This past weekend I ran the Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon in Waynesville, NC. This was its inaugural year and was put on by the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. I was originally supposed to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig half marathon on Sunday, but those plans changed a couple of weeks ago and I immediately went for a local race.
Almost 3 weeks ago I started noticing pain in my knees. (I attribute most of the pain to box jumps.) At some point, maybe I was overcompensating for something and my calf muscles started hurting. It’s been…interesting. And painful. So now that we’re through my recent injuries, let’s talk about the race.
I picked up my packet the night before. It was challenging for me to find the packet pickup because I wasn’t familiar with the area. They really needed more clarification or signage. It would have saved me some time and frustrating moments while toting my 3-year-old around. The race shirt was a cotton t-shirt. I can’t run in a cotton t-shirt, so this one won’t get much wear from me.
For a small town race (and the first year), the support was fantastic. I found parking without issue (though I never found a parking garage they mentioned.) There were fewer than 200 runners, so it wasn’t super crowded at the start. There were a lot of first-time half marathoners, and they had stickers on their bib numbers to identify them.
The race started promptly and with a gradual uphill. By mile 2, my calves were already tightening up. I really don’t know what’s up with my body right now, but I slowed a little. Susanna and her friend were running this as their first half, and we were close to each other for most of the race, but I know they were ahead of me at the two-mile and probably three-mile marks. I caught up with them around the three-mile and at mile four, I gave them Gatorade chews, so they wouldn’t have to try the Gu that day. (Note: It’s never, ever a good idea to try new supplements during a race.)
My first five or six miles felt somewhat consistent, and then I noticed my pace slowing down a little.
There were a couple of tough hills. I mean, serious climbs. There was one near mile 9 and I mentally died there. Thankfully, there were downhills too.
It was a beautiful course. I don’t recall any particular spot that I thought was ugly or scary or not worth the run. I knew I wasn’t taking the race too seriously when I found myself texting Carol about the royal baby. I need to work on that taking things seriously part.
The police were crazy awesome. They took their jobs of keeping traffic out of the way so seriously. We were almost hit by a car who thought he could drive down the wrong side of the road around mile 4.5 and a police officer went AFTER him. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The day started off in the upper 30s and by the end of the race I think it was in the low 50s. I wore a running skirt, tank and pull-over. I had to remove the pull over around mile 7 or 8. I’m glad that I didn’t go with pants!
Contrary to 95% of Asheville races, this one finished flat – after about a half mile downhill. It was amazing! But there were very few people during that last mile, which shocked me.
Beer at the finish, if you’re into beer.
Pizza and bread sticks at the finish! YUM! (Until you start eating and then you realize how grossed out you are.)
Quick packet pick-up.
No congestion at the start/packet pick-up/registration.
Bathrooms and porta potties readily available (the porta potties were a little hidden on the course, though. I heard this from a couple of people.)
One email snafu in which email addresses weren’t blind copied, so I have emails for 158 of my closest running friends (strangers.)
The website didn’t have a start location. Or a start time. It took me a WHILE to find this information the week before the race.
I parked near the start, which was quite a walk (uphill) from the finish. I wish I’d known more about the location of the start/finish. I’m not from that area, so it was difficult for me.
The medals aren’t metal.
The race shirts could have been technical shirts.
If you’re going to go low cost on the shirt, have a decent medal. If you’re going to go cheap on the medal, then I need a decent shirt. The shirt is nice, but I’ll never run in a cotton t-shirt. (sorry, not sorry.) My son is having a blast with the medal, though.
All in all, this was a good race. I will probably do it again in the future. I’m happy to see a local race not end on an uphill.
Have you ever completed a half marathon?