Another year, another successful DONNA Half Marathon.
This weekend was the 10th anniversary of the DONNA Marathon and Half Marathon, a race dedicated to finishing breast cancer. The race is always a hugely positive experience and so much fun to run. Far from being a sappy sort of event, this race is filled with lots of laughter, great costumes, and amazing spectators.
This is one of those races where you can run it however you want. If you want to push for a PR, this is a great place to do it. With the exception of the end of the race, it’s fairly flat. If you are a new half marathoner and aren’t sure how fast you can finish, this is a great race to try, as it’s got a 7 hour time limit for both the half and full, so no 3.5 hour time limit here. And if you want to see how much you can eat and drink during a course, these spectators have you covered. I’m pretty sure you could very easily get drunk while running this race if you wanted to.
I’ve run this race for speed and I’ve run this race for fun. This year, I wasn’t aiming for a PR, but I had done some pretty great long runs over the past few weeks, so I decided I wanted to push a bit to see what I could pull out, even though my training hasn’t been run focused. But I also wasn’t out to kill myself. One thing that I worried would be working against me was the weather. This year was predicted to be warm. Perfect weather for hanging out on the beach, not great weather for running.
Race morning was cool, but not cold. Plenty of people were bundled up, but I’m pretty sure that was the Floridians. I was comfortable in my short sleeves. The pre-race area is great – plenty of porta-potties, a warming tent, and free coffee and donuts! Amazing!
The race starts with a wave-start, but the waves are self-seeded based on your estimated finish time. Half and full runners start together, which I love. And the best part? Each wave got its own cannon of confetti that just kept blowing. It’s great that everyone gets the fun of the start line, not just the fastest runners.
I decided to push a bit on the early miles, pick up a bit of padding for when the sun came up, and miles one and two were a little fast for me. Unfortunately, all my hydrating in the days prior to the race meant that I needed a bathroom stop early on, so I lost a few minutes there. Luckily, not too many.
There were so many spectators out for this race. I loved it. Neighborhoods really get into it and it’s almost as if they’re competing to be the best neighborhood.
I settled into my pace and made my way through the race. I felt surprisingly good, even though it was warm. My parents were cheering at mile 7, and the plan was for them to have shots of Fireball for all of us, but the bar didn’t open this year. So disappointing!
Photo credit: My Dad
But all was fine, as a spectator had set up his own tent later with mini shots of Fireball. Race nutrition saved!
We really lucked out with the weather. The sun managed to stay behind clouds for the first few hours of the race. The faster half marathoners had no issues with the heat. For me, the sun came out sometime during mile 11, just as I was venturing onto the bridges – the only really hilly part of the race. No shade and solid inclines… yuck. Lost a bit of speed here.
As I reached the top of the final bridge, I remembered why I always push through this part – there are SO many spectators cheering people on, encouraging them up and over the hill. You can’t stop there!
I pushed through and my final time was 2:56:56. Considering that included a bathroom stop, a drink stop, and a quick pause to say hi to my parents, I’m pleased with that. Most importantly, I had a great time and I felt good throughout the race.
Post race area was also awesome. Soda, water, beer, snacks, hot dogs… yum.
I continue to adore this race. I’ve gotten much more picky in the races I run, and this one will definitely stay on my schedule. It’s the sort of race where you can make it whatever you want, and runners of all levels are welcome.
Until next year, Jacksonville Beach