If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I’ve had a pretty exciting weekend in Atlanta at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon and the Publix Atlanta Marathon.
However, I like to keep my blog posts in chronological order, and before I tackled the hills of Atlanta, I tackled the hills of Columbia, Maryland, during the Maryland-D.C. RRCA Club Challenge 10-miler.
This race is a team competition between the different Road Runners Club of America clubs in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and you can only register if you’re a member of one of the clubs. It’s hosted by the Howard County Striders.
With 160 members by the end of last year (and that was a high by far) and more than 110 signed up for this year, my club, the Eastern Shore Running Club, is one of the smaller clubs in the state.
The race is affordable — $7.70 with our club discount — but it is a trip of about two hours and 15 minutes each way from Salisbury, and it meant a super early wake-up call for those of us who drove in that morning.
We were able to get 10 runners from ESRC to sign up, and seven ran in the race on Feb. 23. We didn’t have enough participants to show up on the team results, but we did show up on the individual results with our club name.
This was my third consecutive year running the RRCA Club Challenge, so I knew it would be hilly. Since I’d run it before, I also remembered being able to finish strong, and I kept that in mind.
The past two years (read my 2018 recap and 2019 recap by clicking on the links), I ran the course in 1:44:10 and 1:44:20, respectively. As my times reflect, it’s a tough course, but I hoped to run it in sub-1:44 this year, which I figured would hopefully reflect the hill training I did for Atlanta — which was really not a ton, but I made more of an effort to run hills than usual.
Last year, I started out at a somewhat conservative pace and it didn’t seem to help me, so given that it was a 10-miler and not a marathon, I ran the first mile, which is downhill, fast in comparison to the rest of the race. During the run, my pace changed drastically depending on the hills.
Looking back, the more conservative pace may have been helpful after all, as my mile times were more consistent last year, and my slowest mile last year was faster than my slowest mile this year.
My time for the first mile this year was 9:21. I hit another sub-10-minute mile for the second mile of the day, with 9:57.
Then, the hills started taking their toll on my pace. As usual, I walked the uphills when I needed to, and I also stopped at the three water stops, as I generally do in races. At my pace and without hills being part of my regular running routine, I doubt much time is saved for me by attempting to run up steep hills.
The course starts near and ends at Howard Community College and takes runners through different hilly neighborhoods in Columbia. (Did I mention the hills?)
At Mile 5, I saw that I ran the first half in a pace that would get me to a sub-1:44 finish, but I doubted whether I had it in me to run another five miles with the same speed.
The worst hill, in my opinion, came during Mile 6, and that mile would be my slowest of the day, at 11:42.
As I got closer to the end of the race, I calculated the time I had left, basing my calculations on 10-minute miles (particularly since that’s easy math). However, I couldn’t keep up 10-minute miles — Miles 7 through 9 were all 10-something miles, and two were in the 10:50s. Those seconds make a difference.
By the last mile, I figured I wouldn’t finish in under 1:44, but maybe I could get my third 1:44. I gave it what I had and finished strong with a 9:37 mile. My finish time was 1:45:10.
My watch logged me running the last 0.04 mile (my watch had 10.04 miles) in a 6:53 pace. Sure, that was only for 17 seconds, but that’s a strong finish! That 0.04 was also a flat portion, maybe even slightly downhill. I could see the clock — which I knew was ahead of when I’d crossed the mat because I was going by chip time and didn’t start in the front — and was trying to get under that 1:45 chip time.
Fun fact: The fast pace I kept up for 0.04 mile is slower than the pace needed for 26.2 miles to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.
It’s always fun to represent the Eastern Shore Running Club, and particularly fun to do so in a club atmosphere like this. People saw the name of the club on the back of my singlet and asked if I’d driven up that morning (yes). I made sure to point out that we don’t have hills in Salisbury.
I talked to a couple local runners on the course who helped push me a little as I tried to keep up with them, and I told them about my upcoming trip to Atlanta.
I plan to be back for next year’s race, and fellow Eastern Shore Running Club members reading this, I hope you’ll join me! As I’ve said for the past few years, my goal is to show up on the results — not to win. So, if you can run 10 miles on a hilly course in under the cutoff of 2:10 (13-minute-mile pace), please make plans to join us next year!
Mile 1: 9:21
Mile 2: 9:57
Mile 3: 11:06
Mile 4: 10:07
Mile 5: 10:41
Mile 6: 11:42
Mile 7: 10:38
Mile 8: 10:51
Mile 9: 10:50
Mile 10: 9:37
Last bit (watch had 10.04): 17.6 seconds (6:53 pace)