What better way to celebrate Earth Day than a beautiful run on a greenway? How about adding in a bunch of incredible people to that backdrop? That was why I knew I had to run the Cary Greenways Half Marathon this morning. Today was a day to celebrate the natural beauty of our planet. I wasn’t looking to run a PR today; instead I’d go for a leisurely run enjoying all that this rock we call Earth has to offer. Earth Day should be spent outdoors, and ideally in good company. This race was the perfect fit.
I’ve run plenty of races before with various different formats. Almost all of them have a mass start, frequently split into corrals and waves depending on the size and location of the event. This was the first time I’ve ever run a race with a rolling start. This race is run on the local greenway paved trails, so a mass start would have been disastrous both to the greenway and to the runners who would have been tripping all over each other. Since this was more of a “fun” race than a “fast” race, a rolling start made much more sense than a bunch of seeded waves. This contributed to the relaxed, stress free environment of the event. Yes, you were timed, and competing against other runners… but this type of start shifted the focus to you. You start whenever you are ready during a two hour window. Instead of judging yourself against the other runners around you, you only have yourself to directly compete against. If its the distance which is your primary foe, this is perfect. It’s you (and your friends that choose to start with you), the greenway and the clock. If you prefer head to head competition and coming in first, this may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a no judgement, stress free, and fun opportunity to push your limits… this is it.
I wasn’t looking for a PR today. I wasn’t even planning on pushing too hard. I just wanted a solid run, to enjoy the great outdoors and some good company. Thats exactly what I got. I arrived towards the beginning of the race, and got my start (alone) about a half hour after the first runners. The course starts off from underneath the Kiwanis Shelter and zig zags a bit, then a short trek over mulch before joining with the main (and cleanly paved) multi use greenway trail. Early on I encountered a handful of 5 and 10K runners on their way back home. Mutual words of encouragement were exchanged as we all continued on our own races. The greenways themselves were beautiful. I’d seen this on previous visits to the Triangle area: So many beautiful places to run. We started off running through Bond Park before crossing a major intersection and continuing alongside (but fully protected from) the main road for a bit. Then more parks. Other than a few short stretches parallel to the road, this was all selfie inspiring green. Especially for a thirteen mile course within the actual town and not out in the middle of nowhere… this was beautiful!
And lets not forget that other critical ingredient: the people. I love the running community, and was lucky enough today to meet another handful of incredible people. From the new friends I made out on the course (as I opted midway to make it a social run as well as the healing run I’d originally counted on) to the volunteers who made it all work, there were plenty of great people in attendance. With the rolling start, packet pickup was stress free. Then there were volunteers all over the course making sure everyone went the right way at various intersections. I almost did extra credit again, running right past the water stop that marked the half marathon turn around. I figured the turn was around the water station, not right before it: the volunteers quickly reined me in. They also worked stoplight magic… Despite several major live intersection crossings, I only had to stop once and then just for a few seconds. It was a simple formula actually: they saw runners coming and pressed the walk button. By the time runners reached the intersection, the traffic was stopped. Amazing how simple the solutions to some of life’s “problems” can be sometimes.
Just over a hundred minutes later, another half was in the books. Time to enjoy the grub, socialize and just bask in the warmth of the sun! Beautiful weather, beautiful course, beautiful people. Definitely a beautiful way to celebrate our beautiful planet. This is the best medicine you can get.