In the winter of 2006 (late January and early February) I was getting anxious about running in a race again. My last race had been the Asheville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day of 2005 and my last long race had been the Bethel Half Marathon in mid-October 2005. I had been doing some long distance training (10-14 mile runs on closed portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, some heavenly runs but that’s another story worth telling) but just wasn’t getting the satisfaction I get from the camaraderie and the competitiveness of a good race. I was planning on running the Charlottesville, Virginia Half Marathon on April 15th, but that was too far away. I needed a good long race and I needed it soon.
I found the Clemson Half Marathon in Clemson, South Carolina. It was just about a 2 hour drive from Asheville, it was in late February and it sounded like just the trick to satisfy me.
The day before the race (a Friday) there was an almost certain prediction for a snow storm in the mountains of western North Carolina, leading to freezing race and a potential ice storm down into South Carolina. My plan was to drive down Friday night and stay overnight in Clemson, but it all sounded like a recipe for disaster. And I was more cautious than usual because just two weeks earlier, during a snow and ice storm here in Asheville, I had been hit (in my car) by two other cars that lost control on the slippery pavement.
So, as much as I hated to do so, I had to call off my participation in the Clemson run. But, go figure, the storm never materialized the race day was mild. Missed a good race. Ouch!
Now I was really chomping at the bit. I did some searching and uncovered the Aiken 10 Mile race in Aiken, South Carolina (near Augusta, Georgia). I signed up, drove down there on Friday night (March 10th) and stayed in a hotel near the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center in Aiken.
Weather was just right Saturday morning. A little overcast but signs of spring in the temperature. The course was mostly flat and I started running really fast (a bit too fast). As I was thinking about the course I thought two things:
- I usually run much more hilly terrain in the mountains of North Carolina.
- I run at higher elevations. Asheville is around 2,300 feet, our house is about 2,700 feet and I often run on the Parkway in the winter at elevations up to 5,000 feet.
These thoughts made me a little too confident about my ability to run fast. My first mile was under 7 minutes. After four miles I was feeling rough and sluggish. I started to fade a little bit and worked harder than I had in any other race to make a decent finish. But I made it and made my goal (under 90 minutes, I did 1:27:15).
But I liked the course. It’s some residential, some horse country (dirt road) and some in town running.