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….