I ran my fastest half of the year at an unofficial race with friends

A group photo of the runners before the Pemberton Half Marathon. (Colette Outten photo)

Neither of the half marathons I’d run for speed in 2019 really went according to plan.

In May, at the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon, I kept up a pace of around 10:00/mile for the first six miles before it got hot and my pace decreased. I finished in 2:20:16.

Then in September, at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, on another hot day that was also a day after I raced a 10K, I ran 2:25:24 — not that far from the half marathon time I usually pace, 2:30.

I made it my goal at the unofficial Pemberton Half Marathon on Saturday to beat my Rock ‘n’ Roll time of 2:25-something. I started out wanting to run around a 10-something pace, but I kept seeing about 10:20 on my watch, so I figured I’d keep it around there.

I’d missed the Pemberton Half the last couple years, I think because it was the same weekend as the Rehoboth Half. So, I was excited to be able to make it to this year’s race.

Runners received these stickers at the 2019 Pemberton Half.

This was a free Pemberton Running Club race organized by Trent, but it benefited a friend and his wife. The friend’s wife is fighting cancer and runners contributed gift cards for their trips to Baltimore for treatment. (They aren’t named here for privacy.)

The Pemberton course is flat, fast and actually is home to my PR from back in the day (2013) of 1:50:18. It starts and ends at Pemberton Historical Park and goes on some back roads in the area.

On Saturday, it was unseasonably warm with mist/light rain for much of the race — great running weather.

I got to the park a little before the start of the race at 7 a.m. and saw my bib had literally what I had written on the Google form to sign up: “Vanessa” in larger font, but “(If you want something more creative on there, feel free)” in smaller font. It was pretty funny to see mine and others’ bibs.

Here’s my very literal bib.

For the first half or so, I was near other runners. I saw some people after the water stop, which was at Mile 4, but after about halfway, I didn’t pass anyone and nobody passed me — I was alone on the road.

I didn’t bring music or anything, but that didn’t bother me, as I never race with music. I thought back to when I used to get up early and run with the Pemberton Running Club somewhat regularly. I’m not a morning person, but those were some good runs.

I was also happy that my mile times seemed pretty consistent and it looked like I would easily come in ahead of the 2:25 time I wanted to beat. It wasn’t an easy pace for me, but with each mile, I was widening the window that I had to finish within that time frame. By the time I got to Mile 8, I had about an hour to run the last five miles, which would be about 12 minutes per mile.

Here I am running behind Kate near the first water stop. (Joe Andrews photo)

In those later miles, I realized that I would also be able to come in ahead of the 2:20-something I’d run at St. Michaels. This kept me focused, and once I saw the numbers on the clock at the end, I gave it what I had.

I carried a water bottle and stopped at both of the water stops that had been set up, all manned by friends — the first stop with Joe, Karen and Jen, and the second stop, at Mile 10, with Colette and Matt. Volunteers at each stop refilled my water bottle for me, and at the first stop, I had a Munchkin donut and the UnTapped fuel I’d brought.

Even though the roads weren’t closed, I didn’t have any problems having to stop for cars. I was ready to walk when I got to Nanticoke Road the second time, and I almost wanted a car to go by, but nope. I got across the road and then gave myself a walk break before getting back to a run.

Yum. This was a delicious waffle!

Results were handwritten, and I finished with a time of 2:18:40. It was a pretty competitive crowd, and I came in 25th of 36 runners.

The Top 3 male and female runners received handmade decorated cardboard crowns. I knew I didn’t have a shot at one, but they were pretty awesome and unique. I got a waffle made on the spot by Gabe, and there were other food and drinks to enjoy as well.

This was a great way to start a morning and weekend. Hopefully I’ll work on bringing my half marathon time down in 2020, too!


Mile 1: 10:10
Mile 2: 10:22
Mile 3: 10:24
Mile 4: 10:26
Mile 5: 11:20 (includes water stop)
Mile 6: 10:15
Mile 7: 10:09
Mile 8: 10:22
Mile 9: 10:25
Mile 10: 11:06 (includes water stop)
Mile 11: 10:36
Mile 12: 10:35
Mile 13: 10:03
Last part (watch had 0.28): 2:25 (8:36 pace)

Time: 2:18:40 on results/2:18:43 on watch (10:27/mile pace)

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