Sunday, March 1, 2015

February 22, 2015, Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, State #20. AL (Part 1)

I chose the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama in part because of the climate there (being a winter race), partly for the wonderful charity it supports (The Bell Center) and partly for the famous car maker’s prestige. With this being the year of the deep freeze, even for the Southern states, the race didn’t end up being the warm weather experience I had hoped for. When I arrived in Birmingham on Saturday, a chilly windy day greeted me at the airport. After a lively shuttle ride to the hotel with a large group of other runners, I checked in to my room a bit early and made my way to the expo to pick up my number. 
Outside the expo building the 5k runners were finishing their race and were celebrating in the park. Kids and adults of all ages were sporting their medals and having a great time. It was a lively scene with music and excitement and a large crowd. Everyone had smiles on their faces. It seemed like a great way to start the running weekend.
My race bib and tech shirt.
The expo was on the small side, but everyone there was very friendly and helpful. I found my number easily and picked up my ticket for that evening’s charity pasta dinner. I also found a new gear belt large enough to carry my new phone. Score! After a quick walk-about at the expo, I left to check out the art museum which was right next door. 

The Birmingham Museum of Art caught my eye because of the large signs indicating an exhibit featuring Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals. Coincidentally, on the plane I started reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which references those artists. It was just too good to be true, so of course I had to go check out the exhibit. The museum was small, but filled with lovely treasures. Especially poignant was a wall of black and white photos depicting various scenes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. In fact, simply walking through the streets of Birmingham brought about the distinct feel of the Civil Rights movement. The architecture of the buildings is just as you see it pictured in photographs from that era. Many of the buildings in the downtown area are the low brick buildings with large windows, and many of the facades still have the retro neon signs presumably from that time. 
After the museum visit, I made a quick walk to the local grocery store for some necessities and then back to the hotel for some relaxation. 
The pasta dinner that evening was held at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame which was right around the corner from my hotel. The pasta dinner proceeds supported The Bell Center, an agency that provides early intervention programs for children with developmental delays. Some of the children and their families were at the dinner enjoying pasta, and I got the warm fuzzies seeing these beautiful children running here and there, laughing and playing and thoroughly having a great time. It made me really glad that I supported this wonderful center. 

Famous baseball players from Alabama
View of some of the exhibits in the hall of fame
I sat with a married couple, Pixie and Bob from Gloucester, MA and Mark from Los Angeles, and we all traded stories about the races we’ve run. Mark and Pixie were both working on running full marathons in all 50 states, while Bob explained he was Pixie’s “agent” and that he runs races but not necessarily to accomplish all the states. Bob and I were both running the Mercedes Half, while Pixie and Mark were doing the Full. We had a great time together and wished each other well. After dinner I explored the Sports Hall of Fame and saw exhibits honoring famous Alabamans who achieved greatness in the sports world, including Carl Lewis, Joe Namath, Jesse Owens, Joe Lewis, Willie Mays and many others. Several exhibits were dedicated to the college football heroes from the state, but not being much of a college football follower, those names and stories were lost on me. 

I got back to my hotel around 8 pm and started to sort through my gear, not really knowing what I’d be wearing the next day. The weather in the area had been so unpredictable recently that I brought gear for warm and cold weather racing. The forecast for race day was predicting rain, so I brought rain gear, too. I’d have to make my final decision in the morning. 
Various gear for the morning

No comments:

Post a Comment