I finally did it. I joined the club of half marathon finishers!

Last Saturday, I made the trek to Ashland, Virginia to run my first half marathon, the Patrick Henry Half. The race took place near the campus of Randolph Macon College and then found its way into the local corn fields before ultimately winding its way back into town for the finish.

First of all, the course was not an easy one. It was far more hilly than I anticipated, including one final hill that started around mile 11 and didn’t seem to end until somewhere around mile 12.5. There was fantastic support on the course including water and Gatorade stops at miles 2,4,6,8,9,10,11, and 12. The stop at mile 8 also had Gu packets for those who needed it. The community came out and seemed to be at every intersection along the run. The aid stations were well staffed and they even let those of us carrying hydration bottles with us completely refill our bottles. Awesome!

The weather was definitely a factor. Race time temperature was about 77 and the sun quickly came out and finish time temperature was around 84-85 with fairly high humidity.

Given the race was in late August, I set a conservative goal of 2:15:00 to finish. I had trained at 2:11:00 on my last long run, so I gave myself a little bit of a cushion. The goal did not happen for a couple of reasons. First, I went out too fast. Miles 1-4 were run at a pace around 9:30-9:40. I paid that back in droves. My target pace should have been around 10:05/mile. 

I started slowing down a little around mile 6. The slow down gradually continued and then between mile 9-10, the worst happened. I started cramping in my right leg. Up until mile 9, 2:15:00 was still reachable, but the cramps took it out of play. 

Once I got over the mental hurdle of not making my goal, the race became about finishing. I had trained too hard to get a DNF on my first half. Walk breaks greatly increased, but I was not going to be carted off by medical. I decided to go at whatever pace I could and enjoy the experience.

The best part was rounding the final corner in town and running the last straightaway to the finish line as a train was going the opposite direction right next to me. I finished in 2:31:48 and managed to not collapse. The sense of accomplishment is really impossible to describe. I was proud of what I had just done and at the same time, driven to do it better the next time.

Yes, I am going to run another half and hopefully do it sooner rather than later. Possibly as soon as October 15 in Baltimore. We will see. Here are several pictures from the day.