How did I wind up in Savannah, GA you ask? Well, to really give you a good answer to that question, let me introduce you to my cousin Jen!
Well if you want to get technical, our Grandmas were sisters - which makes us something like second cousins once removed. But since we are just a few months apart we were always close growing up, and when Jen moved to New York in middle school we quickly became inseparable. As adults we went to different colleges and while I wound up staying on Long Island, Jen took a Job in Atlanta and moved back to Georgia. We still get to see each other a few times a year, and are in near constant contact thanks to the magic of technology.
Earlier this year, Jen started asking me about running. How did I start running? Do I really, truly enjoy it? Could she be a runner?
Honestly, her asking these questions was part of what made me start writing this blog (Hi Jen!). I felt that if I could share my experiences, maybe it would inspire other people to get out and run. To feel like they have the power to do difficult things, and run races that in theory, felt impossible.
So, when Jen was visiting New York this summer, she told me that we were going to workout together while she was here, and I was completely on board. This was around the time when my brother, Tommy, was running about a mile everyday. Jen and I planned to do an Orange Theory class, and when that didn't workout we started a strength workout at home, and Tommy happened to be heading out for his mile and invited us along. Jen was skeptical at first having never run a mile straight through before, but we kept the pace manageable and she managed to run a mile straight through for the first time! I wish I could tell you she was elated - but alas, she was mostly ready to punch me in the face... kidding aside, she was happy that she had managed to run a mile straight through.
When Jen headed back home to Georgia, she wanted to keep running. So I helped her come up with a weekly running schedule, which she printed out and stuck to precisely. She got stronger, and more excited about running. Before I knew it, she was inquiring about the Star Wars Half Marathon that I am planning to run in April of 2018 with my friend Jennie (for clarification, my cousin is always "Jen" and my friend is always "Jennie," so hopefully that helps to minimize confusion between the two Jennifers). The Star Wars Half is slated to be Jennie's first half marathon, and after a few weeks of running Jen decided she wanted in, and signed up to run the race with us too.
Now, for RunDisney races, runners are placed in corrals in the start area based off of their estimated finish time. If a runner is planning to complete the race in less than 2 hours and 45 minutes, a proof of time is required. So, for optimal corral placement, Jen needed to run a 10k before mid-January. Our first search was to see if there were any 10k races happening in NY while she was in town for the holidays, but we were out of luck. Jen then started searching Atlanta, but every race that she found between late October and January had a tough elevation profile when we looked up Strava segments, or was described as "Hilly" when we combed through race reviews. Jen was a new runner, but had already decided that she hates hills, and wanted to find the flattest course possible so that she could get a good finish time. She broadened her search, and came across the Savannah Enmarket Bridge Run, which takes place in Savannah, GA in early December. While we were able to find a few news articles about the race, we did not find any race reviews that mentioned if it was "hilly," and the net elevation gain on Strava segments seemed manageable, so Jen decided that this would be her first 10k. After she registered I spent some time looking into flights, and ultimately decided that I would fly into Atlanta and take the car ride to Savannah with her and her boyfriend, Will, and run the race with her! I was excited, as I had never been to Savannah before, and had not visited Jen in Atlanta since January. So, this is how I wound up running a race in Savannah, GA.
A run that, turns out, its billed as "The south's toughest bridge run!'
Once we were registered for the race and my flight was setup, Jen and I were in constant discussion about the race. Jen followed her 10k training schedule, gradually increasing her mileage as race day approached, and even ran her first 5k along the way. I flew into Atlanta after work on Thursday night, that way we wouldn't be in too much of a rush as we got on the road to head to Savannah on Friday. Jen and I spent most of Friday morning making sure she was hydrating properly pre-race, even setting "drink water" alarms, which we obeyed each time they went off. Once Will got home from work he dropped their dog off at a kennel for the weekend, and we got on the road. It was an uneventful ride, which we mostly spent singing Hamilton to each other. Lucky for us, we hit minimal amounts of traffic, and managed to get to Savannah around 5 pm, which gave us plenty of time to stop at the race expo before it closed at 7. We were originally planning to do race day pickup, but thanks to an early arrival we avoided the nervousness that I typically associated with waiting until race morning to get my bib.
