How I proved myself at the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon

Here I am after finishing the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon. (Veronica James photo)

Disclaimer: I am an ambassador for the St. Michaels Running Festival.

After finishing Saturday’s St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon, I was the happiest I’ve ever been about a non-PR time.

In fact, my time on Saturday, May 20, was more than 20 minutes slower than the personal record I set in 2013 at the informal Pemberton Half Marathon, an unofficial race.

And nope, I didn’t win any awards on Saturday. I came in 54th in my age group.

So what made it so great? Three weeks before, I ran the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon. I was excited to be part of the pace team for the second year in a row. The previous year, I paced the 2:50 group to a successful finish, and this year, I took on pacing the 2:30 group. It wouldn’t be an effortless time to reach for me, but I figured it wouldn’t be a struggle. My two most recent half marathon times prior to that were 2:19:21 and 2:07:45.

The heat and humidity got the best of me in Ocean City, and I really struggled to hit a pace that I hadn’t thought would be difficult, telling people to go ahead of me and wondering if I could make it to the finish in time — then realizing that it was very unlikely I would. I came in with a time of 2:31:39.

On Saturday, in St. Michaels, I wasn’t going to hurt myself if it was too hot. But I did want to get under 2:30, and under 2:15 if I could. I knocked 17 minutes off my time in Ocean City, and I consider that a success.

I figured I would try to stay in front of the 2:15 pacer if possible. I also thought about trying to keep my miles under a 10-minute pace, but that didn’t hold.

I normally don’t carry water in races, and I didn’t in this race. However, I did drink a water bottle with a Nuun tablet in it the evening before the race as well as the morning of the race. I used the product during the Algonquin 50K, but that was a different sort of race.

I don’t know for sure if it was the Nuun that made me feel so great on Saturday, but I’m definitely going to follow the same pattern for future races. (I don’t have any affiliation with Nuun and it was just an interesting coincidence that the Nuun CEO was featured on the latest edition of the BibRave Podcast.)

This was my first time participating in this event, and I liked the half marathon course. It was very rural and it went through residential areas, with one stretch where there were water views. There were three turn-arounds, but that didn’t bother me. It kept it interesting, and I got to see some friends on the course, including ones who had started in different waves. The waves were spaced out by seven minutes, which seemed like a lot. I started in the second wave at 7:17 a.m., seven minutes after the first one took off at 7:10 a.m. I got to see fellow race ambassadors Kristen and Brian as I ran.

My first mile was my fastest of the race: 9:37. During the first few miles, I felt a little bit of shin pain, but it was nothing major, and I kept going. It went away.

There were so many water stops on the course, which I thought was great. I skipped the first one but stopped at plenty of the others, even when they seemed close together. I drank some water and also poured some on myself. I think this helped me stay hydrated, and by the end, I wasn’t stopping at every water stop — although I still appreciated that they were there.

I noticed that I was far ahead of the 2:15 pacer. Later in the race, though, I thought about it and realized that I probably wasn’t that far ahead of a 2:15 finish. I wondered if that pacer may have started in the wave after me.

Posing with my post-race beer! (Veronica James photo)

As I ran, I kept waiting for the moment when I was going to feel worse, and it didn’t come. I decided to try to pick up the pace around the halfway point and maybe run negative splits. I did not actually run negative splits, but feeling like I was giving an extra effort did lead to a pretty consistent pace.

I even posed for photos on the course and at the finish, which I often don’t have the energy to do.

According to the results, I ran the first half in 1:06:54, an average 10:13 pace. I ran the second half in 1:07:22, an average 10:17 pace. My final time was 2:14:17, an average 10:15 pace.

As I mentioned, it was a rural race, but there were some people cheering for the runners, and there were plenty of volunteers on the course. The finish had lots of spectators.

I put the energy I had remaining into the last mile of the race and made that my second-fastest mile of the day, at 9:55.

The finisher medal for this year’s St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Post-race, I got a water bottle and some food including a banana and part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, along with my free beer. My friend Veronica, who I came to the race with, and I got to see some of our other finisher friends and I even got to see one of my other friends coming into the finish at the race.

This year’s race shirt, medal and bib had a British theme, as St. Michaels is nicknamed “the town that fooled the British.” Find out why here.

On the way back, Veronica and I stopped at Jimmie & Sook’s in Cambridge for lunch. We had picked up our bibs and shirts on Friday, carb-loaded at the Olive Garden and stayed overnight in Easton.

While I’ve been doing a decent amount of running — this race put me over the 400-mile mark for the year — I didn’t really train specifically for it. I’ve hardly been doing speed work and my last long run was the Island to Island Half Marathon three weeks before.

This made me think that if I actually put the work in, maybe I could be close to a PR time again. If the weather cooperates, this would be a good goal race for next year, since it’s so flat.

I had a great experience and I hope I’m able to continue as an ambassador next year. Thanks to all who used my discount code this year, and I hope you had an awesome time. I’ll keep you posted about 2018!

Splits (according to watch)

Mile 1: 9:37

Mile 2: 10:10

Mile 3: 10:15

Mile 4: 10:27

Mile 5: 10:19

Mile 6: 10:10

Mile 7: 10:59

Mile 8: 10:19

Mile 9: 10:01

Mile 10: 10:20

Mile 11: 10:10

Mile 12: 10:16

Mile 13: 9:55

Last Part (watch had .15/.16): 1:21

Learn more about the St. Michaels Running Festival here

Like She Runs by the Seashore on Facebook here.

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