Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bedford Half Marathon - Race Report

I have run lots of half marathons. Prior to October 2014, I had run nine organized road half marathons and countless training runs of 13.1 miles or more. In those nine races, I've run alone, with friends, for fun, for time, with good results, and with rough results. However, no race was quite like my tenth organized road half marathon, the Bedford Half Marathon.

Hometown Race
In November 2013, my hometown, the city of Bedford, Indiana, received some exciting news: we would be hosting a half marathon on October 4, 2014. Local runners rejoiced. We embraced the opportunity to share our sport and our town all in one event.

Bedford-born Chris Galloway was at the helm of the planning. As the months progressed, so did plans for the race. The challenging, hilly course map was released. Folks started registering. Volunteers joined the effort. Bedford was abuzz with running talk. However, one question was on the mind of every Lawrence County dweller: can Bedford pull off this event?

Race Weekend
Welcome to the Fitness Expo!

Wendy and I signed up to volunteer at the Fitness Expo, held the night before the race, where we were charged with the task of greeting folks who entered the expo. I've been to a myriad of race expos in big cities. Though this expo was small, it did not lack big-city energy.  Participants and volunteers were all smiles, jittery with excited energy, and looking forward to the race. The final count reported about 750 people registered for the three races (half marathon, 5K, and 1-mile walk).

Still... could Bedford pull off this event?

Pre-race support from my favorites
Race Day
Race morning dawned cool and breezy. I was able to walk with Wendy to a start line that was only a half mile from my home. Once in the "race village" (Bedford's downtown square), I was immediately impressed with the area. The finish line and chute were organized and professional. Boxes of post-race necessities were prepared for finishers. A stage promised a band and an impressive awards ceremony. Volunteers were ready to assist runners and spectators. As time passed, the downtown area became a hub of activity. It was later reported that Bedford's downtown had not seen that volume of people since the 1920s.

So far, so good, Bedford.

Times-Mail photo of the start by Garet Cobb
The Race
The start was a rush of energy as we headed west on 16th Street. Bedford citizens lined the streets to cheer on the runners. Instantly, I knew that this race was something special to the city of Bedford. As we continued on the course, I became even more aware that the Bedford Half Marathon was more than just a race. Droves of people came to support the event, whether they were participants, volunteers, or roadside cheerleaders. People were coming together.

Nearly every cheer I heard was accompanied by my name. "Go, Jo!" "Get it, Mrs. Cobb!" "C'mon, JoAnna, run!" People here knew me.  I usually thank policemen and volunteers when I run an organized race. This day, they answered, "No problem, Jo!" When I finished, the announcer didn't need to look up my number before he announced, "Look folks, it's JoAnna Cobb!" In the chute, familiar faces offered a medal and hydration.

Everyone was happy. Every. One. Was. HAPPY. It was a beautiful day. Runners inspired the volunteers and the crowds on the streets.  The crowds and volunteers inspired the runners. My facebook was full of photos my friends took of the race. My phone pinged all day with messages from friends, all of them excited about the Bedford Half Marathon.

Bedford, it seems, pulled it off.

Mile 11 with Jon, Mary, & Zach
The Race, Again
Oh, you wanted some of the usual info? :-)  Here it is...

I paired with Zach, a former student of mine who was running his third half marathon and looking to PR. My plan was to run comfortably hard, but not race. I didn't want to jeopardize my performance in the upcoming Monumental Marathon. I figured I would hang with Zach around a 9:00 pace and see where it took me. We were joined off and on by Mary, a friend of mine who was trying to break two hours.

Near the finish
This race story is better told holistically. We managed to nail very consistent miles in the 8:50 range, faster than I had planned, but oh well. The hills were challenging, but very nearly fun. The long trip up Mitchell Road wasn't as hard as I thought, but the rolling hills in the last 5K made up for it. Zach and I talked the whole time. He asked the age old question, "Why does the blacktop on John Williams Blvd. stay black when all the other pavement goes gray?" We saw a guy lose his lunch (breakfast?) early in the race. We talked about school. We talked about how we liked the cold (39°), but not the wind. I gave advice when I thought he needed it. Ed, Mom, and Wendy kept tabs on us, Ed and Wendy on bikes and Mom via car. Wendy kept us informed about our racing friends. We sped up at the end, and Zach and I separated with about a half mile to go. He finished in 1:55:33, and I was six seconds behind him. Mary joined us less than a minute later.

Let me just say that again: I finished a half marathon, without racing, with challenging hills, talking the whole time, in just two minutes above my PR. I could not be more thrilled with my fitness.

Here are the results and the stats 'n' such. Hooray to my friends Becky and Kyle for being the first Lawrence Countians, and to all my friends and neighbors for their great races.

...and what an afterglow it is. Bedford did it. We did it. We ALL did it. It took everyone coming together to make the Bedford Half Marathon what it was. What was it? It was an event that made every single person in attendance appreciate something about someone else. It built and strengthened relationships and community pride. It was everything I love about Bedford, Indiana, and running.

Some More Pics
A finish line with Bedford on it!

Starting with Yancy and Zach

With Mary and Zach on Mitchell Road


Did it!

In the chute with Zach

Got it done!

PS - September
Here are my September running stats:

Miles Run: 135.52
Runs: 13
Hours Run: 21:54:26.2
Average Run Distance: 10.42 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:42.0
Average Run Duration: 1:41:06.6
Average Temperature: 54.25°F
Longest Run: 7.00 mi., September 1
Shortest Run: 20.10 mi., September 20
Favorite Run: September 13, 15.01 mi.
Trips To Gym: 6
Total 2014 Mileage: 908.62
Total Lifetime Mileage: 3,861.36

(Current 2014 total is 929.27 mi., and current lifetime total is 3,882.01.)


  1. I ran the Mitchell Road hill precisely once, and nothing north of 16th St during my training. I didn't want to psyche myself out any more than I was already doing.

    On race day, Mitchell Road gave me no problems whatsoever. I may have walked some portions of the hills, but my pace chart doesn't show any significant drops. The rolling hills on 6th & J were another story - had I been running my "old" way, I'd have been exhausted at that point and miles 11 - 13 would probably have totally demoralized me.

    You didn't mention it, but I thought that the organizers did a fantastic job of marking the course, accurately placing the mile markers (I thought there were only 1 or 2 that weren't spot-on), and placing cones to keep the runners safe. That said, I did have to come to a complete halt on John Williams just short of Hillcrest when a senior citizen decided to make a right turn despite the cones and a marshall trying to wave her off. If I hadn't stopped, she would have hit me.

    1. Too bad that happened on JW Blvd! Congrats on your great race. The rolling hills on the north end were tough, for sure. Glad you made it through them!