The sun was shining, the skies were clear. It was a sign. We couldn’t have asked for a better morning to run 13.1 miles through the City of Rochester.
I arrived downtown about an hour before the 7:30 a.m. start. I parked in my usual daily spot, headed into my office and dropped my gear at my desk before meeting up with several colleagues also running the half.
After months of training for many Rochester-area runners, Sunday was the fourth annual Flower City Half Marathon. It marked my third time running the course, and was by far my favorite trek.
There’s really nothing like running a race in your hometown. You run alongside literally dozens of friends and pass cheering neighbors as you round nearly every bend. Thank you, Rochester.
All four of us ran our own race. And we were each happy with how our respective runs went. Jessica and Megan ran together and Traci and I agreed to run separately (but not far apart!) before we headed to the starting line.
Runners started to gather on the Broad Street bridge shortly after 7 a.m., about 30 minutes before the race was scheduled to begin. In the moments leading up to the start, I still had not located my race partners — Jen and Mark. It looked like I was going to run solo.
I lined up with Traci, who planned to take it easy, and we waited to begin. We paused for a moment of silence – to reflect on the Boston Marathon bombings. The start line also paid tribute to the tragic day, with 4-15-13, the date of the marathon, listed on the time clock featured at the start. A Boston flag was proudly displayed, opposite the American flag.
Many in the crowd also joined in singing the National Anthem. It was tough to hear mid-crowd as a speaker near me wasn’t working quite right. So to hear everyone sing was moving. And then, we were off!
About a quarter-mile into the race, I heard someone shout my name. I turned and saw Jen and Mark waving at me. I weaved through the crowd to join my race partners. (Thanks, eagle eye Mark!)
Around mile 1, we passed Susan B. Anthony’s house on Madison Street. As always, Anthony and several other historical actors were cheering as runners zipped by. It always makes me smile!
We rounded the corner and headed past a city fire house and toward Frontier Field and Eastman Kodak.
We had sped up to a 9-minute-mile pace. Fine by me, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it through the mid-course hills.
We veered off Main, down East Avenue where we saw several cheering colleagues and friends. We headed through the Park Avenue neighborhood and felt strong through mile six, when we reached the South Wedge.
This is always the spot where I slow down. I’d love to give a spectacular reason, but in reality, I know it’s because I’m not the strongest on hills. And the mid-section of the Flower City course has PLENTY of hills, starting with an incline on South Goodman Street followed by another hill into Highland Park.
Jen zipped ahead and we waved her on. She was running strong and Mark was fine with slowing down to accommodate my aching legs. (Jen stayed on pace and came in under two hours at 1:59:31.)
Mark and I powered through Highland Park and Mt. Hope Cemetery, about three straight miles of hills with a cobblestone road (a hill, of course) thrown in. Despite how much I struggle here, I love running through the park and cemetery as both are so unique and beautiful. Besides, where else will you run past such historical icons as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and Nathaniel Rochester?
Runners in Mt. Hope Cemetery. File photo from 2012 race by Annette Lein
After we left the cemetery, we ran past Strong Memorial Hospital and along the river trail past the University of Rochester. We passed a few people here and settled in for our last two miles. Mark grabbed a beer from a generous spectator.
“Hey,” he shrugged. “Does it really matter with about a mile to go?”
Not at all. BRILLIANT!
Moments later, we’d reached the Ford Street bridge. One mile to go!
We hauled up a hill (ugh) and spotted a cheering colleague (Thanks Mikey!) and headed across the bridge. We turned onto Plymouth where we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the skyline.
Mark and I cheered for other runners as we ran this final stretch. We were particularly excited for a woman who had run with Mark as he trained for his first marathon. She finished strong, just ahead of us.
Thanks for the run, Mark! We finished in 2:06. Decent considering how much we slowed down on the hills. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
— Victoria Freile (@vfreile) April 28, 2013
Have you run a race course past historic monuments? What are your spring fitness plans? Tell me us in the comments below.