certain amount of “medallion dollars,” among other possible qualifications.   So, when the weekend came up where I could feasibly do a whole bunch of flights with connections and attain more segments, I jumped at the chance.

August 15th and 16th was a busy racing weekend all across America, and I was able to check of two brand new states as well as meet up with several folks who I have gotten to know in my racing journey all across the country.  I decided upon racing the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon in sleepy Parkersburg, West Virginia on Saturday and then the Michigan 13.Wine Trail Half Marathon in tiny little Baroda, Michigan on Sunday.  The logistics of getting between both places could be simple, but I decided to add an element of savvy travel to get from one place to the other.

Oh look, street banners for the half!
Friday, after my shortened summer work day, I headed off to LaGuardia Airport and boarded a direct flight to Columbus, Ohio. As a Michigan graduate, this is not a desirable destination (the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University have a deep-seated rivalry that stretches past the football field into many other instances, for more than a century). I begrudgingly made my way to “enemy territory” and landed at Port Columbus Airport, an airport in the middle of a big modernization plan, and took off to the rental car counter to get myself out of Columbus and down to Parkersburg, a roughly 1½ to 2 hour drive.

I arrived in Parkersburg by 7:30, and picked up my bib from the town’s municipal building.  One of the great things this race offers is a pre-race pasta dinner and a post-race pizza lunch, and because of my late arrival, I wasn’t able to catch up for diner with other members of my Fifty States club, so I decided to partake in the pasta dinner, and met some locals who were running in their first half marathon!  I left to head to my hotel about 10 minutes away, and then went straight to bed since I had an early morning the next day.

The start line...
I got up super early and proceeded to the start area at Juliana Street and 3rd Street, where I was able to find some decent parking only a couple blocks away from the startline.  The fun atmosphere of this race was really palpable – this race has been going on for nearly three decades, in conjunction with Parkersburg’s Homecoming Festival and parade.  Soon, I caught up with my friend Dave, who drove in from Georgia.  After the national anthem performed by the local high school band, we were off, with the elites starting out front.

Some of the cute front yards
along the course
We started off heading up Juliana Street, gradually making our way up a 50' hill for the first 3/4 mile. The neighborhood changed from small town main street to residential, and turned onto 13th Street, curving around to Garfield Avenue, where we passed by more industrial looking areas, and the Camden Clark Medical Center, before reappearing a block away from where we started, and progressing up the ramp onto WV Route 68, climbing about 140' over the Little Kanawha River, until taking a nice downhill down an offramp onto US Route 50 for a quarter mile.  This portion was short-lived, as we made our way back up an on ramp, "exiting" off the freeway and turning left onto Fort Boreman Drive.

No explanation necessary.
We hit the 3 mile point as we turned onto Fries Parkway, and then along Marrtown Road, finally turning once more onto Dupont Road, altogether a nice stretch of downhill.  As we took a right turn onto Gihon Road, we took on a long stretch of road filled with rolling hills for approximately four miles, as it changed its name to Rayon Drive.  This residential stretch that forms the perimeter of Parkersburg's total area, however, was quite notable for the fact that so many people were out to support the runners on this hot August morning.  And even as we passed through more commercial stretches of this road near Gihon Village, we were greeted with the warmest of adulations from spectators along the race course.

Heading back into downtown...
We finally turned at the mile 8 mark onto Camden Avenue, where we ran along gently rolling hills before turning at mile 10 onto 5th Street, taking us over another bridge traversing the Little Kanawha River back into downtown Parkersburg.  We came back into a festive Parkersburg with still a 5K left to go, but not even the hardest part of the course.  As we took Avery Street northeast back into the residential area we had run into at the beginning of the course, we started to head uphill, and then turn again onto 13th Street, where at 11.5 miles into the course, we had a steep 60 foot hill to climb.  After hitting the crest of the street, we saw the downhill a few blocks away, and the turn onto Lynn Street.  Still another turn onto 17th Street, but more people cheering us on as we neared the finish line.  We made the final turn onto Market Street (and I took my last photo of the street, which had cutely painted feet marking the course), and the finish line was in view.

The race is this way!!
I crossed the finish line in 2:21:49, with the sun beaming down onto the freshly painted finish line, and hundreds of locals cheering on the half marathon finishers while also staking their claim for prime seating during the parade happening shortly after the race.  Panera had some pastries and baked goods for runners' post-race consumption (thank god for Asiago Cheese Bread!) and much needed water and gatorade to quench our thirst.  I stuck around to greet my friends at the finish who weren't too far behind me.  After taking our customary photos (and especially, my Victory Headstand photo in the middle of a cleared out Market Street, prepped for the parade), I headed off to the local YMCA which was offering showers for runners after the race, and then partook in the race's complimentary pizza lunch happening steps from the finish line.  I scarfed down my pizza, and it wasn't long before I was back on the road since I had an afternoon flight out of Columbus to take me to my second race for the weekend....

Finish Line, freshly painted!

Victory Headstand!

Check out the bling.. and how utterly exhausted I look!

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