Monday, May 25, 2015

Race Report: Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon

Just prior to the race in my orange!
After the half in Fargo, Donna and Hollie brought me to the airport, which was less than ten minutes away driving for my 1:30 flight to Philadelphia via Minneapolis.  I arrived to a relatively empty airport, so I took my time getting some lunch (a sub from Subway!) and perusing the gift shop before going through security, which was a very simple single lane with metal detector as there were only four gates.

I met a gentleman from Chicago who ran the half (I was not alone being at the airport IMMEDIATELY after the race!), who was also working to get 50 states done.  He was trying to get standby on the flight to Minneapolis, so while he waited, we made small talk.  Soon, I boarded the flight (and in my mind said goodbye to the hot gate agent... btw, if you every fly Delta into Fargo, I hope you see him. Hahaha ;) ), and was off to Philadelphia, via Minneapolis.

Race start!
At around 7:30pm, I landed in Philadelphia and proceeded to get my rental car, picked up Donna's friend Lindsay, who was running the half with us at the Philadelphia Amtrak station, and then returned to get Donna before we made our way on the half hour trip down to Wilmington to check into the Airbnb we were staying at for the night, a historic home built in 1738 in the Quaker Hill section of Wilmington. We were recommended dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant on the waterfront (with $2.50 draft beers, made on site!) and then headed back for a good night's sleep as we were all tiring out, especially Donna and I after traveling halfway across the country.

Pure concentration
(official photo by Ken Shelton
The following morning, we were up early to get ourselves to the start and pick up our bibs and other race giveaways.  It was quite muggy as we left the house, humidity hanging in the air, as we made our way to the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, where the startline was located.  We retrieved our bibs and our race swag (which included a nifty tech hat, the customary t-shirt, and a pint glass!) and then made our way for a well-attended 50 States Half Marathon Club photo near the Harriet Tubman statue, as well as a Half Fanatics/Marathon Maniacs photo at the startline.  Soon, the race began, and I immediately started to feel the soreness in my legs from the year-PR setting race the day before.  It was a rough first few miles, as we curved our way around a road leading us south near the Waterfront area where we had dinner the night before,  making a u-turn on Beech Street at Mile 1 and entering the Wilmington RiverWalk by making a left at the large smokestack between buildings 2 & 3 through the Shipyard Shops, again traversing over alternating asphalt, brick pavers, and cement.  We made our way past the start/finish line festival along the paved waterfront path, crowded with spectators, cheering us on as we began our 13.1 (and 26.2, for some) mile jaunts through Wilmington.

South Park Drive
Soon, we came off of the waterfront path and onto the road that led through a much more industrial part of Wilmington.  Here's where the spectators thinned out... it was early, and it was also Mother's Day... We ran up Church Street, turned left onto 4th Street, and then went back into a northerly direction up 4th Street as we progressed through the 3 and 4-mile marks.

Just after the 4 mile mark, we turned onto 16th Street and then crossed Market Street Bridge over The Brandywine, and then followed the paved jogging path that curved westward through Brandywine Park.  Around this area, I caught up with Donna, who seemed to struggle with the heat as much as I was (it was HOT and excruciatingly HUMID, and we were most definitely not the only ones struggling)  We lamented our situation of going through our SECOND 13.1 of the weekend, before we continued on with our own interval racing.

Smiling for the camera, despite the heat!
(official photo by Ken Shelton
Soon, we hit the 5-mile mark, and then we got to cross over the Brandywine once again, but this time on a "swinging bridge," a pedestrian suspension bridge that is over a hundred years old!  I'll be honest, it was a little jarring to feel the lack of steadiness running across it, but thankfully it wasn't a long bridge at all, maybe only 50-60 feet to cross.  We ran back on a jogging path on the other side of the Brandywine (one a little more "trail-y" as parts of it weren't fully paved!), and then the curvy and uphill S. Park Drive, from miles 6 to 7.  The leaders of the half and marathon were coming back in the other direction, speedily making their way downhill; marathoners, we would see again as, for them, the course was two loops of the 13.1 mile course.

Running down Bancroft Parkway
We curved along Kentmere Parkway, and then after mile 7, were emptied onto Bancroft Parkway, in the exclusive residential neighborhoods of Forty Acres, The Highlands, and Wawaset Park.  This area was gorgeous - Bancroft Parkway has a massive median, lined with colossal trees, reminiscent of Savannah (funny, as Fargo, the day before had the beautiful tree-lined 8th Street also reminiscent of Savannah!) - the area is very well maintained, especially since Wawaset Park was listed on the National Register for Historic Places nearly thirty years ago.  Mile 8 went through more pretty residential areas, and then we progressed into a more commercial area, which I learned was Wilmington's Little Italy.

Wilmington's Little Italy
After Mile 9, I reached nirvana on the race course... THE local "water ice" retailer, Bernie's Original Water Ice ("water ice" is what those in the Philly vicinity refer to Italian ice) was along the course, serving small cups of lemon-flavored refreshment to runners.  I totally walked for a good five minutes, savoring every bit of that water ice, before I returned to running on the course that curved back on the northward side of Bancroft Parkway (and after catching up to Donna's friend Lindsay and fellow Fifty Stater Sophie)  Miles 10 and 11 went by a little faster, as they retraced the steps we took to get to this beautiful residential area, and were downhill (thankfully!)  At mile 11.5, we continued down S. Park Drive, passing the historical Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery and the Wilmington Hospital.  Around this time, I was also passed by the leader for the marathon, Titus Rotich, who pretty much lapped me (and was also 25 minutes in front of the second place marathon runner!)

Water Ice at Mile 9!
Finally, we hit King Street and the 12 mile marker, which from there, thankfully, was a gradual downhill all the way to the finish line back to Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park.  I powered my way through an epic "strugglebus" of my last mile, to finish in 2:27:52, easily attaining my goal of finishing my second race of the weekend in sub 2:30 (and my third consecutive double weekend!)  After receiving my pretty medal, I was received by a much-needed bag of ice, and then sat down to enjoy another water ice.  Another plus after the race... free champagne!  I took advantage, and then proceeded to get my victory headstand out of the way (along with Sophie, as guest star!) and then headed back to the Airbnb for a much needed shower (which was painful... ouch to chafing, but that's all I'm gonna say about that without being too TMI, haha!) and retrieval of my bags and rental car to bring back to the Philly Airport.  Donna and Lindsay got a ride from fellow 50 Stater, Sandra (and her boyfriend Romeo), to the airport, where I met them, and then they were kind enough to drive us up to Newark for our respective trains back to good ol' New York City.  And with that, my 33rd lifetime half, and 26th state was complete!

Finish Line Photo! (official photo by Ken Shelton Photography)
Necessary cooling after a humid race!
#victoryheadstand with my guest star Sophie!
#victoryheadstand SOLO
A group of great friends at the finish! (photo by Sophie Draffin)

Me and Lilian immediately after finishing (photo by Lilian Shepherd)
Look at the pretty bling!

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up, Jim! Thanks for visiting Wilmington and running DMRF!