Sunday, April 22, 2012

Running the Statue to Statue 15K in Birmingham

Vulcan on Race Day
On Saturday, I ran the Birmingham Track Club's 22nd annual Statue to Statue 15K run, which proudly calls itself "The South's Toughest 15K." And while I can't attest to that, I can assure you that consensus has it as the most difficult race in Birmingham, Alabama. One particularly stretch is rather notorious and is the reason that some runners, when asked for advice about running this race, simply reply, "Don't." I don't know that this stretch has a monicker, but if not, I'd like to dub it "Hell's Half Mile."

 Saturday started out as a pretty dreary looking morning as the 500 or so congregated at the foot of Vulcan Park, but nothing dresses up a day like the attire donned by a couple hundred runners of every shape, size, color, and ilk.

Not far from the starting gate, everyone's still feeling spry and eager.
Our course carried us from the bottom of Vulcan Park east through Mountain Brook and eventually to Liberty Park, 9.39 miles later. But few are the flat patches between those two landmarks. We traversed some of Birmingham's nicer neighborhoods, and many residents spent a part of their mornings cheering us along our way. And while this raced lacked the hordes of fans that some of Birmingham's larger races draw, those who were present weren't lacking in spunk.

These ladies easily win the award for 'Most Encouraging Spectators'

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention and express gratitude to those most important components of any race, the volunteers at the aid and water stations, who both literally and figuratively are life savers. Unfortunately, I generally carry my Camelbak and bypass the water stations, since I'm apparently incapable of drinking from a cup while moving. But I sure do miss throwing my cup on the ground; it's awfully fun.

First water station, near mile 3
Near mile 7, these folks on the right were handing out sweets and beer to the bold or unwitting
Now for one more comment about Hell's Half Mile before the finish: I wasn't among the elite runners since I'm not gifted with great speed, so I was somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I didn't see one person run all the way up that hill. Prior to reaching it, I was determined, as a matter of pride, to keep my running form, but pride lost out after a couple hundred yards; I succumbed to it sooner than some, but later than most.

After that stretch is when it gets really interesting; from that point on, it's mostly downhill, which at first you really appreciate. But before long, going down is as grueling as was going up, as it just destroys what's left of your quads. So you do what I did - give in to gravity, let go of control, and hope for the best, remembering that if you do start to fall, tuck-and-roll is your best bet.

Beginning the long climb up Hell's Half Mile. It's worse than it looks from here.
For your perusing pleasure, here are other races I've run and written about: 2011 Mercedes Half Marathon, 2011 Huntsville Half Marathon, 2012 Russell Forest Run.

6 comments:

  1. I ran all the way up hells half mile! Hard, but possible!!

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    Replies
    1. Congrats. Maybe I'll be that zealous next year.

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  2. I didn't run all the way up either! I just tried to hang on until it seemed pointless with how little ground I gained with each tiny jog. But eventually I'd like to make it without stopping. Agreed on the three ladies being the best cheerleaders. It seemed like they were out for a jog and stopped to cheer everyone along.:)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with that hill in the future.

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