What I Deserved. Brave the Race 1/2M Report

OK, if you're looking to NOT set a PR in a half-marathon, just follow the steps below:

1.) Be sure you under-train. On my road to recovery, I've been doing a nice job of getting my mileage up to 35 miles per week. However, my long runs have only been increasing a mile a week, so four weeks ago I did a 10, 3 weeks ago an 11, 2 weeks ago a 12, and 1 week ago a 13, which brings me to #2.

2.) Taper, schmaper. Last week, I didn't think I'd be racing this weekend, so I did a 13 mile run at a decent pace.

3.) Choose a course w/ hills. Lots and lots of hills. They didn't look so bad on the elevation map, but basically, there were 3 big hills, spaced out about 1 every 4 miles.

4.) Choose a course that's long. This is tough, because you won't know this until you look at the Garmin at the end, but an extra tenth will up your time by about a minute.

5.) Just for kicks, pray for wind. When I arrived at the race location, the sun was just beginning to rise and the flag I looked at was standing straight down. Fifteen minutes later, the wind kicked up and never stopped. It blew at 15-25mph the entire race.

So, with all that in mind, we got started. Race-day registrations had brought the crowd up to 47 people. By the time we'd gone 1/2 mile, I settled into 7th place, just off the pace of a woman I'd chase for 13 miles.

Though my plan was to aim for 7:05-7:10 miles, I knew the first four miles were mostly downhill, so I settled into a groove of 6:59 miles. The course was a bit strange - 3 different out-n-backs. For most of the race, though - we were fortunate. There were massive uphills and massive headwinds, but never at the same time.

Around the 7 mile mark, I took a gel (a good thing, as the course only had water) and made my only pass the entire race - going by the 3rd place woman. I settled into 6th, still chasing the 2nd place woman (my current level of fitness often has me battling with the top women on the course).

Around the 9th mile, I finally had something I hadn't had the entire race - a downhill tail-wind stretch. My 9th mile was my fastest - a 6:40 - and I felt really good about things. I was tiring, but not awful and I knew the end was in sight.

And then at the 10.5 mile mark, we turned around. And returned to the place where I'd just flown down the hill.

And went uphill.

Into the wind.

The last time I felt this was bad the 23 mile mark of my marathon. But in some ways, this was worse. Then, I was only fighting me. Here, I was also fighting a brutal head-wind, and a massive hill. I somehow managed that mile in 8:15, but I swear it felt like 15:15. And after that, the last mile was still in a head-wind and with a slightly smaller hill.

Before the last huge uphill, I was averaging 7:11 for the whole race - a 1:34, which would be respectable, all things considered. But by the time I dragged my butt in, I'd stumbled to a 7:24 and finished in 1:36:44 for the whole race. I didn't hit the wall. I splatted against it.

All was not lost, though. As mentioned, it was a small field and all three of the men who beat me were in their 40's, so for the 2nd race in a row, I took home an age-group award - a cool, little wooden plaque.

I've thought about this race a lot this weekend and realized that what I might love about running most is how honest it is. Given my fitness -- both my under-training and lack of tapering -- and given the elements, a 1:36 was pretty much exactly what I deserved. I ran as hard as I possibly could and had nothing left at the end. It wasn't a PR, but I do believe it was the hardest I've pushed myself in a half-marathon. And for that, I'm grateful.

Full results for the race can be viewed here.

**OTHER NOTES: It was the first time for this race, and the organizers did fine. If there was Gatorade on the course, I never saw it, but other than that, things were run well. Was also pleased to see Bob from the LRRC there, too.


  1. Congrats on putting in a solid effort. I totally agree with you about the honesty of running. Even if the time wasn't quite what you were hoping for, it feels really good finishing a race and knowing you laid it all on the line.

  2. Anonymous7:41 PM

    All things considered, it sounds like you ran a good race. It's a good feeling to leave everything out on the course, isn't it?

  3. oh boy ... i didn't know there was a wall in a 1/2. i guess there's one in any race, huh? there is a half here in 2 weeks, i am still on the fence about clicking the registration button - i've already got #1 on your list down pat. i'm well on my way to a shameful showing if i get off my fence & do it.

    congrats on your age group award ... that had to make up for something!

  4. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Your under training earned you a time better than my real training efforts!

    Thanks for the comment. I never got to say hello to you after nathan pointed out to me you were standing right behind me and my brother at the Run-4-Luck in Lancaster!

  5. Hey Marcus
    I was at that race. I was the one shooting the race, with the yellow lab. My girlfriend was running the 1/2M, but was nowhere near as fast as the rest of you. I think I got a few picts of you. You're more than welcome to view my photos in a public gallery. All my photos are free for download, but I do appreciate any small non-deductible donations or gifts, just so I can pay for gas and some time to cleanup the photos. Its not about the money. Just trying to offer a near-free service to the runners. If you want: take a look at http://picasaweb.google.com/BadDog8Cat

    Please pass it along if you know of anyone who ran the Brave the Race and also the Pickle Runs at Ridley Creek State Park. It doesnt look like Oct.High School is going to post anything soon.

    Thanks and Good Running


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