Cow bells are commonly seen at races, luring runners toward the finish. The cow bell is a symbol for greatness, as it is not seen on every animal in the herd, but it is reserved for the fastest and strongest animal who will lead the others. As the sound causes a desire to move ahead or run faster than the others, I always welcome the empowering jangle to move my feet just a pinch faster.
I don’t run for bling and this is one of two lies I told myself when registering for the Urban Cow Half Marathon. I saw the blue cow bell medal featured on social media outlets along with a kooky slogan of, “A Race Like No Udder,” so I obviously had to register. How could I deny myself a medal that symbolizes so much? They also promised a flat and fast course so I told myself to just have fun and not push it, (Lie #2) as I had already ran and PR’ed 19.3 of the 22.4 miles I had run the weekend prior.
Living about two hours south of Sacramento, I booked one night in a downtown hotel and spent Saturday afternoon exploring the city after picking up my bib.
Fleet Feet Sports dedicated hours both Friday and Saturday to participants picking up bibs. Located on one end of a shop and restaurant filled street, I was happy to see ample parking along all sides of their block, as well as a few spots in a lot just steps from their back door.
Pick up was a breeze as I collected my number, beer wristband and shirt. Urban Cow had a small merchandise area, teasing shirts, hats and even cow print compression socks. I also paid a quick trip inside because would I even be a runner if I didn’t gander? The store was offering some discounts for runners on specific brands such as New Balance, which was nice of them!
I decided to Uber a few miles to the start the morning of the race. The race offered parking at a nearby college with a shuttle but since I did not know the area, I decided not to add any stress to the morning.
Urban Cow had a nice setup in the William Land Regional Park. With vendor tents, a bag check and even bicycle parking for the eco-friendly commuters. Event staff even had rented a cow themed bounce house for the little ones!
The race started promptly after an anthem with two waves releasing the half-marathon runners first, followed by the 5k. Shade from lofty trees provided some cooler temps for the first mile as we weaved through the park.
I felt like Pac Man as I made my way through sinuous neighborhood streets. Local high school volunteers were out every couple miles with water, keeping us well hydrated.
I finally came across the first of many bands on course which was a trio singing country. We made our way through an industrial district making our way towards Downtown Sacramento. Ukes of Earl were playing around the mile 4 mark, inviting a lovely taste of the tropics as runners went by. I kept checking in with my body and my watch, surprising myself with a comfortable yet decent pace.
Grand arched signs in green and black with gold lettering dictated our nearing arrival in Old Sacramento. An underpass brought us to a street that resembled an old western town. A small collection of stores, saloons and museums present a facade from an older era.
I caught a glimpse of the yellow Sacramento bridge and followed the bike path along the river towards the midway point. Urban Cow offers a two person relay, giving a pair of runners to split the distance of the half. This transition could have been a little better organized to avoid runners stopping right in front of those not participating in the relay exchange.
Continuing another half mile on the path, we entered Miller Park where a couple more bands would grace our ear drums. At this point in the race, the tribute rock bands were much appreciated, giving runners an energizing tempo to match our running pace to.
Miles 8-10 parallel the Sacramento River, presenting participants with scenery and a nice breeze. During this portion of the course, Urban Cow provided motivational signs expressing admiration of our feat thus far. Towards the end of this stretch, a Chinese drum band tapped runners in the direction of the finish.
A sharp lefthand turn, takes runners from the bike path onto Riverside Blvd. I saw the tips of trees and knew the park was close, my legs trying to keep pace with my heart. Volunteers and spectators were complimenting my cow hat and encouraging me to hoof it the final two miles.
Finally we turned into William Land Regional and runners just ahead ushered me back along what was the first mile of the course. Finally the finish line was in sight but the road curved into a giant U, still putting some distance between our current location and the tape. With the clock looming, my feet felt light and fast and before I knew it, my arms were up in the air and I was celebrating a five minute PR from the weekend before!
Beyond the Finish
I was one with the herd. While everyone around me was “bearing their bell,” I was too, in the sense, “to take the first place.” Of course I did not break the tape, but taking first place in my mind and heart with my shiny new PR!
With my medal clanging, I continued down the finish chute towards water and food. Volunteers passed out mini Lara bars, Clover greek yogurt, chocolate milk, trays of strawberries, and glazed donut holes (I was ecstatic about this last provision).
I headed to the beer garden to mingle and discover Lagunitas offering two varieties of brew. Volunteers even were filling paper food trays with salty Kettle Chips! This race thought of everything! While I know I’m supposed to replenish my muscles with protein, sometimes my soul is just too loud, so I indulge on carbs and fat.
I traveled to this race thinking it would be a fun, local event. Urban Cow turned out to be one of my favorite events this year! The half was very well organized with quality shirts and medals, providing runners with about ten local bands on course! I HIGHLY recommend this event to anyone who finds themselves in the Sacramento area next fall!
I hope to see you out moo’ving on the roads and trails!