Virtual St. Michaels Half: The heat is here!

Road with trees on both sides and a pretty, pink flowered bush.
This was a pretty view on my virtual half course. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

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

I had a range of days to pick from for my virtual St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon, but I decided I wanted to run on the day the race was originally scheduled — today, May 16.

It was the first day of the virtual race date range, and it was quite a hot day. I’d seen that in the weather forecast and woke up “early” for me, getting my run started a little after 8 a.m. I figured getting up early would help me avoid some of the heat, and I also hoped the roads would be a little less crowded — I didn’t want to have to wait to cross the larger streets and have that count as part of my elapsed time, which is the time that I counted as my time for the race, as the clock keeps running during any “normal” race.

I attached my race bib to my Eastern Shore Running Club singlet — I’d received my bib, shirt and medal in the mail the day before — and headed out in the direction I chose in advance from my home.

I’ve been running as many of Salisbury’s streets as I can, and since I was doing a longer-for-me run at 13.1 miles, I decided to go to one of the further neighborhoods I hadn’t yet filled in on my CityStrides map — Harbor Pointe, off Pemberton Drive. I ran most of the roads in the neighborhood, skipping a court around Mile 9 that I will have to get back to, and I also ran in the Heritage neighborhood on my way toward Harbor Pointe, which I hadn’t run in before today.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to run a fast-for-me time on a hot day, but I figured a reasonable goal and decent challenge would be to try to keep my pace under an 11-minute mile. On a cooler day, I think I could have done that, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

Vanessa Junkin takes a selfie holding a chocolate chip cookie with a bite out of it.
I fueled up with one of the cookies I made last night.

The first mile was close, at 11:04, and the second mile was under, at 10:50. None of the others were.

Originally, I was thinking I could walk every three miles. During the first mile, I decided to walk every two miles.

I later decided I’d take my first of two Untapped packets at Mile 5 and decided to walk at each mile starting with that one. I also walked occasionally as needed.

My Garmin tracked the weather as 70 degrees with 73 percent humidity. It’s been a while since I ran in this type of weather, at least for this sort of distance. To maintain speed for 13.1 miles wasn’t looking good for me. Plus, I wasn’t willing to collapse or have heat issues just to run slightly faster. I’ve had heatstroke before, and that’s an experience I would never like to repeat.

I hit the halfway point of the half — 6.55 miles — in 1:14:45. If I’d have kept that up for the second half, I’d have finished the half marathon in just under 2:30, a time I often pace and am generally comfortable with. However, given the weather — and the not-too-shady course I’d chosen — I didn’t think it was likely I’d be able to keep up the same pace for the second half.

Some parts of the course I chose reminded me of the St. Michaels course. Although I couldn’t really see the water, I did run by some riverfront (and large!) homes. There was a woodsy part near those homes that reminded me of a woodsy part of the St. Michaels course.

This part of my route reminded me of the area that’s near Mile 3-4 of the St. Michaels course. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There was also a street that had a grassy median that reminded me of the area near Miles 3-4 of the St. Michaels course.

I enjoyed seeing some chalk art in the neighborhoods earlier on, too. I saw some people, but overall, I’d chosen a pretty empty course, and it was just my podcasts and me.

When I got to Mile 9, I decided to change my walk schedule again, planning to do four-minute-run/one-minute-walk intervals for the rest of the run, but I wasn’t that consistent, walking more than I’d planned.

Vanessa Junkin smiling and holding cup of ice water.
You can see the joy on my face after getting a cup of ice water at Royal Farms.

I’d brought two bottles of water — one I was holding and a FlipBelt bottle I’d tucked into my Senita Baseline shorts, but I started to run low, even though I’d been conserving it. As I made my way back toward my house, I really felt like I needed some more water.

