We met at 7:30 this morning on O’Henry Street where the Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon will start on September 12th, 2009 at 7:30 am. I was delighted to be joined by Bob, Greg and Robert — runners who plan to complete the Half Marathon. Bob and Robert have completed the race before. Greg has not.
We started out on a swift pace for the first mile then settled into a conversational pace, shooting for a 10:00 to 10:30 pace for course familiarity and long-run benefit. It was humid but not terribly hot early. The Grove Park section is pleasant and not too demanding (with one exception: Cherokee). There’s a spot far north on Kimberly with a tough uphill climb, but it’s steep and short. Once we cross Beaverdam and get into the neighborhood above the Asheville Country Club there are some stiff hills, but these are the hills that have always been part of the course and are not terribly long — just steep.
Once we’re done with this neighborhood, we cross Merrimon and run for a while on the dirt and grass trail around Beaver Lake. Then we head into Woodfin and run down to Riverside. The thing to keep in mind here is that by running down to Riverside, we have reached a very low altitude, close to the river. That means we have to come back up. But to come back up, we have to run up Lookout Road, which reaches a pinnacle before gradually descending to Edgemont for a smooth downhill glide through UNCA. This is probably the toughest challlenge for the average runner because it comes at mile 9.
After climbing Lookout, we’re treated with the glide through UNCA and follow the path along W.T. Boulevard to Broadway. The long pull up Broadway is tough and it always has been. When the sun shines it’s even more of a challenge. Here’s where you concentrate, focus and make your way under I240 where Broadway becomes Lexington. You’ll turn right on Walnut and at this point the hill up to Haywood is a blessing. Turn left at the Civic Center and left on O’Henryand stride to the finish line with your head up high and a smile on your face.
It was a great run and I thank my co-runners for coming out. I think this course is a little tougher than the previous course. I estimate it will add 2 minutes or so to my time. My most recent times have been 1:49 (2007) and 1:48 (2006). I’m shooting for under 1:52 this year and we’ll see if that places me in the same percentile (which will help us understand if, in fact, the course is more challeging across the board).
Cheers! Please comment as you see fit. If anyone would like help understanding the course and practicing it, please let me know.