This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. New Mexico was my 50th state.
So many things went wrong with this race going all the way back to the beginning. The Albuquerque Half Marathon is normally in April every year and I was supposed to run it in 2020 but because of covid it was pushed back to November 2020 then ultimately to November 2021. When I showed up at packet pickup the day before the race they couldn’t find my name on the list of registered runners. I started to panic. That was my worst nightmare, well that and oversleeping the morning of a race.
The volunteer asked if I had some kind of email confirmation or any kind of proof I had registered. I tried to bring up my email on my phone but my cell coverage had been spotty since I had arrived. I asked someone working at the Fleet Feet what the wifi password was. No one knew. Now I was really panicking and I blurted out a jumble of “but they can’t find my registration and I’m sure I registered and the race is tomorrow morning and I can’t get a signal on my phone!” I wasn’t in tears but I was close.
Someone from the store got the wifi password off the router and I was able to find an email where I had told the race director I had registered for the April 2020 race and just wanted to confirm my registration would rollover to November 2021 and he said yes. I couldn’t check my bank account for payment because my online banking was temporarily down and my credit card statements didn’t go back that far without pulling them from archives and that took at least 24 hours.
I showed the email to the volunteer and she said that would do as proof (even though I see what little proof it really was) and she gave me a race bib and handed me a nice cotton/poly blend long-sleeve race shirt. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I left the store. I laid out my flat runner in my hotel room and got ready for another restless night full of tossing and turning.
Race morning was a brisk 40 degrees but it was sunny and I knew it would warm up quickly. After chatting with another 50-stater (this was his 26th state), I used the port-o-john, left my coat in the gear check pile, and made my way to the race start. The race start, like everything else about this race, was low-key. The race director said to pay attention to the signs to turn on the course and stay behind the cones on the road because only one lane was closed to traffic. Promptly at 8:30 he blew a horn and we were off!
Although I had tried to start my Garmin in plenty of time for it to pick up a signal, it looked like it had but then must have dropped off because I ran the entire race with no GPS and no idea of my speed. The best I could do was go by the mile markers on the course and use the time on my watch to guesstimate my split times.
Since this race was at 5300 feet, I had no grand ideas of setting a PR. On top of that I had developed severe foot pain on the side and arch of my left foot three days before the race when I made the bright decision to wear new shoes to work. Even though I only wore those shoes one day my foot had continued to get worse each day to the point where it throbbed even when I was sitting. Desperate, I found a pharmacy and bought some pain cream some people in my running group had previously raved about. I began using that four times a day and massaged my foot starting Thursday evening (the race was Saturday so I knew it was a long shot).
Miraculously my foot did get better and didn’t bother me in the slightest during or after the race. However, I had another pain to deal with. Towards the end of the half marathon in Iowa in October my piriformis had flared up and well, it was back with a vengeance during this race starting around mile 6. I had shooting pains running through my hamstring, glute, and lower back.
Before my literal pain in the ass started, somewhere relatively early along the course, maybe around mile 3 or 4, I noticed a small sign with an arrow to turn but I ran past it thinking it was for the 5k runners. There was a 5k, 10k, half marathon relay, and half marathon but the half marathoners started somewhere different than the other runners. Since there had just been a sign for 5k runners right before I saw the small sign to turn, I assumed this second sign was also for 5k runners. I was wrong. It was for everyone.
Another reason I hadn’t turned is because the faster runners in front of me including a pacer also hadn’t turned. All of a sudden I saw the lead pack running back towards me with the pacer yelling, “That was our turn! Everyone go back to the turn!” There was most definitely some cursing going on at that point. Because of my watch and no GPS I have no idea how far we ran in the wrong direction before running back.
My morale took a hit and I even told myself I didn’t even care what my finish time was. “Maybe I should just walk,” I thought to myself. But then my ego stepped in and said quite loudly, “This is a RACE, not a walk! You can do this! It’s your last state after all!” So I sucked it up and just kept running.
The course was kind of a mixed bag, with parts full of views of the gorgeous Cottonwood trees with their bright yellow autumn leaves and the river or some nice houses in well-groomed neighborhoods but then at other times we were running past run-down parts of town. The last mile was a bizarre winding milieu past some strange business and a city park with about a million twists and turns.
Finally the finish line was within sight and I had a tiny bit of kick left to finish strong. I had pictured that moment many times, with my arms outstretched over head and a huge smile plastered on my face. I’m not sure if I was smiling but my guess is I wasn’t and for sure my arms were firmly by my sides. I was gasping for breath as I was handed my medal, on par with everything else about this race, small but nice.
I grabbed some water and checked out the results on the leader board. I was third in my age group and finished in 1:56. Given the elevation and missed turn, I was happy with that.
I saw they were giving small plain medals to the top three finishers in each age group for all of the races. I grabbed some snacks (there were only pre-packaged snack foods like pretzels and granola bars) and walked to the field for the awards ceremony. I quickly saw just how long it was going to take to work through female then male runners from age 5 to 80 in five year increments in the 5k, 10k, half marathon relay, then half marathon.
After debating what I should do, I seized the opportunity when the announcer said they were taking a 10 minute break after the 10k awards and asked if it would be ok to skip protocol and just get my medal early? I felt kind of bad asking that but I had to catch a shuttle bus back to the start, drive to my hotel, shower, and check out by noon and it was 11:40. She said that was fine, handed me my medal alomg with her congratulations, and off I went! Somehow I managed to do all of that and I was in Santa Fe around 1 pm, ready to celebrate my accomplishment in the beautiful city.
Would I recommend this race? I’m not sure since it’s usually in April and I have no idea how the weather would be then compared to November. I do know the autumn leaves were gorgeous and added to the scenery along the course. It is also very low-key so there were no bands along the course, the medals were small and simple, there was no expo, and post-race food was simple and minimal but that could be because of covid. All of that being said, I do like small races like this was and everyone was nice and friendly.
Have you run in New Mexico? If so, where and what was your race like? If not, any plans to run there someday? Have you ever missed a turn in a race?