I was wearing a Buff as a headband that I could pull down to use as a mask to enter a store, but I hadn’t brought any money with me. I figured it was worth asking a Royal Farms employee if he would be able to get me a cup of water. Thankfully, he did, and it was just what I needed. Although I was still feeling warm, the ice water rejuvenated me for the last two miles of my run. I drank the water, scooped a little ice out, put some of the ice in my sports bra and continued running. I carried the cup with me till I got home and drank more from it later, once some of the ice had melted.

Of course, it was impossible to have the in-person race at this time, but the frequent water stops in this or any race really help keep me going — in addition to the friendly volunteers, spectators at times, and the camaraderie of other runners. It was tough to have the same motivation for a virtual event.

Photo of empty road with grass on the left side, plants on the right side and power lines.
Running on Pemberton Drive was kind of like running on the main road through St. Michaels. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

On Fitzwater Street, I found a penny, and when I got downtown, I saw a friend, who ran near me for a super short stretch on the sidewalk. I had about a mile to go. I didn’t want to wait to cross Route 13 when I got there, so I ran in a square on some nearby roads, and I was able to cross without waiting.

Selfie of Vanessa Junkin smiling and holding water bottle and empty Royal Farms cup.
I was all-smiles after finishing my run in the heat.

I ended up completing the 13.11-mile run in an elapsed time of 2:37:50, a 12:02-minute pace (this included my stop at Royal Farms). It wasn’t really what I was shooting for, but like I said, I didn’t want to get heat stroke, and stopping for the ice water helped so much. I’m not used to temperatures like this yet, and running in the heat is always tough for me, anyway. Finishing healthy is always my most important goal.

It was faster than the other two virtual half marathons I’ve done during this quarantine period — Shamrock and Salisbury, neither of which I really went into with a race mindset, doing a run-walk the entire time.

I was also supposed to pace two other half marathons since the Salisbury Half — Coastal Delaware and the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon — but I skipped running those distances at home and hadn’t run the 13.1 distance since the virtual Salisbury Half on April 4.

I had foot pain before Coastal Delaware and just didn’t really want to run that distance on the day of Ocean City. Plus, there was no virtual race for that one, so it wasn’t like I’d be getting a medal and shirt for a distance I didn’t complete.

Photo of Vanessa Junkin holding medal and coffee smoothie with run stats: 13.11 mi distance, 2:37:50 time, 12:02/mi pace.
Here I am with my coffee smoothie after finishing the virtual St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon.

After today’s run, I celebrated with a coffee smoothie from Rise Up Coffee, which reopened Friday after being closed for nearly two months. I also submitted my elapsed time results to the St. Michaels Running Festival website. Runners can nominate themselves for awards in different categories, but I didn’t really think I fit any of those (for example, wearing a costume or the highest or lowest elevation), so I didn’t put myself up for contention.

I look forward to next year’s St. Michaels Running Festival, and I really hope we’re back to in-person races by then. I have been staying away from people as much as I can and fully understand the importance of staying at home and social distancing, but I hope it’s safe to be around others by next year at this time.

Light blue St. Michaels Running Festival running shirt with the 13.1 medal to the left and a blue bib to the right.
I received my swag in the mail Friday. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I expect to be an ambassador again, so stay tuned once I have a discount code!


Mile 1: 11:04
Mile 2: 10:50
Mile 3: 11:26
Mile 4: 11:21
Mile 5: 11:19
Mile 6: 12:07
Mile 7: 12:46
Mile 8: 11:36
Mile 9: 11:19
Mile 10: 13:57 (went into Royal Farms just before my watch hit Mile 11)
Mile 11: 14:15
Mile 12: 12:50
Mile 13: 11:51
Last part (.11): 1:04 (9:46 pace)
Total: 2:37:50 for 13.11 miles; 12:02 pace

Read about my experiences at the in-person race here: 2019, 2018, 2017

5 thoughts on “Virtual St. Michaels Half: The heat is here!

  1. Oh man, sounds like the actual 2015 race all over again! Hate when the first hot morning of the year lands on a race day. Nice job pushing through and earning that medal!
    RoFo has saved my butt too on a couple hot runs where I went through my water quicker than expected!

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