Sometimes the word “inaugural” scares runners from registering for a race, but not me. When a friend shared the Active link for the Inaugural Celebration Half Marathon, it intrigued me. I love the town of Celebration and the idea of running through its small town streets really appealed to me.
My instincts were right about this sold out race. When I inquired the race director about an opening, he immediately emailed me back and hunted down a bib for me, which is costumer service that you come to love when supporting local hometown operations. From the packet pick-up at the expo to the finish line, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the inaugural Celebration half marathon.
The expo had all the usual brands and vendors you expect to see. I even discovered some new-to-me brands, such as Hot Chic Sport running skirts. Of course, that’s where Marcia discovered me.
My family tagged along for this race and we stayed at the gorgeous Bohemian Hotel in the heart of Celebration. (A review of the hotel will follow the race recap.)
Since it was Marcia’s 40th birthday, we celebrated her 40th birthday at the Columbia Restaurant. Carb loading with Cuban food and sangria in Celebration seemed so fitting.
With a race start time of 7:00 a.m., I loved being able to roll out of bed and walk to a start line. In the early morning hours, the town center was hustling and bustling with happy runners and a lively DJ entertained everyone at the start line. There were approximately 2300 runners and we were all packed in between the start line and Celebration Park. I parked myself between the 9:15 and 9:55 pace group.
Despite not being able to find any of my friends (Marica, Christina Marie, Becky, Jolene and Run Jodi), I felt really good. I felt confident, not riddled with anxiety like I experienced Space Coast Half Marathon a few weeks ago. I felt ready to do this race. Trust the training.
The crowd started slowly moving forward and we were off. No national anthem. No fireworks, just the pack pushing you along to start the race. As the course led us through the streets of Celebration Village, I held an easy 10:00 mile. The turns would help me slow down, too.
One we reached the long stretch down Celebration Avenue to Celebration Place and onto Celebration Boulevard, I picked it up a bit holding onto a 9:15-9:30 pace. This was my favorite part of the course, flat wide spaces that really helped me find my groove. We were warned that the runners would share the road with traffic, but I never felt threatened by the cars and the police were very attentive.
The numerous spectators, cheering squads, supporter, funny signs and even a rock band lifted my spirits and helped me run my best race for that three mile stretch. Even the runners around me helped keep my spirits high. I couldn’t believe how many running groups were out there in full force supporting one another. It was wonderful to see that team camaraderie. (I learned after the race that running groups received a discount. That would explain all the happy runners and runner love. Saving money makes me more cheery too.)
I managed to hold off stopping for water walking breaks until mile 7 when I had my first Salted Caramel Gu energy gel and some water to wash down. As I regained my momentum after a quick snack break, the fun and happy pace ended at mile 7 as we detoured down the boardwalk for the next mile or so. The turns were tough and the change of terrain to wooden planks forced me to slow my pace down to almost a 10:30. I quickly realized if I ran more in the middle, I would have less turns, but then no one could pass me, which would frustrate people. I know not being able to pass other runners frustrated me.
Though the course had been USAT certified, the turns would record longer on my Garmin. (Watch a video of the course here.) Once past all the boardwalks and sidewalk turns, I could focus on my pace. (The poor marathoners had to run that twice. Ouch. Thank goodness for spectators!)
As we came around mile 10, I stopped for a quick walking water break (only my second break thus far) and then pushed it again. I felt really good! I thought I *might* even PR.
I was still feeling good at mile 11, like I had some sprints still in me, until we ran a narrow path around the lake. I could tell the runners around me were losing steam, including my new friend, Minne Marlie, whom I joked and sang with only an hour ago.
I still had some umph in me and I felt good. I only had about a half mile left to go although Granny Garmin read 13.12. As I hit the lap button to record the time (2:11), Granny Garmin died but I was still feeling alive and ready to finish strong. I sprinted that last half mile to the finish line. I pulled out an even faster sprint when I turned to the corner and saw the finish line.
Still not a PR for me, but it’s definitely a PB-PB (Personal Best Post Baby). Did I mention that my “baby” is almost three now? *sigh*
Age group Division 49/192
Chip Time 2:12:13.7
Clock Time 2:13:42.6
Ave Pace 10:06
The after party was hopping thanks to the DJ AND a rock band at the finish line. The lively post-race atmosphere took my mind off not hitting a PR. Each runner received a card which offered special treats, such as beer, pizza, baked treats and Starbucks coffee.
My favorite was the mimosa.
My kids preferred the balloon animals and the lady that created them.
Sadly somehow between finding my family and finding food, I lost my phone. Thankfully, a very kind and smart person handed it to the DJ. I was so grateful for that which warranted a selfie with the DJ!
We stayed for the awards because I knew Marcia would win one and she did. First day in her new age group (40-44), she placed first.
As for our other friends, they all gained PRs, including Jolene who earned another BQ just weeks after her last qualifying race. Becky earned a new PR by shaving 20 minutes off her marathon time. I love being in the presence of amazing atheletes. It motivates me to strive for improvement and reach a BQ goal.
Even with all the twists and turns, I really loved the scenic course and the overall vibe of the race. I later learned that this was the race director’s first race he ever organized. His stellar inaugural Celebration race went so smoothly; hopefully, it won’t be his last because I will definitely be back next year!