Thoughts from Half Fanatic #3663
At 5:13 pm on April 27, 2011, a mile wide EF-4 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama leaving a 5.9-mile path of destruction throughout the city. Within six minutes, 12% of Tuscaloosa was destroyed, more than 7,000 individuals became unemployed, 1,200 citizens were injured, four schools were damaged or destroyed and multiple city infrastructures were damaged. Tuscaloosa is the home of the University of Alabama and for years I have enjoyed day trips for sporting events, trombone recitals, friendly visits, and fraternity events. When I first heard of the Inaugural Tuscaloosa Half Marathon Run for Recovery I decided that this was a race that I had to do. Anna, also a fan of the Crimson Tide, picked this race as her first half marathon. The race course was designed to run through damaged areas and showcase the destruction of the storm and the recovery and rebuilding efforts going on through out the city. Here is a graphic of the race course and the path of the tornado.
Race weekend started with a nice 3.5 hour drive after work over to Tuscaloosa, AL. After arriving I went to my friend Tiffany‘s apartment and then immediately over to City Hall for packet pickup. As we pulled up they were starting to pack up for the night. A very quick and organized packet pick up and within a minute or two I was heading back to the car and off to Coleman Coliseum for the Alabama Gymnastics meet versus UCLA. In the car I thumbed through the packet bag and was very pleased with what I found. The t-shirt was a very comfortable thin material and sports a great design, several local coupons and specials were thrown in along with a freezable ice pack and a 13.1 magnet.
Saturday morning I met up with Anna when she arrived in Tuscaloosa and went with her to pick up her bib. It was a blistering cold morning, predicted snow flurries, and winds were making it out to be a rough morning. I was excited to see Kristin, a fellow member of Team #rundisney, at the start line.
I made the decision several months ago to stick with Anna during the race and help her keep herself moving towards the finish. The race started in front of city hall in typical fashion and the first couple miles ticked by quickly as we wrapped around the downtown area and past a local school.
I had to make a quick stop in a local gas station to use the restroom in these early miles, something that is usually not a problem for me during a long run. To much coffee though on a cold morning will send you running every time. Between miles 3 & 5 we ran through subdivisions that were hit by the tornado. There is still devastation and even a few construction crews out on Saturday morning rebuilding homes from the storm.
There was a sign posted here that said “3,000 cubic yards of debris was removed from Forest Lake”. Unfortunately, this was around the time that Anna started to feel an unusual pain and we began the slow process of walk breaks that would lead to our long morning on the race course.
Through the bulk of Mile 5 we continued to trek through neighborhoods of blue roofs and dead trees, travelled down Macfarland Blvd and out to University Blvd for the turn around. Miles 6-8 were a down and back on University. I made another stop here to run into a gas station, stupid coffee, and some friendly police officers let me snag a Krispy Kreme creme filled doughnut.
Mile 8-10 wrapped around Hellen Keller Blvd and out to Jack Warner Pkwy where we made our way to the waterfront pathway. This was a nice paved pathway running along the river and on to the finish line that made for a very scenic final miles and around to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre for the finish. It was great crossing the finish line and seeing the sense of accomplishment on the faces of people around me. It was unfortunate however that the race had run short on finisher medals! We were given a slip of paper explaining that the race was short a shipment of medals and we would be receiving one when they were available. I borrowed one from another runner for a quick picture.
The finish festival was great! BBQ pork sandwhiches made for great post run food and the music was fantastic. If it were a little warmer out I think it would have really been great to stick around and enjoy the festivities more.
Here a few thoughts from a runner for an Inaugural event.
#1) I understand being short on medals was out of the control of the race organizers and that they are working to correct this for all those affected, but I would have like to see a facebook post or tweet earlier in the week that made it known that the back of the pack would not receive thier medals on race day so that it wasn’t a surprise at the line.
#2) More water stops. 5 water stations is not enough in a half marathon. Especially a smaller half that has a strong market for begininng runners and first time half runners. Having them spaced out so far is hard.
#3) Overall I really enjoyed the race course and path. There was a good mix of hills and flats and the course showcased the reason for the race. I did not like two places. The first being after the climb to the hospital the little patch of grass we ran through between the parking lot and the road, and the second being the small sidewalk facing opposing traffic under the overpass.
I had a great weekend in Tuscaloosa and thoroughly enjoyed this race and look forward to future races.