It’s 6:15 in the morning, predawn on a Saturday in Baltimore. The start of my last half-marathon of the year is 45 minutes away. My phone says the temperature is 40 degrees. But I’m comfortably warm and starting to type a blog post without any gloves.
Welcome to Roxanne, race support vehicle.
I find a temperature of 45-50 degrees is actually great running a long race. It isn’t long before the body warms up, and there isn’t any of the overheating that comes along with a race in spring or early fall. But the waiting around just sucks sometimes. You can either waste precious energy jogging in place to keep warm, or try to keep your wits about you while waiting for the port-a-potties. I had to get to the Baltimore race early to pick up my bib, and pickup closed an hour before the race started.
So I brought the RV, some refreshments and some reading material to keep me company instead of standing around outside in the cold dark air.
Lindy and XY were back at home, presumably still in bed. But if they’d joined me, they could have slept during the race. The coach is winterized, but the toilet still works with antifreeze. And all of this is possible without idling the engine, because of the propane heater in the back of the coach. Using a Travato as race support isn’t new, of course. (Here’s a couple who do it rather famously.) It’s just new for me.
My last pre-dawn race was the Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon in 2014. It was October, and 36 degrees at the start. Like many runners, I’d prepared a disposable layer. I went to Goodwill, bought a sweatshirt for $4, washed it and wore it, and shed it before crossing the start line. Race volunteers scoop all of these up, sometimes by the thousands, and donate them to charity.
In Baltimore, I got to keep all of my clothes.
I stayed warm until about 10 minutes before the gun went off, and then just followed the flow of people from the parking lot to the start. It was a small race, with only 1,500 runners allowed. The sun finished rising and I wasn’t cold anymore, though I kept my hat on the whole time. I pounded out mile after mile, listening to my running playlist and looking at the wide diversity of land uses around the Baltimore waterfront: museums, restaurants, residential, marine, the Domino Sugar factory and the Under Armour headquarters. I definitely had a few of those runner’s Zen-like moments where I felt like the only person in the universe, with the music propelling my legs more than any connection between my brain and my body. Seemingly before long, I had looped back toward the start, which was also the finish.
I came away with a time of nearly 2 minutes faster than my previous record for the half-marathon: 1:48. This was my ninth half-marathon, and 18 minutes faster than my first one four years ago. After a medal and some snacks, it was back to the van for some cold Gatorade, hot coffee and a fairly quick drive home.
I didn’t love the experience of waking up at 4:30 to drive up to Baltimore for the race. I went to bed the night before wondering why I had ever thought this would be a good idea. I’m glad Lindy and XY had the sense to stay in bed, even though I love it when they support my running habit. But absent my family cheering from the freezing sidelines, I’m so grateful for my own personal waiting room.
Also published on Medium.