On Saturday, my honey and I ran the Narragansett Bay Half Marathon in East Providence, Rhode Island. Let me start by saying this: marathon training is tough; but it is FAR easier to motivate for a long run when there’s water support, a pre-planned route you don’t have to think about, a bunch of other runners there with you, a tee shirt, finisher medal, and ice cream at the finish line. Technically, I was programmed for 10 miles this weekend (pull back week; my training plan runs in cycles like this), but I decided it would be WAY easier on my sanity to get the half in and take it easy. So I did.
The race was well organized; packet pickup was a breeze and there were plenty of bathrooms (every runner knows this is key for a good long run; pre-race bathroom lines can get nuts at these things). I only realized when we arrived that there would not be free beer at the finish line, but there would be free ice cream…. So I guess that worked out okay. This is particularly true because it was a 7 AM start. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a very slow runner… realistically I was going to be in the 2:45 range for a finish in the kind of heat we were dealing with (this was about my finish time on the nose). As much as I love beer, drinking it before 10 AM on a Sunday is not really my idea of a good time. Ice cream was far preferable.
The start was on time (YAY!) and the first few miles were pretty hilly. It was not a closed course, but it was well executed; we always had a nice wide shoulder for running and there was an ample police/volunteer presence to ensure runner safety. The only kind of off-putting thing was the amount of road kill; at least one significant piece per mile for the first 4 miles. Ew. I was grateful that I was paying enough attention to where I put my feet that this didn’t wind up being a trip hazard.
There were 11 water stations along the way which was really good because we needed it! It was hot and muggy, and though a breeze did eventually kick up that wasn’t entirely sufficient to keep us cool. Gatorade and ample fuel (gels, chomps, and honey stinger waffles) was offered along the course. A+ on aid stations!
For the first several miles we were running through residential areas which was really nice because East Providence has some extremely cute houses. It was a sleepy Sunday
morning, so we didn’t see much by way of spectators (though those who were there were out in full force; always a nice thing to see en route). A couple of the members of the community, knowing their yard would be on the race course, even left their sprinkler on facing the street so we could cool off on our way through. That was so kind of them and we definitely appreciated it. Thank you, masked strangers; whomever you are.
There were at least three bands along the race route (I kind of lost count because… like I said… it was HOT). Live music is really cool to run to and can pump you up when you’re in danger of hitting that dreaded wall, so I was super happy to see them out there. Thank you for the music, bands of East Providence!
At about mile 7 the course diverted onto a nearby bike path, which was really nice because it had shade, was flat, and had basically all the amenities of a closed course. Bikers came by now and again, but they were very polite and always signaled (some even cheered!). The course took us past the local fire station and the firemen were out on the driveway giving high fives to runners and shouting encouragement; there are few things in life quite as awesome as being told you’re awesome by a fireman.
While the course is kind of an out and back, it doesn’t loop back on the same roads it uses to go out so there was plenty of fresh scenery as your ran. On the whole, the course was challenging without being impossible and had some spectacular views. There was a race photographer at the finish line, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing my official race pics.
This was a great little race. It was small, local, cheap (only $50 if you pay attention and register with the early early registration), had ample race support, and an impressive finish line spread. The course was safe and lovely with some beautiful views of the harbor. Despite the early start, I would run it again if I can finagle a night in Providence the evening before. In terms of summer half marathons, you really can’t get much better than this one.