Race Recap: Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

My original autumn goal race was the Beat the Blerch 1/2 marathon in Sacramento which took place on Saturday. I ditched it as a goal race a few weeks ago when I realized I wouldn’t be anywhere near PR shape, opting for Walnut Creek in December instead. But I had paid for the race and still fancied running it, especially as the Husband was also running it! So we got up super early on Saturday, packed the car with parents and a Dude and headed up to Sacramento.

As an aside…I struggled to reconcile the heartbreak of Paris on Friday night and the happiness of running with my loved ones on Saturday. It felt wrong to be doing something so frivolous and when I posted a pic on Instagram after the race, I felt guilty about it. I still do. But over the past few days, I’ve started to think that continuing with ‘normal life’ is the only possible response to the horrors of terrorism. I don’t mean that we carry on as if nothing happened because clearly we can’t – I just feel that we can respond to terror by continuing to do what we had planned, by still finding joy in everyday life and relishing our opportunities to do so, even as our hearts break for those suffering. I am still uncomfortable with this contradiction but those are my thoughts for the moment.

In case you don’t know the Blerch, check out this link here. The race was going to be very light-hearted and fun with sofas along the route, cake at aid stations and much fancy dress. The Husband and I were incredibly indecisive about goals even as we lined up. The Husband dithered about running the 10k or the 1/2. I was dithering about whether to run it hard (PR-attempt) or as this week’s long slow run. We got there in time see the marathoners set off – maybe 150 or so of them.

My phone ran out very early in the race – I have battery issues. So I’ve found some great pics on the race’s FB page and am using them in the post below, giving them credit, of course.

Check-in should have been very simple except that I hadn’t downloaded the app for the barcode thing to get my number and there was no list of names, so we had to get our barcodes. It got a little tense but in the end it was fine. Totally my fault because apart from my rubbishness, packet pick-up was very easy. There were plentiful portaloos so we kissed the parents and the Dude off to visit the railroad museum and got ready to race. The Husband persuaded me to start at the back with him and we had fun with the other people – the vibe was really chilled and excited as they played the Lion King music. There were couple of hundred half-ers so we were let off in waves, which worked really well. We were in the last wave so eventually it was our turn. I kissed the Husband goodbye, the klaxon sounded and we were off.

Ironballz wondering when exactly I was going to take off!
Ironballz wondering when exactly I was going to take off!

Pretty much immediately, I decided just to run a good steady run. Not racing but not a long-slow-run either. I wanted to come in under 2 hours but covered my watch completely with my arm-warmer. I didn’t want to know the numbers at all. The first two miles were a little crowded especially over the bridge but after about the second mile marker, I was able to run pretty much entirely at my own pace. The weather was perfect – cold but sunny and I settled down to run.

The route was nice. We headed down the river levee for a bit before running into downtown Sacramento and along some lovely tree-covered roads around the Capitol building. There were demonstraters outside the Capitol protesting against Syrian immigrants and they kept yelling about sorting immigration ‘or we’d end up like Paris’. My heart was still heavy about the day before’s horror so I yelled back at them and the adrenaline pushed me forward a bit.

The medal we got at the end - taken from the BtB FB page
The medal we got at the end – taken from the BtB FB page

After about 7 miles, we turned onto the American River Parkway which we cycled a few months ago and that was lovely. I ran past a guy in a massive green suit – I later found out he was the Oatmeal who writes the Blerch! I was already starting to feel it in my legs, even at this early stage but I had found a steady groove and just kept plugging away. I turned my music on without headphones and cruised along.

The Oatmeal himself (and two random runners). Taken from the BtB FB page
The Oatmeal himself (and two random runners). Taken from the BtB FB page


About that point, I saw a runner ahead in a Oiselle top and as I passed her, she called out and it was Alisyn who I’d missed at the start. Nice to see her! I ran on, yelling that I’d see her at the end. Eventually we finished the parkway part of the route at maybe 10.5 miles and headed up over a bridge and back along the river. The final mile went through ‘Old Sacramento’ past the Railroad Museum and along a wooden boardwalk. The surface was very uneven and the slats made my eyes go a bit funny. Not the best bit.

Eventually we headed over the bridge again and back to Raley Field, the baseball stadium where we started and finished. The finish line was actually on the pitch, we ran round the grass on the track and that was pretty exciting. I crossed the line, stopped my watch and dared to peek. 1.56. Delighted!

Boom! The face of a girl who thinks she did much better than she'd expected
Boom! The face of a girl who thinks she did much better than she’d expected


I queued up, got my medal, water, a nutella sandwich and a banana. There was cake but it didn’t look nice and I didn’t fancy it. And then I checked my watch again and realized I’d only done 12.8 miles so my great time was nowhere near as good as I’d initially thought. I have to admit, I was quite disappointed. I snuck back to the car, changed into warmer clothes then went back to the finish line to watch the Husband finish – he ran about 2.30 which he was delighted with, bearing in mind he’d done very little training…ie. none.

Thoughts on the race

There was a LOT which was excellent about the event.

  • Ample, easy free parking. Much appreciated.
  • Ample portaloos at the start. Also much appreciated. (Very few loos on the course).
  • Great shirts and great big medals.
  • A really fun event, really well managed. Great volunteers.
  • A good number of aid stations with cake as well as gels.
  • Free photos.
  • Great weather. Cold but sunny.
  • Nice route. Flat, interesting, very PR-able. I wish I’d trained harder for this race.
  • Great atmosphere.
Genius post-race pic
Genius post-race pic

The major failing was that the routes were all short. The 10k was 6.1 miles, the half was 12.8 and the marathon was 25.77. I felt really sorry for the marathoners, this is pretty inexcusable.

A few days later and I’m much more philosophical about my time. I hadn’t trained for a PR and I didn’t get one – my head knows this but sometimes my heart takes a while to catch up. I didn’t RACE this either but I ran a very steady pace and I was happy with that steadiness. If it had been the full distance, I would have run it in 1.58.59 and that was more or less what I’d anticipated.  I think that seeing 1.56 and being so happy about it kind of spoiled the 1.58 that I expected, if that makes sense. I came 10th in my age-group out of 157 runners and I’m flipping chuffed with that!

So where does this leave me for Walnut Creek? To be honest, I don’t know. I can’t fathom running a harder course 7 minutes faster than today. How will I do that? Part of me wonders if I’ll ever run anywhere near 1.52 again. I am determined to run my socks off at WC but have come to accept that PRing a half-marathon may take a little longer than 5 weeks. If so, so be it. Longer goals are fine.I’ve revamped my training a little since the race. I need to push speed work much harder, I’ve maybe not been giving it my all. I need to work hard on my mental game. I need to run some hills. Lots to do.

But having said that…it was a great Saturday morning and I had a great time! I beat the Blerch! And it was fun.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Great job! Sometimes what you really need a run by feeling and not looking at the watch.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yes it was good to do.

  2. Rachel says:

    Yes, think you can be proud you ran under 2 hrs the day after Paris, such a positive thing to achieve (we felt pretty weary the next morning and had to push ourselves out the door). Hope revamped training goes really well and ginger kit no. 2 arrives soon x

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