Nothing Beats A Giant Check

It’s Sunday night and the Hershey Half Marathon is done.  Would be easy to describe what I thought would happen or how I expected to do now that I know the answer, so I will consider everyone lucky not to have suffered through more pre-race blah blah blah and just get straight to the highlights.

Pretty nice morning – started out clear and crisp, wind started to pick up as the sun rose and by race time there was a noticeable breeze – with the way things are around here though it definitely could have been worse.  After reminding my carpool that everyone needed an ID for packet pickup I forgot mine, so luckily the volunteer accepted my “I promise” and gave me mine.  Pure genius.  Quick warmup and blue plastic bathroom visit and I was ready to go.  Temps right at 50 degrees for the start, went with a singlet and arm warmers because I am a pansy.

Plan was the same as last year – try to be around 5:55-6:00 for the first 4-5 miles, see how its going, then hopefully pick it up the rest of the way in.  I ran around 1:16:15 last year and came in 5th – this year they added the intrigue of age-group prize money so you can’t help but consider that as you map out your plan.  The age groups were divided in an unusual manner though – mine was men 35-45.  Not really weighted in my favor, but what are you going to do….

First handful of miles were fast as usual, through 5k in about 17:50 (~5:50 pace) and 5 miles in 29:25 (5:53/mile).  Was settled in by this point and was actually feeling pretty good.  Did not want to bite off more than I could chew, however, especially since I figured out that since breaking away from a 5 man pack at the 4 mile mark I was in 5th place overall, and the 4 guys ahead of me all had hair and a lot of hop in their step (not in my age group).  I decided that the pace I had set was fine for a couple more miles so I continued on.

The course had changed from last year – it was noticeably hillier this time around, and when the wind aligned with a climb it definitely took some extra effort.  It was a very scenic course though, and like last year had marked cones at every tenth-mile.  No complaints about the race layout, think they did a very nice job putting on a very fair race.  I ended knocking out a couple more miles in around 5:50 pace, then picked it up a hair to go through the 10 mile mark at 58:30 – 5:51 average.  Legs still felt relatively fine, had opened up about a 150 yard lead on the guy behind me so I was liking my chances.  I had passed a leader who bonked at around the 8 mile mark, so I was now in 4th place.

Mile 11 was ok, started to run out of gas around 12.  Nothing serious (muscle cramps or cardiac arrest), but a sinking feeling that I need to get this over with quickly.  Caught a little second wind on a slight downhill, and with the help of the crowd (who either all knew my name or had figured out that it was printed on my race bib) I finished strong with a 5:52.  Into Hershey Park stadium, around the track and through the arch.  1:17:06, 4th overall, first in my age-group.

Not knowing how things would go I was pretty pleased.  Not a PR, but the race ran a little slower this year and with the prize factor I wasn’t quite as willing to air it out and risk a cataclysmic meltdown.  Looking back on how the other fall road races have gone, this pretty much falls right in line with the two others – decent races, each with just a little “what could have been…” had I kept running through the summer.  Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – things don’t always go your way, and with all the problems out there that can affect a runner I consider myself lucky I was only interrupted by a little bump in the road.  Today’s race was very enjoyable – just enough pain to make it all worthwhile, but run smart enough to avoid repeating my dying vow to my dad after the Harrisburg Half in 2009  – “I will never do this again”.

And if a fun race and a $150 prize weren’t enough to make the event a complete success, they saved the best for last.  The prize wasn’t doled out in your standard envelope with a handshake, but instead presented via the awesome giant check!  Tiger Woods and Ed McMahon eat your hearts out!  I have my own giant check and I didn’t even have to win the Masters or the Publisher’s Clearinghouse to do it.  Super cool, almost worth more than the actual cash prize.  Nothing screams “tacky” like a giant check mounted on the wall in your basement, so I will be clearing a spot for it tomorrow.  Sure it will cost me when the wife reciprocates with a piece of real art upstairs, but its definitely worth it….

Mr Chocolate Bar, Mr Hershey Kiss, and the Giant Check


About Nick Berra

I am a 45 year old masters runner from Central Pennsylvania. I have been participating primarily in track events since turning 40 in 2009. This season has produced marks that I have not run in several years, I believe primarily due to starting a strength and flexibility program here at Elite Athletic Performance - I've felt stronger and faster than I have in a long time. That, coupled with lots of underwater running, has kept me healthy and fit - at this age those are things I no longer take for granted... I run USATF events with a team out of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. They are a great group who have played a big part in making the sport enjoyable for me again. I also run local races for HydroWorx Track Club, supported by HydroWorx here in Harrisburg PA. Their underwater treadmills and training center has proved to be a crucial part of my training, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. I set personal records in the 800m (1:56.06) in 2010 and in the 1500m (4:02:63) and mile (4:23.48) in 2011. Despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I nearly PR'ed recently and set the M45 indoor world record in the 800 meters at the New Balance Armory in New York City. I ran 1:56.10, besting the 9 year old record by less than a second. I feel like there are still more big things to come... I am married and have two daughters. I am an assistant XC coach at my alma mater, Cumberland Valley High School here in Mechanicsburg PA. I am also a 1991 graduate of the US Naval Academy, currently working as a pilot for FedEx after serving 10 years on active duty flying in the Navy. Beat Army! Beat Army!
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2 Responses to Nothing Beats A Giant Check

  1. kevinfforde says:

    I guess the Hershey Bars are on you then?

  2. Eden says:

    Way cool and congratulations brother.

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