I have been (literally and figuratively) chasing my fastest half marathon time for the last four years. Granted, I didn’t run any half marathons in 2012 and much of 2013 because of fertility treatments and our long awaited twin pregnancy. Still, since the twins were born, I’ve been eyeing that goal again, only to come up at least a few minutes short.
The Sweet Tea Half Marathon had its inaugural race last year. Not only are half marathons my favorite distance, this one is literally a 10 minute drive away.
I’ve been consistently doing speed work weekly since about the end of April, and my training runs for my upcoming marathon have all been pace focused. I was REALLY hoping all of this speed training would help me get back to where I was before the twins were born.
Last year’s race was unseasonably cold – if I remember correctly the temperature at start time was in the 30’s (though honestly I didn’t mind). It’s been, much to my dismay, unseasonably warm this year, but on the plus side it made for much more tolerable temperatures at start time.
The course starts in downtown Summerville, next to the railroad tracks. It heads towards and then onto the local bike bath and through a couple neighborhoods before landing on the path again. After running a few miles on some local streets, the course finishes downtown again, right at the square. The course is pretty flat. No inclines the first half but a few small ones in the second, with an extra sucky one right in the last tenth. There are A LOT of turns, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. Some of the turns are on the sharp side and are in areas where you need to watch your footing. The finish is right next to a local coffee shop (Single Smile Cafe), which is awesome this time of year with the (hopefully) cooler temperatures. It offers a place to hang out while waiting for awards and has some pretty good coffee, too.
Porta potties were located at the race start/finish, and once along the course around mile 4. I didn’t need it luckily but it was nice to have. Water stops were approximately every 2 miles and offered water or Gatorade. Volunteers were encouraged to dress up and make their stop the most exciting – the winning stop got a 20$ pizza gift certificate.
Post race food included bananas, bagels and doughnuts, as well as bottles of water. Volunteers offered those nice stylish foil covers, and even though I make fun they were nice to have after cooling down. If there was anything else I missed it as I didn’t hang around the food tables much. Going mostly gluten free kinda ruins most post race food besides the bananas anyway.
Top three overall male and female finishers received cash awards. Age group finishers received a Sweet Tea glass and gift certificate to a local sporting goods store, for $50 (1st), $30 (2nd) or $20 (3rd).
Race time was 7am and my friend and I got there about 6:15, found an excellent parking spot and stood to chat while we waited in the porta- potty line. We ambled over to the start line with a few minutes to spare. It’s a relatively small race so there isn’t much fanfare, but that is perfectly fine with me. We made our way close to the front. The race this year had a couple of pacers – a 1:40 and a 2:00. Unfortunately, I’m not fast enough for the 1:40 (yet) so I was on my own there, but it was nice to at least have a couple options this time.
I bought music along with me as I always do. My goal was to run the first half of the race without it and then use it to help bump the through the inevitable wall I seem to hit somewhere around Mile 8. I also figured it would help me to not start out too quickly, a mistake I’ve made several times before.
Tammie and I stayed together from the start and finished Mile 1 in 8:02 and Mile 2 in 8:04. To finish in 1:45, I needed an average pace of just over 8:00, so I was a little slow but still had plenty of race left.
Running without music turned out to be a little more of a challenge than I expected while trying to keep up a tempo-like pace, but it DID keep me from going too quickly in the first half. I walked briefly through the water stops. The course was well manned and well marked with what I felt was a good amount of water stops – one about every couple miles.
By mid race my pace average was somewhere around 8:04, so I turned my music on and tried to crank it up a bit. I skipped the water stop after I stopped to stretch in order to try to make up some time but did walk briefly through the rest. I had hoped to hit all miles past mile 6 at 8 or under, and managed to do that with all but two – the mile I stopped to stretch and an 8:03 at mile 9. As an added kicker the second half of the race had a few inclines while the first had been fairly flat, so that was a bit of and extra challenge I hadn’t planned for. By mile 12 things were starting to get more uncomfortable and, for reasons that I can’t explain, I tend to pick up the pace when that happens because I guess I just logically figure that the faster I go, the faster I’ll be done. I finished Mile 12 in 7:57 and went as fast as my legs would let me on Mile 13. I switched my watch to see overall time about .4 miles from the end and my watch read 1:42:xx. Turning the last corner I came upon the incline to the finish I had so conveniently forgotten about (ugh), but caught the finish line clock to see it was still under 1:45! I crossed the finish line at just under 1:45 and a final mile at 7:44.
Finish time: 1:44:48
Overal Finish: 33/536 (registered, not all ran)
Gender Finish: 12/368
Age Finish: 2/66
The first place finisher killed it with a finish time under 70 minutes. I couldn’t even imagine.
I love having a race that is right in my backyard. It was well organized and had a good number of volunteers and water stops. The number of turns can get a little annoying (but not enough to keep me from running it again). My biggest complaint would be the shirt – it is a nice shirt but looks almost exactly the same as last year. Even a different color would have been enough. Overall though, I enjoyed the race and I’ll definitely run it again, especially now because I’m shooting for a new PR. 🙂