This Memorial Day we were back in Huntsville for the Cotton Row Run, the last stop for the Running Journal Grand Prix season. It was already hot and steamy at 7:30 a.m. for the start of the 10k, and the heat was even more oppressive for the 9:00 a.m. 5k start, which Linda ran. Not too far into the first mile I considered just dropping out since I had a lead in the 55-59 age group of more than 100 points in the Grand Prix, but I figured instead I’d just take it a little easy and walk all of the water stops, which is what I did. I think all of the walking might have helped my time since I ended up winning my age group in the race with a time of 44:42. It was a minute or so slower than last year’s time when I finished 3rd in my division but the heat seemed to take a lot out of the other runners as well.
The Cotton Row Run has been a Memorial Day fixture in Huntsville for more than 30 years and is one of Alabama’s premier road races. With around 4,000 runners in the 10k and 5k combined, it’s big enough to feel like a major event without the logistical problems that surround races with tens of thousands of runners. The race expo held at the Von Braun Center is a good one with plenty of deals on running clothes and shoes, and the post-race party is great as well, with lots of good stuff like pizza and chocolate milk as well as the standard runner fare like bananas and bagels.
This race is famous for the huge steep hill in the middle of the course that is probably the steepest hill I’ve ever encountered in a race. The only one I can think of that comes close is the hill on Walnut Avenue near the end of the Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon. I’m not sure which one of these is steeper, but the hill in Huntsville is probably twice as long. I found a great video on YouTube that was just posted that runs about 11 minutes and shows at least the bottom part of the climb and all of the runners who climbed it to that point. I was pretty amazed that probably the first 30 runners didn’t walk at all, then little by little more and more people walked it until the final minute when many more people were walking than running. When I reached the bottom of the hill my heart rate was at 170. I thought I’d start out walking and then if my heart rate dropped I’d start running. My heart rate never went below 170 and I walked the entire hill. If you want to see my walking technique, I can be seen from about 7:00 to 7:30 in the video (#111 wearing a white singlet with red horizontal stripe over the chest and blue shorts and white hat). Other Charlotte area runners in the video are Alejandro Arreola, who comes along at about 4:10 and Alice Rogers is right behind him at about 4:20. Both of them ran the whole thing. After me at about 9:15 is Jerry Sofley, my Gastonia cohort, who also walks the hill.
The Running Journal Grand Prix season ended with the Charlotte area runners winning big. Alejandro Arreola was the Overall Mens Champion for the season and Alice Rogers was the Overall Female Champion. Other area winners for the season were Jerry Sofley, who was 1st place in the 60-64 age group, 88-year-old Margaret Hagerty was the Veteran Female Champion, Bob Nelson was 2nd in the 55-59 age group, Bob Heck was 2nd in the 40-44 age group, and I was 1st place in the 55-59 age group.
Speaking of videos, I found the hill video when I was uploading the video I made at the race. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the hill climb, but I was going for more of an overall view of the race…
|Running Journal Grand Prix winners from the Charlotte NC area.
L-R: Richard Hefner, Alejandro Arreola, Alice Rogers,
Jerry Sofley, and Bob Heck.