Danbury Half Marathon Recap: Part I

Races are but mere memory flashes for me. That’s why I’ve decided to take my camera along with me for most of my recent runs including races. I’m not generally a pessimist, but I always kind of think, “What if this is my last race, ever? I want to remember it!” Plus, taking photos with my little Canon point-and-shoot is a good distraction when things get a little monotonous or loopy. So if you see me in a race or on a long run, I’m the Dork With the Camera taking photos.

So, here we go, my recap of the Stratton Faxon Greater Danbury Road Race (aka the Danbury Half).

I got a ride in with my friend Mary and her sister-in-law Jeanine. They were expecting about 1100 folks for the Half. (There was also a 5k and a kids’ fun run that day.) It was starting to get crowded for the 10:20 AM start. Mary’s husband Michael snapped a photo of us nervous nellies:

Squinty and nervous.

Hitting the restroom before the race is a big must. I’m still working on timing my fluids. Luckily, the line for the ladies room inside the main building wasn’t too long, thanks to smart race organizers who put extra port-a-johns at the start. (Note to race organizers: Lots and lots of women run races. We cannot pee behind trees and parked cars. If you want my entry fee, you’d better have some decent amount of potties.) There was the hustle and bustle of pinning numbers, checking music players, and last-minute clothing debates.

The start was about 1/4 mile down from the main building, so with about 20 minutes before start, Mary, Jeanine and I did a light warm-up jog down to there. Because the first mile of any run always sucks for me, I like to at least be a little warmed up before I get going. I did some leg stretches and tried some focusing breaths to calm my nerves. I was more excited than nervous, though. I felt the most ready that I’d ever been for any race.

Besides Mary and Jeanine, I found out that 3 more random friends were planning on running this race. I tried to find everyone at the starting line. I ran into Lori, but she scampered off before I could take her photo (she’s fast like that). I did find my friend Dave, that I’ve known for about 15 years, but hadn’t seen in about 10.

No place like the start line for a reunion!

Waiting…waiting…

Mary and I head toward the back. In the last Half 6 months ago, we were in line for the bathrooms forever (again, get potties, race directors!) and dashed to the start line just before the horn went off. We got stuck in the front with all of the fast people and got swept up in the fastness of it all, and ran the first mile way too…fast. We didn’t want to make that same mistake again.

The People-Watching is excellent at races.

Suddenly the race starts. It’s always funny to see everyone punching their watches or starting their apps on their phones while crossing the start line. Start lines are always hectic and crowded. You have to watch your footing.

And...they're off!

We made a right turn onto South Street. I’m glad they roped off a lane. Still, we were all a bit sardine-ish for while.

Love spectators, especially the yelling-out-the-window types.

Because it’s a USATF-certified course, we have to do a loop around the park, running across the starting line again (to make it EXACTLY 13.1 miles), and we have to funnel into the correct lane to avoid collisions with the 5k runners.

It seems straightforward, but I have an irrational fear that I'll miss a sign and end up in the woods or something.

As we passed by the finish line, they were making adjustments to the clock, with the announcer assuring us that “It would be fixed by the time we got back.” Oh it’d better be, buddy. It. had. better. be.

FIX THE CLOCK! (No pressure.)

Mary and I (well, mostly me because I’m the gadget gal) monitor our pace, and for the first three miles, we’re enjoying a nice pace in the 9:30’s. So far, so good. We spot these guys, tossing a tennis ball back and forth.

Interesting race strategy.

So, Dork With a Camera starts doing self-portraits. Hey, if the tennis ball guys can toss a ball, I can take photo while running.

All three of us and the Virgin Mary in the shot. BOOM!

We’ve run about 3 miles and it’s at this point Jeanine runs backwards…

Did I mention she gave birth to twins 6 months ago? Yep, she's hardcore, folks.

…which as it turns out was her way of saying buh-bye to us. She picks up the pace and we didn’t spot her again until after the finish line.

We reach the first aid station. Hello, gatorade! I take some, as I’m a bit thirsty already.

Always say thank you to the volunteers. (Believe it or not, there are some people who don't - it's APPALLING.)

