Cox Providence Half Marathon 2013 – updated

Updated! I added the elevation profile, by popular demand.

Today, I ran in the UnitedHealthcare Cox Providence Half Marathon. It was not a great day. It was one of those runs were nothing works – it’s just too bad it happened during a race.

The day was dark, cool, and rainy. At race start it was 60 degrees with 100% humidity. It was foggy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I appreciated the cool temperatures and overcast sky, but wasn’t very excited about the rain. High humidity is asthmatic hell, so I knew it would be a tough race. I got to the parking area bright and early and headed for the “Exchange Terrace” area, a little street across from a park where they have an ice skating area in the winter. According to my pre-race email and attached instructions, packet pickup was on Exchange Terrace. I wandered around for a little while, totally lost. There were lots of people, but not a volunteer in sight. There was no one to ask for help and no sign of an obvious packet pick up area. Finally, I saw someone with a goody bag and asked. Packet pick up was in the ballroom of the Omni Hotel, a block away. I walked on over to the Omni and waited in line. Wrong line. I waited in a second line and got my bib. When I got to the t-shirt station, a not-that-friendly volunteer barked “Only larges left. You want one?” Resigned, I accepted my large, men’s shirt. Not quite the extra small I was hoping for. Everyone around me milled around in a state of confused disappointment. No one got the shirt they wanted and all of us were lost. There were no volunteers to help. I pinned my bib and followed the crowd, hoping they would lead me to the starting line. They did and I got there with 15 minutes to spare until the 8am race start. It’s definitely a post-Boston world. I noticed lots of security staff. Men with huge guns wandered in the crowd, police were stationed on rooftops.

Cox Providence Police

8:05 passed, then 8:10. There was no sign of an imminent race start. At 8:13 someone sang the national anthem. The crowd was getting restless. All of the pre-race materials had said 8am start. Thousands of people were standing in the rain. Finally, at 8:17 (?) the race was underway.

The first four miles went well. I was cruising along and feeling soggy, but fine. I’ve been having some trouble with my knee (the had-surgery one) and it began to stiffen up. It doesn’t like the rain, and really doesn’t like changes in atmospheric pressure. The front rolling through was not a friend to my knee. My poor knee was stuck in a half-bent state, totally stiff and not straightening well in the forward part of my stride. I didn’t think it was too much of a problem until mile 7, when my calf and hamstring started cramping. Not dehydrated cramping, but weird muscle spasm/charlie horse cramping. I resolved to slow down and start walking the water stops. A side note on water stops. What a mess! The pre-race guide said water stops would be every mile and a half. No such luck. There didn’t seem to be much of a pattern to the water stops, only that they were about 2+ miles apart. Most were understaffed, a volunteer or two per table, so runners were pouring their own water. There was no pattern to the Gatorade/water distribution. Sometimes Gatorade was first, sometimes not, and sometimes it was all mixed together with both in one area and in the same style cups. The cup styles weren’t even consistent so there was chaos at every water station. Runners were coming to a full stop to search for and find a cup that had the right liquid in it. It was a volunteer staffing and organizational problem.

I felt wheezy and asthmatic. The humidity was not kind to my asthma or my knee. The wheels fell off at mile 9. My leg muscles were firing at all the wrong times. I couldn’t seem to get them to coordinate with the bending of my knee. I felt like Phoebe from Friends when she runs in the park. I’m sure I looked normal, but I felt miserable. I trudged along. I’m sad to say there was a lot of walking while I tried to get things under control and avoid running with a limp. This race wasn’t worth an injury, or angering my funny IT band attachment point, so I slowed WAY down to avoid limping.

The course itself was well-marked, but poorly staffed. There were no medical tents or personnel along the course. The few volunteers I did see at points in the course other than the water stops were children. Children young enough that I began to wonder where their parents were and why their parents were letting them stand on a street corner on a race course in arguably questionable neighborhoods. There were plenty of police offices at major road crossings, but few volunteers. The course itself was winding, and passed through a few attractive, and a few unattractive areas of Providence and Pawtucket. Compared to the Rock N Roll Providence course, this course was more older neighborhoods with less gentrification.

