Buckle up, sport fans! This is going to be an awesome saga! Well, at least it should be a nice report of a great half marathon race.
The Oak Tree Half Marathon is sponsored by the Genesee Valley Conservancy, a not-for-profit land trust that helps to protect 16,400 beautiful acres across four rural counties in upstate New York (i.e., Livingston, Wyoming, Allegany, and Ontario). I’m ramping up for my return to the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28, 2018, so I thought this early September half would be good preparation.
The race had an 8 AM start at the Geneseo Central School District campus. Geneseo is a pretty little college town located in Livingston County, New York. After an oatmeal and peanut butter on toast breakfast, the Better Half and I cruised the 35 miles from our home in Fairport to Geneseo on a blue sky Sunday morning for the 8 AM start. Even at that early hour, it was obvious that it was going to be hot and humid. We made it with a few minutes to spare, and I ended up trading running stories with a couple of guys, including Bob Lonsberry, a popular daily radio talk show host in the Rochester, NY market. It was Bob who told me about the big hill that was waiting for us at around mile 10. Up until that time, I had not given the course profile much consideration, because, for me, this was suppose to be pure leisure. However, like, I suppose, a lot of runners, once I am at that start line, leisure ends and competition begins. Well, what can I say? Let’s roll! With little fanfare we were off!
The race course took the 251 runners down the main street of the village of Geneseo and around the iconic water fountain located in its center. Even at 8 AM, the humidity made it feel more like a swim meet than a road race, but it was great to pour on the coal. I had decided to “run naked” for this race (i.e., uhhh, no, this simply means I had no watch or similar electronic device), but I bet I was running about 7’30” or 7’45” miles for the first five miles of the course.
I felt great! Of course, as can be seen in the graphic above, we were trucking down hill for the first few miles, so it was easy to feel full of energy and rapidly churn the legs. The vibe of this race was a positive, easy going, family-oriented one, though there were some very competitive runners out front.
Did I mention it was hot? It was absolutely the hottest, or, perhaps more accurately, the most humid, race that I have ever run, and that includes the 2017 Nashville St. Jude Rock-N-Roll Marathon, where it got into the 90’s and the race was eventually called early. For today’s race, I hydrated at every opportunity.
Race fans, if you have an interest in running a race on a naturally scenic route, the Oak Tree Half is for you. It’s bucolic and beautiful. A good portion of the route is on well-packed but gravelly roads with rich, green, rolling fields and shimmering stands of old growth trees. The picture at the top of this post (i.e., the “featured image”), taken by a great race photographer using a drone, provides a glimpse of this scenic route.
Like other races, one goal I established was zero walking, and this became a struggle at about Mile 10, when it was time to make about a one-mile ascent up a gorgeous gravel country lane. This was the uphill portion of the race that Bob had told me about at the start line. I put my head down and started chugging it out. Fellow runners each had their own method for dealing with this long hill; some walked, some alternated between running and walking, some were fit enough to keep a nice running pace. I never walked, but I bet my pace dropped to about an 11 minute mile. I was quite pleased when I crested the top of that hill and made my way onto a very flat, two mile dash to the finish line.
On this final stretch, I ran as hard as I could, and I could really feel the pain! The final stretch of this race is around the running track on the Geneseo High School campus. As I dashed around this track to the finish line, I approached a male runner and prepared to pass him. At that moment, he invited his kids to run out onto the track to “finish” with him, and I found myself in a quick game of dodge-and-weave. I was so spent that I actually had trouble engaging in any kind of fine-tuned evasive action, so I just careened to the most exterior lane of the track and passed the fellow runner and his family from out there.
I crossed the line at 1:54:20 (an 8:44 per mile pace; 56 out of 248). I was fifth in my age group, so this was not a podium finish, but I did earn a “door prize” – a loaf of awesome raisin cinnamon Monk’s Bread, made by Trappist monks at a local abbey.
My thanks to the Genesee Valley Conservancy and everyone who put on this terrific race; I really enjoyed it! Sport fans, watch for the write-up of my return to the Marine Corps Marathon. I am planning on a new course PR, and the write-up may finally be my Pulitzer Prize winner!