In 2012, I ran my second half marathon, the Historic Georgetown Bridge to Bridge Run. Since the race was close to home, my parents came to the finish festival. When I finished the race, my mom said something that stuck with me ever since.
When I was your age, I could never imagine seeing so many women finish a road race, let alone my daughter running 13.1 miles.
I was 27 at the time, and my mom was 27 in 1973. In the 1970s, women didn’t run like they do now, especially in the South where women’s rights (and all civil rights) seem to lag behind the rest of the nation. It’s easy to forget that women didn’t always have the opportunities to run and race like we do now. I’ve vowed not to take these opportunities for granted.
A few years ago, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon popped up on my radar. Savannah is a short drive from Charleston, and a lot of my local running friends ran in 2015 and 2016. Those years, I had already signed up for the Cooper River Bridge Run. When I noticed that the 2017 date was the Saturday *after* the Bridge Run, I put it on my calendar.
In the Fall, I was selected as a race ambassador and set big goals for the half marathon. In early 2017, I was running 40-48 miles per week with workouts and cross training. I hoped to set a new PR and run a 1:35, taking three minutes off my Charleston Half Marathon time.
We all know what happens to the best laid plans, and on Saturday, I ran the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon 5K.
About the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon Races
In seven years of running and racing, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K was my first women’s race. The event embraced ALL women and put our running and racing desires first. The race expo sold clothing in women’s sizes. Ladies could purchase flattering tank tops and fitted shirts instead of boxy men’s t-shirts that we “can sleep in”.
Women outnumber men in most road races, but events still expect us to fit into the mold of a male runner. I have a few race medals which feature both a male and female runner, and the male runner is always ahead of the female runner. Some races even advertise that women outnumber men, but only a man’s shirt is offered. (Side Note: Does anyone else hate when race t-shirts are advertised as “unisex”? Would a race ever offer a man a ladies’ shirt?).
While this race focused on celebrating women, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon also respected men. Men were welcome to register for and run the race. The overall and age group awards were for women only, but men received the same swag (medals) as the ladies. No one booed or shunned the men who ran, and those who ran were very supportive of the ladies and the cause.
I met up with a few of the other ambassadors in our hotel lobby, and we took a picture before walking to Forsythe Park for the start of the race. Once we got there, I ran a short warm up, dropped my bag off, and savored the positive energy of the race. Everyone was happy and cheerful, and one of the ambassadors, Cecelia, did a great job of singing the national anthem.
My goal for this race was to give my first “hard effort” post-injury. I’ve been running again for three weeks, and it was time to push the pace a little. At the same time, I wanted to be especially careful due to turns on the course and stone streets. My #1 goal for every run right now is to not re-aggravate my tendontis, even if that means a slower run or even a walk break.
Once we were off, I settled into a pace and enjoyed the spectators. The course was closed to traffic and I spotted a familiar face, Peggy, who is a mentor for Fleet Feet Mount Pleasant and local runner. I waved and thanked her for ringing her cowbell for us. As someone who’s spent a lot of time “pit crewing” in races lately, I appreciate anyone who comes out to support and cheer for runners. Many husbands and boyfriends were on the course doing the same thing for their wives.
The course had timing mats, and I hit the first mile in 7:14. I ran near one of the men and made a goal to pass him, and I did. People on the streets were cheering for us, and I tried to absorb their energy. The route itself was very beautiful, running around lots of fountains and monuments. Even though I normally slow down in a 5K, I hit Mile 2 in 7:10. I ran through a group of photographers and heard a man yell “Go Amy!” (I believe it was Jonathan, the race director).
In the third mile (7:13), I ran near another lady and we pushed each other pretty hard. When I passed, I just kept going and knew the run would be over soon. I wasn’t sure who was ahead of me or behind me, and really didn’t care, but I hoped I could keep up the pace. I did.
I crossed the finish in 22:28, good for 7th Overall.
After the race, I took some pictures with my medal, got a bag of refreshments from the Publix stand, went to the potty, then saw that the beer tent was opening. Instead of picking up my bag drop, I walked straight to the mimosa stand. This will probably be the only race I can ever say I was the first finisher in the beer tent!
I drank a delicious mimosa, then headed out to the half marathon course for a cooldown jog and to cheer on and encourage the other ladies.
The half marathon course is great and winds through downtown Savannah. You get to see the best parts of the city on this course, and the later miles of the half are an out and back. The ladies in the race are all running by each other and encourage each other with cheers and high fives.
Distance running can be competitive, unforgiving, and sometimes even petty. Like a breath of fresh air, the atmosphere at the Publix Savannah Women’s Half is super positive and makes every lady feel like a winner.
After the race, bands played in the park and everyone hung around celebrating our accomplishments. I congratulated the finishers and everyone wearing medals congratulated each other all day on the streets of Savannah. I hope I can return next year for the half marathon because I want to race that course. I’d also recommend this race to any ladies looking for a girls weekend, destination race, or your first or fastest race.
Race Name: Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon/5K
Location: Savannah, GA
Date and Time: April 8, 2017, 7:30 AM
Swag: Reusable bag, finisher’s gift bracelet, bath fizzies, ice pack, finisher’s medal for all runners (5K and half marathon)
Post-race food: Water, bananas, mini muffins, oranges, two free mimosas or beers per runner
Weather: Sunny, 41 degrees, 87% humidity, 4 mph W wind. Gorgeous morning!
As an ambassador for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, I received a complimentary race entry as well as other perks. I did not receive monetary compesation, and all opinions are my own.