Saturday – March 27, 2021
Saturday, March 26, we were in Tuscaloosa AL for the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon! Tuscaloosa is the home of the University of Alabama, The Crimson Tide. Bullie was a bit apprehensive about making a scene in Roll Tide country. I reminded him on Race Day, we are all brothers and sisters. Plus, saying Roll Tide when a group of runners wearing Alabama shirts came by would decrease the chance of us being chased out of town!
Jennifer and I drove over Friday evening after I got of work. And it was straight to bed for an early morning rise. The race started at 7:00 and Jennifer still needed to pick up my packet race morning. Start line was downtown at Government Plaza, a park area with lots of room and an old southern style Gazebo. After some club pictures it was time to run!
As a University town, everything is about the school including the course. First, however, Bullie and I headed down Jack Warner Parkway to meet the runners. The Parkway runs along side the Black Warrior River. This part was fairly flat except for one “nice size” hill. Most of the hills on the course were in the first 6 miles.
Soon everyone was running through the edge of the Alabama campus. University Drive had Fraternities and Sororities on one side and large old homes on the other. The route took us pass the Bryant-Denny football stadium, the old University Presidents Mansion and the Denny Chimes, a tall bell tower.
We were soon on our way back to the downtown section. The course went through “The Strip”, an area near the campus with a lot of neat and recently restored bars and restaurants. After the Strip, runners entered the final leg which included another section of the campus, a beautiful historic residential area and back to the Government Plaza for the finish.
Police presence and traffic control was good, with the officers cheering the runners on as they passed. Aid stations were every couple of miles, complete with water and Powerade. Volunteers were awesome and there was a good turnout of spectators cheering too. A good Covid plan had been implemented for the race.
What is always a pleasure when going to races with Jennifer is that Bullie Bell and I get to meet some really awesome people! Such was the case in meeting Rachel and Melei with Ainsley’s Angels. Ainsley’s Angels is an organization whose mission is to build awareness about America’s Special Needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life! Just one of those aspects is ensuring that everyone can experience endurance events, such as Half Marathons!
Rachel, an Angel Rider, is a vivacious young 9 year old with a smile that makes you smile just as big! Her companion for the race was Melei Renicks, a first time Angel Runner. A runner in her own right, she had always wanted to participate in Ainsley’s Angels. A bucket list item, as she puts it. Family met them all along the route, some even helping when the hills came! Running for Rachel was a special treat because Rachel never meets a stranger and everyone who meets her is a friend immediately! Melei, an awesome bubbling personality in her own right remarked that she would never forget that day and running for Rachel. Melei and Rachel were a perfect match! Bullie and I will never forget both of them as well!! www.ainsleysangels.org.
Bullie and I have seen a lot of crazy things and a lot of dogs. Tuscaloosa was no different! Meet the Puppet Runner aka Dr. R Andrew Strickland. A theater director and educator, he is also an avid runner for over 20 years. He began running with his puppet Remy in 2019. He was amazed at the smiles and words of appreciation he would get as Remy waved at other runners and spectators along the course. The rest is Puppet Runner History! Remy and Bullie hit it off and Remy is now a member of the Cowbell Brigade! https://www.puppetrunner.com/
If you ran the race in the past, like Jennifer did in 2018, the course was a good bit different this time. But it was still a fun race to do if you enjoy college towns and campuses. Being the SEC (Southeastern Conference) geek that we are, we both really enjoyed it.