First off, Berry University is absolutely GORGEOUS! The architecture and “old” style of the buildings is breathtaking. We left Atlanta around 5:30 to reach Berry by 7:00, having been told that if we didn’t get there early, all the parking would be taken. Once we arrived there, we porta pottied up, and walked the ~.25-.5 miles to get the race packets and headed back to the car, passing dozens and dozens of empty parking spaces. It’s definitely not necessary to get there by 7. I would make it a priority to arrive by 7:30-7:45 at the latest. You will still find parking at that time. By 8, the lot was getting starting to get full.
After freezing our tushies off, we waited in the car until 8:15 enjoying the warmth of the heated seats on our derrieres. By then, the sun was out, and things were warming up. I hit the porta potty one more time, only to instantly injure myself. I mean, who injures themselves in a porta potty?!?!?! And if they do, ya have to ask yourself what they were doing, right??? I’d love to have some fab story like the roof caved in or the floor fell apart, but no…I simply didn’t move my hand in time and ended up pushing the lock up over it.
How? I HAVE NO IDEA, but it hurt. I headed to the first aid station, where one woman with blonde hair smiled said I was their first customer. They wanted to know what happened. I mumbled that I hurt it in the porta potty. Both looked perplexed, and the gentleman had this look like “Really? Seriously? …I’m not gonna ask.” ROFL. I bet they got a good chuckle out of that one after I left. Nah, they were really sweet and nice about it. I mean, I had 3 medics tending to me!!!! How’s that for elite! *thumbs up*
Next to the start line, tents were set up for packet pick-up and for FREE coffee!!!! That’s right, F-R-E-E coffee with cheerful, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed volunteers to boot! At the start line, they asked runners to organize themselves according to estimated finish times (signs being held by volunteers). We thought the guys and gals holding the sign were pacers, but quickly found out otherwise. A fellow Adventure Runner, Steve, and myself looked around for the best spot. We didn’t want to get too far in front and impede the elites, but we didn’t want to get stuck behind walkers and slower-paced runners.
Once the race started, the crowd spread out quickly with the race going down a two-way campus street, around a circular drive, and past some spectacular campus buildings. Everyone I listened to told me how the course was pancake flat. Uh, I beg to differ. Are there gigantic, mountainous hills, no. There are, however, slight grades of inclines that you will feel, IF you are used to running on pancake flat roads or on someplace like the Silver Comet trail, which isn’t even a trail. Now, I was told that there were ACTUAL hills on the half marathon portion near the lake.
Steve and I were doing great the first 3.5 miles…too great, and I knew it, but I LOVED having a racing buddy. I knew we could push each other and keep the pace going until the end. All along the course, there were motivational signs that caused a few chuckles like “termites create the most farts each year (or something like that)” and many more. That was just the one that stood out in my mind the most. Go figure.
We were pulling 8:15-8:30 for the first 3.5 miles easily, then POP! Steve came to a halt alongside the road. He had torn his calf muscle, although he didn’t realize it. He told me he’d catch up, so I took off. I kept the pace up until about mile 4. My calves were beginning to feel like lead and were stiff as boards. I tried altering my stride to no avail. The pavement was excruciating, no fault of my PureFlows. I simply wasn’t used to RACING 10k on the road. Lately, I had been sticking to the trails, where I was pulling 10-10:30 miles easily, yet here I was struggling with what felt like a low to mid-9.
We (10kers) turned off the main road to a wood-chipped side trail. Oh, how those wood-chips felt like clouds to my feet and legs. “Finally, trail!” A woman in front of me turned her head and hollered back, “Don’t worry. We’re about to hit the road again.” “SON OF A…,” I thought to myself. Sure enough, there was a paved lane ahead. I grudgingly hopped back on the pavement with my calves protesting heavily. I noticed a very narrow gravel path alongside the lane and hopped over to it. Ohhhhhhhh, I tell ya, shudders of ecstasy there! *dreamily* Trail runners know EXACTLY what I”m talking about here. I was in PURE heaven for the next mile or so when I was forced back onto the pavement.
My calves and legs had gotten the break they needed, but the last mile or so on pavement left my legs shredded. I wasn’t sure how I could muster the stamina to push it in to the finish, but when I came around the bend to the final homestretch, there were crowds of onlookers cheering, clapping, and waving, lending me the energy I so needed. I crossed the finish line in 56:26, 4th in my AG.
Definitely NOT the time I was shooting for, but considering everything I’ll take it. 1) It was my first 10k road race since giving birth last year. 2) I hadn’t run a single speedwork session in December after inuring my IT band. 3) Most of my medium-length runs were done on trails.
I looked for my racing buddy, and found him nursing his torn calf ..but guess what? Despite that torn calf, he finished in just over an hour. How’s that for hardcore?!?! We hit the runner’s food station, and WOW! I tell ya! Berry knows how to put out a nice spread from bagels, muffins, oranges, bananas, and trail mix to hot chocolate, Powerade, water, granola bits, and these really yummy bars called Eat.Think.Smile. Mmmm, dark cherry chocolate…..mmmmm…… Very nice spread, indeed.
Next to the food station, there was a table where volunteers printed labels with your finishing time, AG placement, gender placement, and overall placement. One thing to keep in mind here is that these are based on gun times, and they are based only on those who have crossed the finish line thus far.
Another cool perk is that they had a station where you could receive a free rub down. There were at least 4 tables there, but I had spent so much time socializing that, by the time I got there, the line was too long. Still, if you don’t spend your time gabbing like me, you can get one quickly, if you’re a 5k or 10k finisher.
Oh, and did I mention the AWESOME swag bags complete with race tee (cotton for 5k and 10k, tech for half), chapstick, bandaids with a bandaid holder, metal clip that’s FANTASTIC for holding things when camping, Clif Shot Bloks, a GU energy gel (half marathon only), and a handy-dandy pen. Definitely MUCH MORE than I expected to see in a race bag for this type of race! Me likey lots!!!!
We waited for the rest of our runners to come in, and headed off for some grub at a local Waffle House before driving back home. I would DEFINITELY like to do this race again next year, and I fully intend to TEAR IT UP next time around!
For those looking for a Peachtree Qualifier, this is a good race for it. Is it the flattest 5k or 10k near Atlanta, no; but it’s pretty darn close. …and come on, those Berry folks KNOW how to throw a good race with awesome swag, rally a PHENOMENAL cheering squad, and present some mean grub! What more can a runner ask for?
***Notes: Half marathon runners all mentioned that there were rather large rocks throughout sections of the course that made for more difficult maneuvering. Some complained that they were rather painful. Others were grateful for the change from running on the road.***