True Redemption: Pacing the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon the year after a tough race

The members of the 2018 OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon pace team pose for a photo. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Brueckner)

Last year’s OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon was terribly difficult. It was a hot and humid day for April, and I was pacing the 2:30 half marathon group — a pace that should have been relatively comfortable for me on a normal day. However, I was really suffering as I got closer to the end. I came in a minute and 39 seconds late, even though I’d put whatever energy I had into finishing on time, and I even threw up afterward.

After that, I wrote about redemption at my next half marathon, the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon. I wasn’t pacing that one, and I ran a 2:14:17. It felt good to prove to myself that I could do it. And, I paced the 2:30 time successfully twice since then before I toed the line in Assateague on Saturday, April 28.

I feel like the joy on my face shines through in this photo. I actually bought a few race photos this year! (US Candids photo/purchased)

But the only way to feel like I fully redeemed myself was to return to Ocean City as the 2:30 pacer this year. This time, I finished successfully, and with a smile on my face.

It was still a little warmer than I would have liked on Saturday, but the race started at 7 a.m., which helped, and it was nowhere near as bad as last year.

The other years I’d run this race, my watch had shown a little more than 13.1 miles. I talked about this with fellow pacers at the start and figured since my watch logged 13.23 at the Coastal Delaware Running Festival the weekend before — I also paced the 2:30 group there — I’d aim for about the same per-mile pace that I ran there, which was 11:16/mile. I still used the cumulative time as my main time and the Paceband as a guide.

My finish time on Saturday was 2:28:31, and my average pace on my watch was 11:15, so I did nearly the same thing I did the previous weekend at Coastal Delaware.

The OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon starts on Assateague Island and continues up Route 611, with a loop in a neighborhood and later, an up-and-back on the Ocean City Boardwalk, before ending at the Ocean City Inlet. The course is mostly flat, aside from one hill on the Verrazano Bridge that takes runners off Assateague. Luckily, that’s near the beginning.

Here I am on Assateague Island with my pace sign before the start of the race. (Veronica James photo)

I had a couple people who were with me for much of the race. One of those runners, who I talked to some during the race, was Kristie from Albany, New York, who was doing the race ahead of the Flying Pig, which is this weekend in Cincinnati. She was with me for pretty much the entire time, even pointing me out to her husband and son who were spectating on the Boardwalk, and she finished just shortly ahead of me, heading toward the finish line with probably 0.1 mile or so to go. It was nice running with her, although I only want people to talk to me if they want to (like she did) — I would never want anyone to feel like they had to keep me company, as it does use some energy.

I am very close to the finish in this photo. (US Candids photo/purchased)

Another runner came up to me after the race and thanked me, and I said something about hoping she reached her goal and she said she PR’d, which was awesome to hear.

Early on in the race, I’d explained to the people running with me that I planned to walk through the water stops, which is something I do in my own races anyway. People seemed happy with that, and I ended up seeing 11:05 a lot as the instant pace on my watch — although it did jump around some with the trees. I was following the cumulative pace, but I still noticed the instant pace. Going a little bit faster as we ran allowed us a little extra time at the water stops.

Although it wasn’t as hot as last year, it still was getting hot, particularly as it got later. I didn’t feel my absolute best in general, but I felt strong enough for my pacing duties. I had what happened last year in my mind, and once I hit Mile 10 and was still at a good pace and didn’t feel terrible, that gave me another confidence boost.

Around Mile 11.5, a fellow runner asked if I was on pace, and I was able to respond confidently: “Yes.” It didn’t sound like that was the answer he was looking for, but I was happy to be able to solidly say that I was on track.

When I got to Mile 12, I think I had about 15 minutes left. I needed more than my per-mile pace because of the approximate 0.2 after the last full mile, and it seemed about perfect. As a pacer, you aren’t supposed to go over your goal time, and I would rather come in with a larger window of time rather than sprinting to the finish, as that meant some people who came in behind me might still finish under 2:30. I was hoping to come in between 2:29-2:30, but within two minutes under (2:28-2:30) is acceptable for this race, so I hit the mark.

Here I am crossing the finish line of the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon. (US Candids photo/purchased)

After finishing the race, I had water, a couple small snacks and a piece of pizza, along with a beer (however, unfortunately no craft beer this year!). Then, my friend Veronica, who paced the 2:20 group, and I headed to the Bayside Skillet — YUM!

I am looking forward to returning to the pace team at this race next year. I can’t wait to help runners meet their goals in 2019!

Want to run? The 2019 date is April 27 and registration is open now with an early registration rate here. And if you have a different goal, there’s a whole team of us pacers.


Mile 1: 11:04

Mile 2: 11:17

Mile 3: 11:25

Mile 4: 11:13

This year’s medal — with the backdrop of Ocean City’s beach! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Mile 5: 11:21

Mile 6: 11:01

Mile 7: 11:26

Mile 8: 11:06

Mile 9: 11:06

Mile 10: 11:42

Mile 11: 11:27

Mile 12: 11:05

Mile 13: 11:06

Last part (watch had .2): 2:13 (11:03/mile pace)

Total: 2:28:33 (11:15/mile) — official time 2:28:31

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Here’s another pacer group photo — this one was taken on the Ocean City Boardwalk before we all boarded the bus to Assateague. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Brueckner)

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