Finally, mercifully, the race course curved past the river (there were swans!) and toward the finish line. I was grateful for the race to be over, but sorry to see the report from my Garmin (thank goodness I had my Garmin since the clocks were all set to the marathon time, not half). I was headed to a Personal Worst. Now, I’m always happy to run a slow race and pace a friend, or be sensible when I’m undertrained, but this PW hurt. I am fit. I tapered. I ate well. I got plenty of sleep. I don’t know what went wrong. Other than a perfect storm of bad weather + asthma + knee stiffness + muscle problems, I don’t have an explanation.

Cox Providence Start

I’m still a little sad about the race. I don’t know what went wrong. I’ll go back to my training log and look for a lesson, but this just might be one race in which the lesson is that sometimes running is random. Sometimes a run just doesn’t work. Today was one of those days.

The look of resignation. A PW.

The look of resignation. A PW.

Updated – here is the elevation profile.

Cox Providence Rhode Race Elevation Profile - Half Marathon

Cox Providence Rhode Race Elevation Profile – Half Marathon


16 thoughts on “Cox Providence Half Marathon 2013 – updated

  1. Sorry you had a off day. Sometimes it just happens. I had been thinking of running this and am glad I didn’t. Was this an inaugural race? Pouring your own water? That is absurd.

    • It’s actually part of a three race grouping of races. It’s very popular and has been around several years. It wasn’t the best in terms of organization or support. And all the pre-race information was wrong. 🙁

  2. Sounds like a poorly organized race! Sorry it was such a bad run for you! I went out for a run today and it was awful! This changing weather is really bothering my sinuses and it’s hard to run when you are dizzy and congested 🙁 Hopefully the weather evens out and makes running much easier for everyone!

  3. It’s so frustrating when an off running day occurs on race day. I had a race like that last weekend, but now that I have some distance from it I’m seeing lots of good lessons from the race. I hope you’re able to learn from this race and that it will in some way benefit you in the future.

  4. Sorry you had an off day. I did the race too and found it to be the same as you described. I would add that the course is very hilly (lots of long slow inclines with unequal downhill returns) and the last few mile markers seemed a little off (either I didn’t see them or try we’re placed in the wrong spots). This race could be so much better if they fixed the problems that so many have complained about over the past few years.

    • Yes. The last few mile markers seemed to be missing until we joined the marathon course. Then there were marathon markers. Was it the same last year?

      • I don’t know. I didn’t run it last year. But there are lots of marathon reviews that had unhappy people complaining that the markers were off and the course longer than stated. I really don’t think we missed the markers…I just think they weren’t there for us and I do suspect the course was a tad longer than 13.1. I wish I could find an elevation map for the half. It was felt like every other mile was an incline. Someone wiped out at the one very steep decline after mile nine before the river. The road was so slippery in that spot. I also did t see any GU offered until mile 12. I am also glad I carried a small water pack for when I couldn’t get water when I wanted (the water stops were very far apart in some spots).

      • I have the elevation profile. I will post it. And the course wasn’t long according to my data, but I can’t speak for the marathon. Overall, it seems questionable.

  5. I also think this was a awful race. I had to stop and wait for water at almost all the water stops. one time i was told it was water and it was gatorate which i dont drink. The race started almost 20 min late i was getting cramped up just waiting. i didnt train for this race i signed up on friday. However i am a long distance runner. I did not enjoy this race at all right from the late start to the drizzle, to the water stops, also i was confused on when i finished a was to busy looking for the clock i didnt look at my watch so i had to wait till the following day to get my results. when i was finished i was so hungray, i saw lots of people with bannanas but didnt know where to get one. I asked a girl who was working and she said she didnt know where they were. Lastly i couldnt find my husband as he wasnt allowed inside the gates where the runners were. The new bedford half marathon is way better.

  6. Hi Rachel. I ran the marathon that day. I do agree about the weather, the humidity was terrible. I looked like I had swam the 26.2 miles. I will say the water stops were reasonably well staffed, but encountered the same confusion as to what was in the cups. Fortunately, I carried my usual water bottle with me. The mile markers seemed spot on, but I either missed a couple, or they just weren’t there.

    All that being said, I did manage a 7 minute PR and a BQ!

    So sorry I missed you there!

    • Nice work on the PR and BQ! That’s awesome!

      I heard the marathon course was better staffed and organized from friends, too. Seems that the race could use a careful look at their organization strategies since some worked in the marathon and some didn’t.

Comments are closed.