We pass this band rocking’ out at about mile 4. We’ll see them again at mile 12 at the close of the loop part of the race.

I don't remember what they were playing, but it was loud and fast.

Then we crossed into Bethel. I always like to note when I cross a border of anything, as it makes it seems like a long distance (“Oh man, I just ran from Danbury into Bethel! Phew!”) So nerdy, I know.

Hello, Bethel.

It’s at this point we head up our first real hill. It’s not particularly steep or long, but enough to allow us to pass many folks on the way up. Speaking for both of us, we may seem like sweet, non-competitive elementary teachers on the outside, but truth be told, Mary and I take great pleasure in passing people. We love it. As many as we can. Before the race we shared with each other that we review through the race course in our minds as we fall asleep at night, and dream that we pick off people as we run up the hills. That’s how we roll.

First real hill. Check.

Now that the hill has warmed us up considerably, Mary needed to shed one of her three layers…specifically the middle layer. Tricky, considering the race number, with the timing chip attached was on the top layer. Not missing a step, she peels off the blue top, hands it to me. She peels off the middle layer, hands it to me, and I hand her back her top layer with the bib attached (we’re still running) and she puts the top layer back on…

Now that takes some mad skillz.

…I hand her back the middle layer for her to wrap around her waist. I think it actually was one of our faster miles, come to think of it. Well done, Mary.

We make a right turn and head south. We are all “forced” into the bike lane, kind-of-but-not-really allowing Mary and I to run side-by-side. I would like to point out that the race map had this to say about it:

Fear and common sense. Do people running 13.1 for fun have either of these?

Mile 5 – time for a little sugar, in the form of a GU. I’m kind of ritualistic about taking a GU every 50 minutes. It’s about that time that I can actually start to feel my “fuel” running out, like a minor low-blood-sugar thing, but with adrenaline. It’s weird, but I’ve learned to listen to my tummy.

I prefer the type with caffeine AND chocolate.

And a little water to wash it down.

Again, thank you volunteers.

Good thing I did both, because here comes the first monster hill. And there goes Mary, killin’ it like she does.

No cheering section here, just cones-n-guardrails.

We topped the hill, and saw a long, lovely stretch of a slight down hill.

Runners, bikers, and jalopies, oh my! Talk about sharing the road...

In the meantime, my husband was near mile 8, next to another band, waiting for us to pass by. My daughter did the “waiting for Mommy” dance…

The smile that can fuel miles.

We pass mile 6…mile 7…we are into a good, brisk pace and the sky remained cloudy (had the sun come out, I would’ve needed to shed layers, too) so the temps remained cool. However, we got to that point where we knew we were so-close-and-yet-so-far from seeing our respective families at mile 8-ish. Things got a little goofy:

This photo made carrying the camera completely worth it.

On that note, stay tuned for Part Deux coming soon. Will we Kill the Hill? Will we break a personal record? Will there be any more goofy photos? You’ll just have to find out.

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6 thoughts on “Danbury Half Marathon Recap: Part I

  1. I don’t know how you do it – any of it, all of it!!

    Not only do you have fun while you’re running, you carry a camera and film yourself having fun! You are quite the inspiration, Nancy! GREAT JOB!!

  2. Hi Stacey!
    Thanks for all of the kind words!
    Well, just one step at a time, one run at a time. Mary and I really tried to push ourselves out of our comfort zone during our training runs (extra hills, pushing the pace, etc.), especially in the last month. That kind of training I couldn’t have done without a partner. I think that might have been to key to really enjoying this race. I hope to come to Ohio this summer and we’ll have to run together!

  3. HI Nancy…this is Mary’s sister Katie….love the blog! and all your goofy photos! Maybe I will hopefully get to meet you soon and who knows maybe kill a hill too! Great job!

    • Katie!!
      Thanks for coming out to cheer us on. It’s such an energizer to see loved ones on the course. It makes a huge difference. Come run with us soon!

  4. Pingback: Danbury Half Marathon Recap: Part II | See Nancy Run.

  5. Pingback: Run Like a Mother 5k | See Nancy Run.

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