Down, Down, Down: How much of the course was downhill? Was I merely exaggerating about the downhill? Are race organizers exaggerating? Look for yourself:
Starting elevation is 3,291. Ending elevation is 1,289. That would be a nearly 2,000-foot drop over 13.1 miles. And that's why it's considered the fastest half-marathon course in the world. As I mentioned in the race recap, I really felt the downhill at first, the first six or seven miles. After that, it kind of felt more flat than anything. But the figures don't lie. It was still a raging downhill at six miles, seven miles, eight... all the way through.
I've had some time to digest this a bit more... Does the fact that it's a downhill course make my time a bit disingenuous? Should I put an asterisk next to it? I think the conclusion I've come up with is that no, and no. I ran my butt off. Nobody gave us roller skates or skateboards at the start line. We had to run every step of that on our own. And let me tell you, the way my muscles ached for the rest of Saturday, ALL of Sunday and well into Monday, I certainly did run a lot and exerted a lot of energy in doing so.
I ran the course that was provided, plain and simple. We all did. The winner of the race came in at 1:03:41. The first female runner came in at 1:20:08. Compare that to another local race, the Run Through Redlands, where the winner this year came in at 1:13:39 and the first female at 1:25:19 and you can see the disparity.
Now, the course was favorable but the course isn't everything. And if you're going to put disclaimers on courses, that doesn't make sense. I mean, would you put an asterisk next to a hilly course time and say 'Well, if it wasn't hilly my time would have been different?' Of course not. The course is the course is the course and it's only one part of the race. I'm proud of my time and I may plan on beating it next year when I'm in better shape and have logged more training miles leading up to the race. And if you are in the area (or even if you're not) you may want to consider signing up for the 57th edition of the Fontana Days Half Marathon. A PR is waiting at the bottom of the hill.
Splits: I can't believe I ran these, but here are the splits.
M1 - 8:05
M2 - 7:49
M3 - 7:57
M4 - 8:29
M5 - 8:14
M6 - 8:31
M7 - 8:24
M8 - 8:14
M9 - 8:28
M10 - 8:22
M11 - 8:36
M12 - 8:17
M13 - 8:02
That's a lot of 8s. And that's a good thing.
No Wall: I wasn't expecting to hit a wall necessarily but I did think that I'd lose some steam along the way. I thought it happened in Mile 7. I was looking for the Mile 8 marker and couldn't see it. There were blue and white balloons for most of the mile markers so they were relatively easy to spot. But Mile 8 was nowhere in sight. I'd run a bit after Mile 7 and I thought it should have been coming up so when I didn't see it, I figured I was slowing down. My running app is on my phone and I can't see the exact distance I was at so I thought I'd slowed down and was running a 10-minute mile or something, but in the throes of my budding disappointment, my running app blared in my ears that I was at Mile 8. There was no Mile 8 marker, which explains why I didn't see one.
Fontana Days Redux? I always felt I was a bit spoiled having run the Fontana Days 5K back in '08 as my first race. I believe I paid $25 and for that I got a t-shirt, a pin, several bags of goodies like chips and bars, and after the race I got a medal - seriously, a medal! How cool is that?!? There was also a place to drop off your bags for storage and stuff. Also, since you had to be bused up to the start line (for both the 5K and half) they would take bags back from the start line area to the bag storage area. I was very spoiled. Of course, I figured every race had those things and learned the hard way that some 5Ks/10Ks don't offer a place to store your bags. Grrr...
Anyway, I was equally impressed with the race this year. I paid total of about $38 to run this half marathon. How does that price compare here in my neck of SoCal? The next day in Ontario, which is very close to me and to Fontana, there was a half marathon and the price for that was $75. Also, the Fontana half is part of the city's celebration. There is a parade involved and there are lots of booths and music and the main street is shut down. It is a real festive atmosphere there after the race and you can hang out and relax and it feels like a big party. And with everyone setting these ridiculous PRs, you have reason to join in the celebration!
The race had 1,200 participants and sold out for the first time in 2010. It sold out again this year and the trend will likely continue.
So am I running this again in 2012? You better believe it! Maybe I can get a half marathon finish time in the 1:30s... now wouldn't that be something....