The Mercedes-Benz stadium in downtown Atlanta replaces the Georgia Dome, which was destroyed by implosion only 25 years after opening in 1992. Although I think that it's regrettable that the Georgia Dome has not lasted for a lifetime, the replacement stadium is quite remarkable, from its architectural exterior to fan-friendly sight lines inside the stadium.
|Mercedes-Benz stadium just before sunrise.|
For an amusing video of the Georgia Dome implosion, click here.
In addition to serving as the home stadium for the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United (MLS) teams, Super Bowl LIII will be played at Mercedes-Benz stadium in February 2019. And tomorrow, the stadium will host the College Football National Championship. By coincidence, the contestants will be two semi-local teams: the University of Georgia vs. the University of Alabama. To commemorate the championship game, the Atlanta Track Club has organized a 5K race, starting and finishing near the stadium.
After Monday's incredibly cold New Year's Resolution Run, I had "resolved" not to subject myself to another frigid race so quickly. Moreover, I was scheduled for a 16 mile run yesterday in marathon training, and was concerned about running a race within 24 hours of completing a long run. But after watching Georgia defeat Oklahoma in a thrilling overtime game on New Year's evening, and the possibility of winning a pair of tickets to the game in a lottery, we started talking about what we might have done to stay warmer - and we decided to register for the race.
Yesterday's 16-mile long run went well, keeping up with the front part of the 10 min / mile pace group. Despite thoroughly stretching after the run, and periodic therapy at home with the foam roller, my legs were pretty sore when I went to bed last night. To my surprise, I felt pretty good when I woke this morning.
Many of the runners today were wearing Georgia Bulldogs gear, with a smaller number wearing Alabama Crimson Tide. Since I'm neither a Georgia nor an Alabama fan, I decided to proudly represent Emory University football in today's race. (As I had hoped, this got quite a few laughs throughout the morning.)
|As a Georgia resident, if not an alumnus, I will cheer for the |
Georgia Bulldogs in tomorrow night's championship game.
A student perspective on "Emory football"
The history of athletics at Emory
After a thorough round of dynamic stretches inside the heated Georgia World Convention Center lobby, I headed outside for a couple of warmup miles, running the first mile and the last kilometer of the race route. I was amazed that my legs felt really good, I didn't feel like I had run 16 miles yesterday. Nonetheless I resolved to hold back a little in the first mile of the race, to avoid getting an overuse injury. I made it back to the starting area as runners were gathering in waves, just in time for the National Anthem. Once again I started with wave B, but this time took a position a few rows behind the starting mat. That proved to be a good decision, as I got off to a comfortable pace, not too fast, but not held back by slower runners. Making a couple of turns around the south side of the station, we started onto Northside Drive, running past the former site of the Georgia Dome.
The first mile was mostly downhill, so I found myself speeding up a bit, while still running easily and smoothly. I had originally aimed to cover the first mile around 7:45 min / mile pace and then evaluate whether I could speed up. But it didn't make sense not to take advantage of the favorable elevation, knowing that we would run uphill on the return to the start - finish area. I passed the 1-mile marker at 7:21. As the route wasn't too crowded, I was careful to run the tangents along the gentle curves of Northside Drive, heading to a right turn onto North Avenue. Passing through an underpass, I was concerned that there might be some ice on the roadway, but I never felt that I was slipping at all and decided that it was probably road salt or sand that I was noticing. Emerging from the underpass, the campus of Georgia Tech was on the left, the Coca-Cola headquarters on the right. At the two-mile marker just ahead of the 15 minute point, 7:33 minutes for mile 2. Wow, I was a few seconds ahead of my personal record-setting pace from Monday!
Upon making another right turn onto Luckie Street, heading south, I maintained pace for a moment, but as the road started to progress gently but unmistakably uphill, I began to feel the lactate buildup in my legs. Fortunately I was on familiar ground, as this was mile 13 in the Hotlanta Half Marathon. I reached the top of the hill at Ivan Allen Boulevard at 19 minutes flat, 2.5 miles elapsed. Could I cover the last kilometer in 4-1/2 minutes? I sped up for a moment on a level stretch of roadway, but turning onto Baker Street, I was slowed by another uphill. And with a left turn onto Marietta Street, I knew from experience in the Georgia Marathon (and half-marathons) that it was another gentle uphill. I was able to maintain a decent pace, and shortly after turning onto Andrew Young International Boulevard, I passed the mile 3 marker, 22:55 elapsed and 7:57 for mile 3. I realized that I wouldn't set a new personal record today, but I was on track for another sub-24 minute finish. That gave me the impetus to tap one last bit of additional speed, crossing the finish line at 23:51 elapsed.
|With the elevations, this seems like a consistent effort from start to finish.|
This was my second best 5K time, just 21 seconds off of my recent personal record! For starting out with a "conservative" race plan, I did much better than I had expected. I was a little winded after crossing the finish line but I felt that I was in decent shape, and by the time I had walked 100 yards to accept the race medal and a bottle of water, my heart rate was recovering nicely.
Although neither Bonnie nor I nor anyone else we knew won the Championship Game ticket lottery, I had enough optimism to listen carefully when the announcer called out names of the male 55 - 59 awardees, hearing "Frank McDonald, third place" and I said to Bonnie and other friends "Wow, I won something!" People in front of me graciously stepped aside as I headed through the crowd to accept the award: a commemorative miniature green football helmet!
|My age group award!|
This is my first ever placement in an Atlanta Track Club race! I would have been 7th in the male 50 - 54 age group, so I'm definitely enjoying one advantage of getting older!
|Age group result (above)|
Overall result, 137th out of over 1500 finishers (below)