- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Relay
- Road Race
- Event Website
What does ‘certified virtual’ mean, anyway?
‘Standard virtual,’ which I did not run, is your every day virtual race: sign up online, run the distance wherever you want between such-and-such dates, upload your results, receive your medal and race shirt in the mail. This race did provide this option. However, I chose it for the ‘certified virtual’ option.
‘Certified virtual’ means you could run the race in person with a small amount of support. When you signed up online, you had a choice of October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31, November 1, 7, or 8 to run your race. You had a choice of 5k, 10k, half marathon, or full marathon (the distance I completed). You had a choice of when to race it (anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.). I chose 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, but I actually started an hour later, letting the sun come up higher and the temperature warm up slightly. Even though it was an in-person race, you still had some of the benefits of a virtual race, like choosing your start time. In fact, if it had been pouring rain, for example, I could have switched to a different day (space allowing). Your timing for the race would be measure not by a chip but by photos that would be taken at your start, finish, and one point in between.
I say space allowing, as spots were limited to 100 runners per day. With the small number of runners and staggered start times, we were very much socially distanced in this race.
We arrived in Greenville the night before the race, staying in an Airbnb less than a mile from the start/finish line.
We arrived at the start at 8:00 a.m. We stood in a distanced line behind three other runners to get our bibs from three volunteers on a turf soccer field. In total, there were about 15 people in the start area when we started (my friend and training partner ran the half marathon at the same time that I ran the full marathon). We received our bibs and a swag bag with the race shirt and medal; we pinned the bibs on at the car, 100 yards from the start line, and left the bags in the car where we would put the medals on ourselves after each of us crossed the finish line.
Number of porta potties at start line: 1.
At the start line, we were given directions by the race director on how to stand before the camera. She sent us off with a ‘go!’ at 8:30, just the two of us, with one or two spectators cheering us (their runner friends were out there, somewhere, already on course).
We turned south onto the trail to start. It’s a railway converted to a trail, paved surface the entire way. My friend and I ran the first eleven miles together before we came to the turn-around for her to go back to the start line. We did come upon road crossings where we had to wait for cars to pass before we could cross (I had more of those later when I was running by myself that we did in the first eleven miles). The first half consisted of several loops that could have been confusing for non-locals like us, but they were pretty well marked with white taped arrows on the ground and arrowed signs in the grass. There were no course marshals, and there few race spectators. There were many non-race runners, cyclists, and walkers on the trail with us. It felt more like a training run than a race, with the exception being that our pace was more intense than a training run. You could recognize the other racers by their bibs, and there was a lot of passing back and forth on these loops and out-and-backs. The atmosphere was great, with everyone encouraging each other with a ‘good job’ as they passed when they saw you, too, were wearing a bib.
There were about seven water stops along the whole marathon route, and most of them you passed twice, so about 14 opportunities to get what you needed. The race had dropped off cases of 8 oz sealed bottles, and you served yourself what you needed. I was wearing a 20 oz bottle and carrying a concentrated mix of electrolytes and fuel; I was able to quickly stop and empty two bottles of water into my own bottle three different times, with no one else around while I did so. Perfect for the pandemic.
We passed by the start line on what would have been about mile 9, where there was the one porta potty. My friend left for her finish line at mile 11, so from there I was on my own. Really on my own! There were no other racers to be seen going in my direction either in front or behind me. I did pass some way in front of me, on their way back to the start after the turnaround in the village of Traveller’s Rest. Unlike in a normal race, where you see the race LEADERS in this type of situation, you were seeing ANY racer. The only thing you knew was that they had started at some point that morning, but you didn’t know if it had been 7:00 or 8:00 or any other time. You didn’t know if they were running a 7:00 pace or a 10:00 pace, other than what it looked like they were running during the few seconds as you were passing each other.
Speaking of others on the trail, keep in mind the date: October 31st. There were so many people out walking or on bikes in Halloween costumes. Especially on bikes. Many young people in costume on bikes with big orange pumpkin candy buckets attached to their handlebars like a bike panier. Between the trick or treaters, the fall temperatures, and the faint smell of burning leaves in the air, it truly held the feel of an Octoberfest type of day. I was feeling good, and I was holding the paces I wanted; hence, the smile that was plastered on my face through most of this race! Again, a real race! The feeling was so good.
Very much like the trail I run at home, this trail has sections that are full miles of a steady uphill climb; not a very steep grade, but just enough that your heart rate shoots up and your rate of perceived effort becomes much higher as you try to sustain the same pace. My effort increased around mile 15, and I started to really feel it around mile 20. Added to that was the fact that I missed the furthest turnaround and overshot it by about a quarter of a mile before I turned back and righted course. There was a loop in a church parking lot that I missed the first time through; I caught it on the way back. There was a timer with a camera, like the one at the start. There was no one around, just the cases of water and the second and only other porta potty on course.
It felt great to be running a race, and at this point, it felt great to be in the last miles. I passed alongside the campus of Furman University for the second time, making my way back to Greenville from Traveller’s Rest.
I knew that I would hit 26.2 before I hit the finish line, thanks to missing the turnaround. Well, this was a virtual race, even if it was certified, so I made up my mind that I would hit my watch button to finish the 26.2 at 26.2.
There was a race photographer at the finish, and they also had a table with a few masked volunteers where you could help yourself to bananas, cookies, water, juice, etc. We made sure to thank everyone working for an event that was both professional and safe as well as a lot of fun.
My result: a new 26.2 PR! A smile that has not left my face even now, two days later. A great memory from such a weird time, this year 2020. Pride in the accomplishment. And a desire for life to move back to normal as 2020 comes to a close and hopefully we get closer to this virus being held in check.
Swag: Long sleeved, cotton, hooded t-shirt; race medal in the shape of a bottle opener; dog tags with the race logo on it. Free race photos.
Race website: https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/Greenville/SpinxRunFest
Race organizers: Greenville Track Club
Parking: Right at the start/finish line, staged at a fitness complex. The line and bib pick up area was on the edge of a large turf soccer field complex.
Elevation Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Terrain: Paved greenway (rail trail).
Race Management: Excellent.
Course scenery: Downtown views of Greenville, SC for the first ten miles: parks, river walk, water fall, store fronts. Forest (tall pine trees) views for the second sixteen miles, with small town views of Traveller’s Rest, SC (quaint small town Main Street of mom & pop restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops). Trail was open to general public and full of cyclists, runners, and walkers.
Overall rating: Great! I would do this race again, especially if I lived closer than four hours. Since I have a very limited number of marathon attempts I want to do in a year, chances are small that I will repeat it with all the other options out there. However, with the current situation and no idea what 2021 holds, it’s great to have options like this.
Attached photo provided by the race; your certified time comes from the clocks in your start & finish photos.