Saturday, October 14, 2006 was unusually chilly. When I left my house in Asheville the thermometer read 32 degrees F. Driving west toward Canton on my way to Bethel, North Carolina the temperature dropped to 30 degrees and frost coated the lawns on sleepy route 110 from Canton to Bethel.
Registration and packet pickup for the Bethel Half Marathon and 5k occur in the gymnasium of Bethel Middle School on Sonoma road just about half a mile west of route 110.Things are lively before dawn as runners and their friends and family gather in the gym to wait in line, pay their dues and pick up their race numbers and assorted other stuff.
The freezing weather kept most indoors as long as possible, taking advantage of the warmth for pre-race stretching. I stepped outside around 8:00 for a run to loosen up and realized that it would take a few miles in this weather to genuinely loosen up. I returned to the gym and decided to wait until just before the race start to venture back outside.
I ate a banana and stretched. At about 8:20 I went out with the rest of the runners and started loitering around the half marathon starting line. The cold weather made me resort to covering my hands with a spare pair of socks to keep them warm. The 5k starting line is several hundred yards ahead of the half marathon starting line. The race managers carefully synchronize the start of both runs and at just about 8:30 we’re off.
The first two miles are common to both races and soon we’re mixed together with half marathoners catching up to 5k runners. There’s a turning point at which the 5k heads for home and the half marathon heads further out into the country south of Bethel. Leaves fall from the trees as moderate gusts of wind glide through the valley. I’m entertained by the beautiful fall colors on the mountains and the cows and goats that watch us pass. As the sun climbed the weather gets more tolerable. After about 4 miles I removed the socks that I had placed on my hands to keep them warm. I began to settle into my pace and my place amongst the runners.
The midway point of the half marathon takes us back past the starting point. We get a glimpse of the running track that is home to the finish line. We run past Bethel Middle School and I take the opportunity to drop my socks off and toss my shirt on the hood of my car. After passing the middle school we head north of Bethel and take on the most annoying part of the race that involves a few miles running up route 110 and all its Saturday morning traffic.
Once we’re done with 110 we begin to head back toward home on a much quieter road. Little traffic to deal with but it seems like this stretch is gradually uphill. It seemed that way last year and again this year. I’m not sure if it’s just because of the fatigue that afflicts me a bit after 10 or 11 miles or if it is actually an uphill stretch.
Finally we get back to the greater Bethel area, run past the middle school and head for the running track and finish line. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and fall colors around the area and the exhilaration of the run. Oh, yeah, and the potato soup. Outstanding!
My time was 1:42:19.