Illuminations Half Marathon

Two weeks after running Ragnar Trail, I ran a half marathon. This one wasn’t really by design; I kind of fell into it, and I was really glad I did.

One of my friends had pointed it out to me several months earlier. He signed up for it, and I agreed that it looked like a nice race, but (I think) I was already signed up for the Ragnar at that point, and I didn’t feel like I could throw out the money for an additional race registration so soon (Ragnar ain’t cheap), plus there was the proximity, and I didn’t know how I was going to feel running another race so soon.

We got closer to the race date, and he realized that because of a conflict, he wasn’t going to be able to do it. He gave his registration to me so it didn’t go to waste. I had been telling him that I could be ready for a half marathon just about any time (I had been running a lot of training miles), so he made me prove it.

Ragnar was awesome, and I loved it. Fortunately I didn’t feel too beat up afterward. I took most of the following week off, did a ten mile run the following Saturday, and a couple of short runs early the next week. Then it was race day!

Illuminations had two good things going for it right off the bat; it was a night race, and it was a golf course race (my favorite golf course race so far!).

I had one complaint with the race; it started late. They explained later that there had been a last-minute course change that they had to make because of some issue with the resort (this was their first year at that Mariott), which had necessitated shuffling the first several miles of the course around, but all we knew was that we spent at least a half-hour standing around in line with no information about what was happening. And then it seemed like the result of the course shuffle was having us run through the parking lot for the first several miles, which was kind of muddled and congested and not the prettiest thing in the world, but it didn’t last long and was understandable.

The rest of the course, though, was great: hilly, curvy, and dark. They had glow sticks spread intermittently to mark the course, and no other lights. They had recommended that runners bring headlamps, but since I had just done a lot of Ragnar in a headlamp, I wasn’t feeling like wearing one again, and hey, they’re golf cart paths—pretty smooth and safe. When everyone was bunched up earlier in the race, there was a lot of light from the other runners, but by the time we got 8 or 9 miles in, everyone was spread out quite a bit, and that was when it got seriously dark.

A side note about Ragnar: part of their sales pitch is something about running under thousands of stars, but here’s the thing—when you’re trail running at night, if your eyes aren’t glued to the the trail in the pool of light from your headlamp, you’re gonna trip on rocks. Sometimes you do that even when you are watching. There is a lovely night sky over your head, but you can’t look at it while you’re out on the trail.

The difference between the two races was what made me love it. I couldn’t look up at the night sky while I was running my Ragnar legs, but I definitely could during Illuminations. And I did. What I think about when I think about that race is those long, quiet, gorgeous stretches of running in the dark, alone with the stars and my music.

If they bring it back next year, I’m there.

How I Did

I felt good running this one. I was concerned about running out of steam because of Ragnar, but I felt strong pretty much the whole way through. I actually had to slow down a little from what I think I could have done, because I could feel cramps trying to creep in, and I didn’t want a repeat of that second leg of Ragnar. I was beat and a little wobbly at the finish line, but recovery was pretty quick, and I was comfortably back to training after just a few days.