This was the 6th Annual Talladega Half Marathon and 5k. The race takes place on and around the Talladega Nascar Superspeedway! This is a capped race and proceeds benefit prostate cancer through the Urology Health Foundation.
A couple weeks before the race, I received an offer from work to travel to Rome for a week. I of course couldn't pass up this opportunity, even though it was a packed itinerary, and would bring me home only 36 hours before race time and I would still have to drive from FL to AL. Little did I know, that our return flight home would be several hours delayed, making it a close call on even being able to make the race.
I ended up back home Friday around 11p, woke up Saturday at 7a and me and the pup drove 7 hours to Talladega. Luckily, there was a time change, so I gained an extra hour of rest....every. hour. counts.
PACKET PICK UP
They provided both before the race, and race day options to pick up your packet. The day before was at the Motorsports Museum, right next to the Superspeedway. I made it in time to get my packet the day before. There wasn't much to the packet, just your bib and gender specific shirt and a few ads. But we did receive a cool race koozie as well. I tried to pry some information about the race from the solo person, stating Im from out of town, but there really wasn't much to that either. I was too tired to do the museum, but think it would be cool to do before the race. There were no shopping options here, so make sure you have all your race supplies.
After that, it was straight to the hotel to rest. Late lunch/dinner was a salad with chicken, and then a late snack of a Lara bar and banana. Just enough to get me by without getting out of bed. I was asleep by 10p and slept like a baby til 530a.
We were warned of several things (1, do not, I mean do not bring your dog.... ok, how many times?) and 2, be prepared for traffic if you arrive after 630. So I arrived around 615. It was a breeze. Race was to start at 730a. It was cool to drive in the stadium as Talladega is spelled out in the stands and the seats are also colored to look like it is packed with people.
Parking was easy and I realized there was a real bathroom right there near by spot. It wasn't a bad walk to the Start area, but they had a shuttle system for those that did not want to walk (mainly spectators).
Even at the Starting area, they had real bathrooms in a couple areas as well as portal potties. I think most people didn't now about the real bathrooms in the pit garage.
There was coffee set up, but I couldn't find any water. I finished half a banana and a Lara bar for breakfast.
This was the first race I had been to where there was an actual worship service. Ive seen prayer groups before, but this was an actual tent with chairs and a preacher with a bible, preaching for about 15 minutes. I walked over and listened to the motivational words. It was about belief and he related a lot of it to racing.
The weather was almost perfect. It was in the upper 60s and overcast with a slight breeze as we waited to start. People were actually complaining they were cold! I thought it felt great. Except it seemed the breeze stopped after we started running. The last mile or two the sun did finally make its appearance and it warmed up quickly.
We ran the 'flats' of the speedway. It was really cool to see the turn walls.... they are a LOT steeper in person than on TV! But no worries, you dont run on the steep turn walls. We also got to run the wall above the track, and through the parking/tailgating/camping areas. We ran passed a few houses and on the main road to the entrance of the speedway. We then ran through the concession area/grandstands, on the wall above the track again, and then back on the track, through the middle/pit area, and down the straightaway to the Finish Line. The straightaways were so much longer than it looked to make it to the turns. One lap around the track was about 2.5 miles.
The water/Gatorade stations were properly stocked. However, the sheet they gave us the night before listed there would be THREE GU opportunities. When I first saw this I thought it was a ridiculous amount for a half marathon. However, after having a hectic travel week, I was super excited and was going to take advantage of every one of them. One of these days I will learn to not rely on the races promises. But at the same time, I paid for this, so they should own up to what they promise. It ended up being only 2 spots with GU. I don't know if it was mental, but I was exhausted and dying for the 3rd.
The Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) put up their own hydration table. I had read they would be out there, but little did I know, it was the first mile! Of course I had to partake in the alcohol with my fellow hashers!....they were of course, how I started getting into running...plus who goes to a Nascar speedway without a beer in hand??. They were also at the last couple miles as well.
There weren't that many people out there beside the runners. Mainly some family members here and there. The scenery and excitement of the speedway was pretty much enough to keep your mind sidetracked and motivated.
Survival was my only goal for this race. I had been fighting a cough all week, traveling all over Rome, and then driving from FL for this race, I am extremely lucky my body did not crash on me! On top of that, my performance was the fastest of this year so far! There was only one moment where I thought I was crashing (when I learned there wasn't a 3rd GU station) but that was already so close to the end, I pushed through.
The finish line was just slightly off from where the start was on the straightaway on the track. Once you crossed the finish line, you were welcomed with water and an ice cold chamois towel, as well as the traditional bananas and oranges. You then walked through Victory Lane for photos and back to the pit garage for the after party.
The after party was sponsored by Jim n Nicks BBQ and it was probably some of the best bbq I've had! Besides the BBQ, there was slaw, chips, ice cream, and unlimited beer and soda. They also had a really good band playing. The sun had finally come out, and it was becoming a gorgeous day. Too bad I had to hurry back to the hotel before check out time and drive back home.
I really had no expectations for this race. I hadn't come across many Alabama races in my search, and this one stood out to be the most unique. This was just a quick in/out, checking off the state of Alabama for my race bucket list type of trip for me. However, with all that said, this was definitely a top favorite race of all times! It is by far the most unique I have ever done and I would highly recommend it to others. Im not sure there is much else in Talladega, but Birmingham is not far away, and looking back, I would have spent some time there after the race.
I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. On my journey, I race a half marathon a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon where 100% proceeds goes to breast cancer research and care (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson