St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon: I battled the heat and enjoyed the after party

Eastern Shore Running Club members gather near the start arch for the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon.
Eastern Shore Running Club members gather for a photo before the start of the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon.

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

During Mile 11 of the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon, I stopped to use a porta-potty. I probably could have made it to the end of the race without stopping. However, part of me just needed a break — and the porta-potty offered that brief reason to stop.

In the two weeks since this year’s race, which was May 18, I’ve already begun to acclimate to the heat as I continue to run outside. But my body was in for a bit of a shock with some heat and humidity I wasn’t quite used to yet.

The day started early, when I picked up my friend Veronica around 4:45 a.m. and we headed to St. Michaels. We were able to park at St. Michaels Middle High School and pick up our bibs and shirts.

This was my third year as an ambassador for the race. I will be returning as an ambassador for year four in 2020 — and I already have my discount code for the race on May 16, 2020: “AMBJUNK.” You can use that at www.runstm.com to save $10.

I used a porta-potty at the start, and then I took a group photo with some of the Eastern Shore Running Club members who came to St. Michaels for the race. It was nice to have a good-sized group from our club! Several of us wore our new ESRC racing team singlets.

Vanessa Junkin and her friend Kahney pose for a photo.
My friend Kahney and I got together for a photo before the race.

Then, I got in line for another porta-potty. It took a while to get to the front of the line, and by the time I was able to use it again, I had to start late, in the fourth wave, which took off at about 7:30 a.m. I was originally supposed to start in the second wave.

Last year, I ran the course in 2:12:05, and my ideal goal was to run sub-2:10 at this year’s event. However, last year, it was rainy, and this year, the sun came out. The weather can have a big effect — and it’s something no race can control. I will probably almost always run better in the rain than in the sun if it is on the warmer side. I was also unsure if I’d be able to hit that time, even in ideal conditions.

Because the math was easier to aim for just under 10-minute miles (2:11:06), I decided to do that, and figured if I felt good, I could always speed up at the end.

St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon race shirt and finisher medal
Here’s this year’s race shirt and finisher medal. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I was able to keep up this average for at least the first six miles. I remember seeing 59-something when I hit mile 6. I was thinking early on in the race that I felt too good, and I was wondering how I felt so good.

But then, when I was around Mile 7, the sun came out.

I had been stopping at most water stops — I believe all but one that was really close to another stop. But I took an additional walk break between the Mile 8 and 9 markers, where I decided to walk for a little more than a minute. Then, I started walking at each mile marker for about 0.1 mile. This helped give me something to look forward to as I struggled with the heat. I also got water and walked at the water stops.

Vanessa Junkin heading toward the finish of the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon
My friend and fellow race ambassador Kristen Jones got this photo of me heading toward the finish line. (Kristen Jones photo)

I also would feel better after I walked, but once I ran a little bit, the tough feeling came back. I was thinking about not stopping to walk at the Mile 12 marker, but by the time I got there, I decided to take my regular walk break anyway.

The volunteers were great. While I was waiting briefly for the aforementioned porta-potty on the course, one of the volunteers at the water stop brought me my cup of water — and she was very enthusiastic! It was great to have a bunch of supportive volunteers along the way.

Vanessa Junkin heading toward the finish of the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon (side view)
Here’s another photo of me heading toward the finish (Kristen Jones photo).

I also got “girl power” twice from a sign that said “Touch here for girl power.” That was fun!

The course is nice and has some out-and-backs and loops. A lot of it goes through residential areas, and there are some water views during Mile 3 and 4.

Because I started in Wave 4, I think I was able to see more of my friends than I would have otherwise. Since I started in a wave with slower average predicted times than my usual pace, I also passed a decent amount of people that had started in the previous wave, which was motivating.

In addition to plenty of friends from the Eastern Shore Running Club, I also got to connect with my friend Kahney, who lives in Baltimore. We have been friends since middle school, and it had been about four years since we’d last seen each other. Then, I also saw her on the course, I think twice, which was fun.

Despite struggling during the second half of the race, I gave it what I had as I approached the finish line, and my watch logged the last part of the race (0.2 on my watch, rather than 0.1) as an 8:26 pace. I heard friends cheering for me, which put a smile on my face as I headed toward the finish line.

My time was 2:20:16, an average 10:42 pace. That says a lot about the second half of my race, since I mentioned that my first six miles were just under a 10-minute/mile average. It was my slowest half marathon race aside from races that I’ve paced, but I really wasn’t disappointed. I worked hard in the heat, and I stayed safe by listening to my body.

I also shared a chart with running club members that I found on the results page that showed how the average pace of the field declined over time, as it got hotter. I think it’s important for people not to get down on themselves too much when the weather makes running more difficult.

Chart showing that the paces for Vanessa Junkin and the average runners' pace slowed down as the race continued.
Here’s a screen shot from the results page showing how the heat can affect runners’ races. While there is nothing that shows exactly what affected everyone, the average line pretty much mirrors my race.

Once I finished, it was time to enjoy the after party! I got my medal, drank a Gatorade and a water, and connected with some friends. I also had a little bit of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — cut-up sandwiches were among the items being handed out at the finish line. I also got my free beer.

Vanessa Junkin smiling and holding her St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon finisher medal
Here I am after finishing the race with my finisher medal (Lynn Sande photo).

I got access to the VIP tent, so I took advantage of the free massage there, which was a nice perk. There were also various trays of food there. I took a couple of the truffle-like desserts and a mini-pack of Oreos, but there were a lot of other food options, too. I figured my friends and I would be eating out after, so I didn’t partake in much.


Saved by Zero, the band that played at the after party last year, was back this year. I had some fun dancing with my friends, and we hung out there till about noon.

Eastern Shore Running Club members in a selfie taken by Vanessa Junkin. People are holding finisher medals.
Eastern Shore Running Club members gather for a photo with our finisher medals.

Then, Veronica, Lynn and I went back to our cars, got our money and walked back toward the town of St. Michaels. We decided to eat at Gina’s Cafe, which was good. St. Michaels is a nice town to visit and walk around in.

Despite the heat, I had fun at the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon and I’m glad I participated again. It’s a fun race in a cool place.

Vanessa Junkin, center, and friends Veronica and Lynn, hold finisher medals in a selfie.
From left, Veronica, me and Lynn pose with our finisher medals.

Want to run the St. Michaels Running Festival in 2020? Save $10 at www.runstm.com with my ambassador code, “AMBJUNK.” I think you’ll enjoy the race, after party and community! And if it is hot again, you’ll just be that much happier to cross the finish line. (Also, there were people who hit new personal records — just not me.)

I would also recommend arriving early — earlier than you might think — to get nearby parking and use the porta-potties.

Splits

Mile 1: 9:30
Mile 2: 9:56
Mile 3: 10:00
Mile 4: 10:08
Mile 5: 10:03
Mile 6: 9:59
Mile 7: 10:28
Mile 8: 10:21
Mile 9: 10:54
Mile 10: 10:30
Mile 11: 13:36 (bathroom stop)
Mile 12: 11:35
Mile 13: 11:33
Last part (watch had 0.2): 1:39 (8:26 pace)
Time from results: 2:20:16/10:42 pace

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3 thoughts on “St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon: I battled the heat and enjoyed the after party

  1. Congrats on your race finish! I t can be so tough when the sun comes out mid race! Love the Touch here for Girl Power signs. So great!

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