This weekend, I ran the City of Oaks Half Marathon in Raleigh, the first time I’ve run that distance since 2008, when I ran the Outer Banks and Atlanta Half Marathons less than a month apart. I’m not really sure how three years have passed since then, but I stopped running halfs for a while due to some leg injuries–mostly due to shoes with unnecessarily high arch supports–and other assorted busy-ness. My training schedule has also been somewhat uneven, so I was, as my wife will quickly confirm, unusually nervous about running. Add to that a Seinfeld-induced fear that I would oversleep my alarm clock(s) due to the time change, and I was pretty skittish.

But thankfully, once I arrived at the race, which began (and ended) at the Bell Tower on NC State’s campus, my nerves settled down and I was ready to run. I liked the course, which leads through downtown Raleigh, past the Capitol ¬†building (where a few Occupy Wall Street protestors were cheering us on), briefly along Glenwood Avenue, and out toward the State Fairgrounds before culminating back on NC State’s campus. The course itself has some mild hills, especially in the 6-10 mile range, but fortunately my neighborhood trail had prepared me for them.*

As usual, the cheering crowds along the trail made the race even more fun. It was great to see parents with children, students, and other volunteers cheering us on, many of them in humorous fashion (my personal favorite was a sign that simply read “Something Encouraging”). And the post-race food area was more than adequately stocked with plenty of water, bananas, pizza, and even beer, a nice reward for a long run. A post-race massage was a nice bonus, but of course the best part of the race was having the Best Wife Ever waiting for me at the finish line, cheering me as completed the race.

I didn’t quite get my personal record–I actually missed it by 18 seconds–but I finished pretty fast, running the second half of the race ¬†about 8-10 minutes faster than the first half. The raceday environment is pretty addictive, and it’s always fun to be part of a big crowd in which everyone has the same goal of finishing the race. More than anything, the race was a reminder of how much I enjoy the rush of completing a challenging race and the excitement of moving through one of my favorite cities.

* I also played my usual game of counting Starbucks and Waffle Houses along the course. Alas, downtown Raleigh is far too eclectic for the game to work well. The two chains ended in a 1-1 tie.

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