My friend Terri and I set a great plan into action for running the 2008 Georgia Marathon together. After scoping out the details, we decided to stay in the Omni Hotel so we could roll out of bed, take the elevator down to the lobby, walk out onto the plaza, and start the race! One problem… Mother Nature had other plans!.
On March 14, 2008 an EF2 tornado swept through downtown Atlanta causing great damage to many of the city’s buildings. As a result the race expo had to be moved from the Georgia World Congress Center to the Georgia Dome, and our reservations for the Omni Hotel were moved all the way across town to the Sheraton. Our accommodations at the Sheraton were fine, but the move across town resulted in a lot of hilly walking over the course of the weekend.
We flew into town on Friday, March 28th, two weeks to the day after the devastating tornado rolled through the city. Other than lots of boarded up windows (which really stood out on the mirrored high-rises, and the occasional pieces of missed glass on the sidewalks, the city was in amazingly good shape.
We headed straight downtown to meet my nephew Rob (he works downtown) for dinner at Ray’s In The City. After dinner, Rob gave us a quick walking tour of the attractions nearby and we ended our walk at Centennial Olympic Park.
Saturday morning we slept in (because we could) and then headed across town to the Georgia Dome for the race expo and packet pick-up. We got our workout in for the day because let me tell you, Atlanta has got some hills! We spent a couple of hours milling around, bought a few items, picked up our packets, and headed to the Hard Rock Café for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon resting our legs in our hotel room while reading and watching Sex in the City reruns (my first time watching the show).
Being in Corral 5 meant that I didn’t plan to run very fast!
After two beautiful days in Atlanta, we awoke on race morning to a damp and cold day. We warmed up on our thirty-minute walk from the hotel to the race start and timed it so we wouldn’t have to wait too long for the starting gun.
Not surprisingly, the course was very hilly. We ran through gorgeous neighborhoods with stately homes up on hills with big well-manicured yards, through isolated and lonely quiet industrial areas, past hopping neighborhoods, and finally ended back in the city at Centennial Olympic Park.
It was windy at times and we would get bone-chillingly cold whenever we had to stop (stupid shoelaces). Eventually I warmed up and tossed my gloves which proved to be a huge mistake. My fingers got really cold when the race course changed directions and we started running directly into the wind. I found a pair of discarded wet gloves along the road and put them on. Terri was completely grossed out!
Terri and I stayed together the whole race and Terri counted down miles at each marker. She would say something like, “Six miles down, 20.2 to go, and 14 until we see Rob…” About half way through the race, I decided that this countdown just made the race seem to go on forever, so I never did it again on my own (plus my math really stinks in the last half of a marathon). As indicated in the countdown, my nephew Rob, his wife Heather, and their dog Regala were meeting us around mile 20. It was amazing how looking forward to seeing them kept our spirits up during the cold, dreary race.
Terri and I finished yet another marathon together, this time in 4:40:18 (10:41 minute/mile pace). It certainly wasn’t our fastest marathon together, but it wasn’t our slowest either (we saved that honor for two years later at Steamtown).
After the race we walked back to our hotel, and even though we were exhausted (and if I haven’t mentioned it before, it was a hilly), the thirty minute walk was probably very good for us before we got on a plane to head home. Somewhere along the way back we found a Mexican restaurant and stopped in for our post-race lunch. We had a late check-out at the hotel which is very important after running a marathon. Showering after a race is always a very good thing, and I’m sure everyone on the plane was very appreciative!
At the airport, we treated ourselves to margaritas and relaxed for a little while, reflecting on yet another wonderful weekend away… just two running girlfriends with no worries. Just before we boarded our plane we saw a racer in his racing wheelchair. We talked to him for a little while and found out that he had won the wheelchair division. It was really great to meet him and hear about the race from his perspective.
Flying back to Virginia at sunset provided us with the most gorgeous clouds I’ve ever seen. I regret not taking any pictures…
- Have you ever been to Atlanta?
- Have you ever been in a tornado?
- Who’s racing this weekend?