The Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor is a gem of a race we have here in the Tampa area. They’ve expanded to other cities as well (I ran the Cape Coral Marathon back in 2014) and really know how to put on an amazing event!
The half marathon started at 7:15am (there was a 10k before and a 5k after), which mean the wake up wasn’t too crazy early! My friend Steph and I decided to ride together to Safety Harbor, so she picked me up around 6:15am and we headed over the bridge! The race start is only about 20 minutes from my house, so the commute was a breeze. We weren’t sure what parking was going to look like, so we wanted to give ourselves an extra few minutes. Luckily, we grabbed a parking spot in the surrounding neighborhood and used the distance between the car and the start line as a little warm-up. It was right around 60 degrees at the start, so warming up our muscles was perfect.
There were pacers standing in the corrals, so knowing where to line up was easy peasy. I started with the 8 minute/mile crowd, thinking I’d be happy to stick with this group, if at all possible. Once the gun went off, we all trotted on our way. It was pretty humid, but still cool and cloudy out, so weather wasn’t an issue. The first few miles, like always, flew right by. We ran on the water into Philippe Park, so it was a bit of an out and back. Seeing familiar faces in these settings is always a nice pick me up! Right around mile 4, we got back out onto a main road and start our trek back south. I was averaging 7:30 pace, which was much faster than expected!
For anyone who has never been to Safety Harbor, its a cute little town right on the other side of Tampa Bay. I really enjoyed running through the neighborhood, and was so thrilled with the varying elevation of the course. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling it hilly, but it was just enough to get me thinking a little different in regard to race strategy. I really focused on taking on the hills strong, and really using the downward slope to my advantage, letting my legs really guide me down to make up for lost speed.
We ran in and out of neighborhoods, so there was a lot to look at! Spectators were minimal, except around mile 5.5 when we passed the start/finish areas. For me, this wasn’t a big deal – I just get out and do my thing 😉 This is truly a race put on by runners, so the amenities were not lacking! There were aid stations every mile and a half or so, which is so necessary in Florida. I always really appreciate it when hydration stations are on point. There are too many times when an out of town race comes to Florida and there isn’t enough water. That is not the case with Best Damn Race!
Right around mile 8, I definitely started to feel the faster pace. The day of the race marked the 6th day of the Whole30 (more on that later!), so the altered diet was showing it’s face for sure! I could tell I just didn’t have as much in the tank right then, as my body was really still adjusting to the new way of eating. I slowed down for about a mile, and then dug down a bit deeper to get my pace back on track.
Mile 10 and 11 flew by, and at that point, it was really just a 2 mile run back to the marina. At this turnaround, the wind seemed to come out of no where and I really had to work for those last couple of miles. The headwind was pretty tough! I crossed the finish line in 1:41:05 (chip time) which was good enough for the 17th woman and 3rd place in my age group.
I really surprised myself with the pace, and couldn’t have been more impressed with the race overall. Packet pick up was a cinch, getting to the start was no issue, the post race area was stocked well, and the medals are huge! Oh, and I forgot to mention – the race photos for this race are all free! Such an amazing perk!!