Jen and I headed into the expo, and bib pickup was quick and easy. The volunteer that gave me my bib was surprised to see that I had traveled there from NY. After grabbing our shirts, we spent a minute wandering through the expo. There were a few other races with booths setup, a few vendors selling various running gear, and Fleet feet Savannah had a nice selection of apparel and gear which I would have spent some time going through, had we not left Will behind in the car. After the expo we made our way to Chelsea's apartment, where we would be crashing for the weekend. We dragged our stuff up to her apartment and after a few minutes of hanging out, headed back into the city to find somewhere to eat dinner, abandoning our original plan of making pasta and staying in. We wound up eating a delicious meal, that was possibly the worst pre-race meal ever. It consisted of Philly cheese steak egg rolls, fully loaded waffle fries, ribs with mac and cheese, and chicken wings - there were four of us eating dinner together, and instead of ordering our own entrees, we opted to get four to split so we could try more of what was an interesting sounding menu.
It didn't take long for me to regret eating such a heavy dinner, as my stomach was in shambles all night. When we woke up for the race the following morning I felt like crap, and was seriously questioning if I was going to really be able to run this race, after flying all the way from NY for it. We had made plans to stop at Starbucks for breakfast, and while there I bought some tea and a scone in hopes that it would help settle my stomach, and thankfully it did exactly that. We headed to the start line, and I was finally feeling ready to race. The weather was great, not too hot or cold, so we both decided to wear knee high compression socks, shorts, and tank tops. Jen was a bit nervous, but we were both excited to get moving. As start time got closer, we said goodbye to Will and Chelsea and headed into the crowd of runners that were all waiting to start.
The start horn blared, and the crowd began to shuffle. We made our way through the start line and onto the streets of Savannah. The first mile and a half were through the city. We got to see some gorgeous architecture and there were Spanish moss trees all over the place. Jen was still nervous as we headed toward the bridge, anticipating the climb that was ahead of us. Right before we headed onto the bridge for the first crossing, we got to see Will and Chelsea cheering, and it was exciting to see familiar faces. We got onto the entrance ramp for the bridge, and the climb started right away. To make the grade of the bridge more manageable, we decided in advance to take the incline in run/walk intervals. It was a rough climb, but once we got to the peak of the bridge we knew we had almost 2 miles before we had to climb it one more time. Going downhill on the bridge was a great feeling, and there were great views of the river and the city. Once we got off the bridge the first time, there was a water stop before we had to go uphill once more so we walked through that so we could easily drink the water without spilling it on ourselves.
Then, it was up the bridge one more time. Once again we took it on with run/walk intervals, and when Jen needed a pick-me-up to help with the challenge I broke out the play list that we had made together before the race. In high school we were both big theater fans, so this playlist featured a few show stoppers - including defying gravity, which got us over the crest of the bridge and onto the down hill, done with both climbs at last! We had about a mile to go before the end of the race, and Jen was starting to feel a little exhausted, but stuck to her pace and kept moving forward. We had one more water stop before the finish line, and walked through it so we could make a run for the finish line after that. We ran through a little more of Savannah, and then past a giant American flag before seeing the finisher's chute, which lead us straight to the finish line, which we crossed with a time of 1:07, which will make a great proof of time for the Star Wars half marathon in April.
Jen was so happy after crossing the finish line that she could hardly talk, in a state of excited bliss. We found Will and Chelsea, and we were all so excited that we entirely forgot about going to the after party that the race holds, and headed right for the car. We cleaned up, and then headed to "Back in the Day" bakery, where Chelsea works, to reward ourselves with lots of baked goods. We spent the rest of the day on the Savannah river walk, and had lots of fun checking out the different bars and shops, and even caught a Christmas parade.
All in all, I had so much fun visiting Savannah, and hope to go back again soon. The race was a challenge with the incline of the bridge, but I had a great time participating in it, and would run it again if the opportunity presented itself. I am so happy with how Jen did in this race, and can't wait for the opportunity to run more races together. The next race we have planned together? The Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15k!