Official Race Recap: Frederick Half Marathon Edition

On April 19, I made a crazy decision. A friend from a virtual running group offered up an entry to any race at the Frederick Running Festival. She'd won a free entry code but was running a marathon the same weekend. Since Frederick, MD, is only a 45-minute drive from my home, I took her up on the offer and went whole hog by signing up for the half marathon. Given my training, this wouldn't have been a crazy decision at all, except that all that training was for the Flower City Half Marathon, which took place a week ago. I decided there was no harm in signing up and, if I needed to, I could always switch to the 5k.

After the Flower City Half, I was surprised by how quickly I recovered. By Tuesday morning, I was tearing up the track at Houghton, with a run that got faster with each passing mile. My legs felt tired but not leaden and definitely not sore. Nearly three miles the next day also felt good. I rested completely on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So, when I showed up at the start line this morning, I was feeling completely fresh and ready to go.

This was my fifth race since I started running. (You can read about the others here: 5K #1, 5K #2, 10-Miler, 13.1 #1.) It wasn't until I was leaving the house around 5 a.m. that I realized I'd never been to a race without a friend. Twice I've run with a friend pacing and twice I've run knowing that I'd meet up with someone at the beginning and end. This time, it was just me and the off chance that I would run into one of the two other people I knew who were running it. Oddly, this felt like another confirmation of my commitment to running. I didn't need a friend to keep me accountable to show up; I was going to be there because I wanted to run.

Lining up to start
The weather was perfect. After running into temperatures in the seventies like a brick wall last week, starting out with temps in the 40s, an overcast sky, and a light breeze was like heaven. By the time I was finished, it was still only in the low 50s.

I lined up behind the 2:40:00 pace group but, once we rounded the first corner and there was room to pass, I was keeping up with the 2:30:00 group and passing them. I used a 4/1 run/walk interval today, so I would pass folks while running only to be passed by them while walking. But, as I kept going, I realized that the 2:30'ers were getting further and further behind. It was easy to tell because they would shout triumphantly at every mile marker and the leaders frequently burst into song (my personal favorite was "We Will Rock You" at a volume I couldn't maintain while standing still, much less running).

Unlike last week, I didn't poop out after mile 6, I kept going with a pace between 10:58 and 11:18 for 11 out of 13.2 miles. There were hills in this race but none nearly as tall as those encountered in Rochester, so it was a lot easier to be consistent and fast (for me).

All the people!
My favorite encounters with people:
  1. Watching the race field spread out along the initial stretch of road - so colorful and impressive.
  2. There was a group of folks cheering that I saw about seven different times. One woman had a sign that said, "If you keep running, I'll keep cheering." The Frederick course is perfect for cheering squads because it winds around a lot. A spectator could stand at one corner and cheer for runners passing mile 2, walk a couple blocks and cheer them again at mile 4, and on throughout the race. Clever planning.
  3. There was a man wearing a shirt that said, "I'm slow. I know. Get over it." I enjoyed passing him several times and told him I enjoyed his shirt before I finally put him permanently in my rearview.
  4. Just before the 12-mile marker, a girl complimented my earrings. Hooray for blue, plastic, $2 earrings that get me compliments everywhere I go, including half marathons.
  5. I waited at the end of the race to meet one of my online running group friends. I'd never even seen a picture but, through the magic of bib numbers, I got to see that she'd finished, despite a back injury, and introduce myself.
In the last two miles, I was still feeling really strong. I'd slowed a bit but was sticking to my plan. I was even passing some people - people who *looked* fitter and stronger than I did. When I hit the 12-mile marker, I fully intended to run the rest of the way, just as I did last week, with Rebecca. I started out strong, passed some more people, turned a corner, and saw "Dreamcrusher Hill." Seriously, who plans a half marathon with the steepest hill in the last half mile? Anyway, since I was still on track to hit my goal, I gave myself permission to walk up the hill. (I won't do that again next year.)
The face I make when I've just PR'ed a half marathon!

I got to the top, started running again, then hit a gravel track. With my legs already tired, I felt like I was running in sand. Again, I took a little walk break, during which the 2:30 pacers passed me. But, with .2 miles to go, I picked it up again and "sprinted" across the finish line.

In Rochester, I forgot to stop my watch. This time, I stopped it as I was slowing to a walk. My Garmin read exactly 2:30:00. I later found that my official time was 2:29:53. It probably could have been a few minutes faster but 9 minutes and 25 seconds faster than the half marathon I ran LAST WEEK feels good to me.

I finished around 9:30 a.m. Races make days so strange. You finish a whole day's activity in the first few hours of the morning, then what do you do? I stretched, waited to see my online friend finish, skipped the beer tent, donned my compression socks, then drove home. On the way home, I got a giant bag of Taco Bell, which I ate after taking a shower and putting on warm clothes - I always freeze after a long run.

And, after all of that, I took a nap. It's been a very good day. Definitely want to do this one again next year. Thanks to Corrigan Sports for holding a terrific race and to all the runners and spectators and volunteers for making it a special morning!

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