Saturday, March 26, 2011

Centerpoint Half Marathon Recap

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the kids I coach at the local YMCA, and how they'd formed the relay team "Drew's Crew" to enter into the Centerpoint Half Marathon. Well, today was the day I got to run it alongside them, and they surpassed all my expectations.

Before I get to the relay I want to quickly touch on the race itself. As I've come to expect from races directed by Karen Barnard, it went off without a hitch. Everything from packet pick-up to the awards ceremony was well organized, and I didn't hear a complaint from a single participant. The start was timely, the water stops were well run and the course was well-marked and seemingly accurate. My compliments to Centerpoint Fellowship Church, the Prattville YMCA and all the volunteers that came together to make this happen.

"Drew's Crew" - Check Out Those T-Shirts!!!
The Setup

Now, let me state up front I was hoping The Crew could break 1:50. This was based on times turned in at recent 5k races in town, all of which fell into the 25-27 minute range. Knowing it was going to be a little warm and humid (It averaged 62°, 89%), I figured this was a goal within their reach. Anything beyond that would be icing on the cake.

Leg 1 - Madison B. (2.95 miles, 7:43/mi average pace)

Leg 1 - Madison
The oldest of The Crew, Madison took the first leg with me and set the bar extremely high for the others. We managed to keep the adrenaline in check the first mile and completed it in a solid 7:57. The second mile started out with a trip down and up the Greystone Gully, a short but steep hill by the post office. I thought this might slow her down some, but I was wrong. She attacked it, cruised over the top and kept on going strong. We wound up through Jasmine and finished mile two in 7:41. She started to wear down on her last mile, but your wouldn't know it by the 7:27 pace she turned in. An outstanding leg all around!

Leg 2 - Lauren C. (3.00 miles, 8:17/mi average pace)

Leg 2 - Lauren
Lauren must have sensed how fast Madison was running, because she picked up right where she left off. We took off around the corner and she, too, attacked the same hill Madison had decimated a few minutes earlier. She stayed with me stride for stride all the way to the top, and then we cruised for a minute to catch our breath. Mile one for her was a blazing 7:42 pace! We continued down Silver Hills Drive and around Silver Creek Circle, where our pace started to even out a little. The sun was rising and it was warming up quick, but that didn't stop her from finishing the second mile in 8:21. With the heat and the hills starting to take their toll, Lauren demonstrated a lot of mental toughness her last mile. When I reminded her that she could do anything for 8 minutes she responded with "that's what my mother always says!" Well, it must be true, because she persevered and kept her team well ahead of the goal with an 8:48 final mile.

Leg 3 - Matt O. (2.93 miles, 8:16/mi average pace)

Leg 3 - Matt
Lauren handed off the baton to Matt and we started his leg running past the start/finish line and a lot of crowd support. It was immediately clear to me that he was feeling strong, and he proved that with an 8:13 first mile. We chatted quite a bit at first, but by the midpoint of his leg we had to tackle the Greystone Gully and things got a little quieter. He pushed up it like it wasn't even there and finished mile two in 8:10! The last mile had a slight, uphill grade to it, and Matt did a great job maintaining focus. He informed me at about his 2.5-mile mark that he wouldn't be able to kick at the end, but I knew better. As we turned onto High Point Ridge there was a short downhill section that gave him just enough of a breather for a sprint to our last relay station. Final mile, 8:25.

Leg 4 - Mackenzie B. (4.07 miles, 8:23/mi average pace)

Leg 4 - Mackenzie
Entrusted by her team to tackle the longest leg of the race, Mackenzie delivered the goods. She was determined to catch the fire fighter relay team ahead of us, and that goal pushed her through to an 8:03 first mile. Just like her teammates, she did a great job climbing the steep side of the Greystone Gully and barely skipped a beat after we crested it. Mile 2, 8:24. By this point it had warmed up to 65° and 91% humidity, and that made for a really tough third mile. We rounded Silver Creek Circle and she finished it in 8:45. For her fourth and final mile was almost a straight shot to the finish. Just as I expected, the cheers of her awaiting teammates provided that extra bit of energy to dig deep and post an 8:18 negative split!

The Finish

Does It Get Any Better Than This?
At the corner of Autumn Road and Tara Drive Drew's Crew came together to run the last third of a mile to the finish line. Watching the four of them laugh, cheer each other on and finish the relay as a team was the highlight of my day, and I couldn't be prouder of their effort. They all ran great individual races, pulled for each other in a way I've only seen swimmers do, and didn't lose sight of what they were there for - to have fun. In the end they ran almost 5 minutes faster than I'd expected, finishing in 1:45:50 (unofficial). Not surprisingly, this earned them first place in the youth relay division!

Honorable Mentions

Caleb's First Half Mary!
As if I this race wasn't already exciting enough, there were some other performances by my swimmers runners that I have to mention. First and foremost, Caleb M. ran and completed his first half marathon. I'm not sure what his finishing time was, but it's beside the point. A 13-year-old completing a half mary because he wants to is very impressive in my book. Way to go, Caleb!

Another shout out goes to Harrison A., who took second place for his age division in the 5k! Woot!

And Savannah M. and Madison C. both looked great in the one-mile event! Nice job, girls!

Thank You

Finally, I want to thank all the parents and coaches that made this relay possible. I really appreciate the all the support they've give both to me and their kids. If it weren't for them none of this could have happened.

Edit: A huge thanks also to all the volunteers along the course that generously shared thousands of photos they took. All of their action shots and many more can be found here.


  1. Good times you all will remember for a life time. They are lucky to have you as a coach, and you are lucky to have some talented young athletes to train. You guys looked like you had fun, which is the most important part.

  2. What a great event Drew, glad you are having an impact on so many youth.

  3. Just came across this post today...nice work Drew and his "crew". You are an inspiration to many.

  4. Hi, just found your blog today when I was looking for a review of the Centerpoint half. It's great to see a fellow running blogger from Alabama. Thanks for the info, and great job with the kids!