I went into the Salisbury Half Marathon with a goal of running an average pace of sub-11:00 miles. As I ran, the miles kept going by, and I kept seeing splits faster than 11:00. And, I kept feeling good.
So I kept going — with confidence. And when I had about 31 minutes for the last 5K if I wanted to come in around 2:20, I picked up the pace and figured I would see if I could come in under that time.
I was excited to finish the race with a strong kick and a time of 2:20:31, crushing that sub-11 goal. I tried to keep up a sub-11 pace at the Run for the Animals Half Marathon in November, but I started struggling in the second half and slowed a lot at the end, running 2:28:54.
The Salisbury Half Marathon, which took place Saturday, April 3, was my fastest half marathon since December 2019, when I ran the unofficial Pemberton Half Marathon in 2:18:40.
I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to run several races during the pandemic, but Saturday’s race was the largest event I had participated in since I ran the Publix Atlanta Marathon on March 1, 2020.
I also served as the coach for the Salisbury Marathon and Half Marathon, updating the training plans I had written for previous years’ races and popping into the race’s Facebook group with training tips. I got a free entry for serving as the coach.
There was no race-day packet pickup, and the drive-thru packet pickup process was super fast and easy. I picked up my packet the Thursday before the race. In addition to my race bib and shirt, I received a set of RunSBY-branded BibBoards (which I reviewed for BibRave back in 2018 and have been using since — we even got personalized running club ones), a RunSBY Hoo-Rag with “The Dude” on it, a $5 voucher for Downtown Salisbury businesses, a coupon for VP Shoes and a 13.1 sticker. I love it when races give additional (or different) swag beyond the shirts and medal, as I have donated shirts and medals because I have ended up with so many over the years. This race also has free race photos.
The start of the race is really close to my house, and as I did in 2019, when I ran the marathon, I did a slow run to the start. Because of the pandemic, there were four different start waves for the races that started from the Salisbury City Park area — marathon waves at 7 and 7:15 a.m. and half marathon waves at 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. The 5K started and finished downtown.
I was getting something out of my car in the morning when I saw the runners from Wave 1 going by. I headed down to cheer a few of them on, then headed back to my house. Other than those few runners, I didn’t really see any of my friends who ran unless they were in the same wave. This would be disappointing for a race in “normal times,” but it shows that this COVID-19 precaution worked. Even though the event had about 1,000 people signed up, I definitely didn’t come into contact with most of them.
I was in the 7:45 a.m. wave and did a warm-up run of less than a half-mile from my house to the waiting area for Wave 4. I quickly saw some of my friends and we were able to get an Eastern Shore Running Club photo before heading to the starting area. As we entered the starting corral, runners were wearing masks and temperatures were checked before we could be allowed in. Runners had also filled out a survey regarding COVID-19 symptoms and exposure.
Probably because we had gotten the photo, I got behind much of Wave 4, which put me behind the 3:00, 2:45 and 2:30 pacers. I knew I wanted to be in front of all of them, but I wasn’t all that concerned, as I just cared about the chip time for the race. In addition to separating runners by waves, a small amount were sent off every five seconds. So, while I passed the 3:00 pacer pretty quickly, I think it took me about four miles to pass the 2:30 pacers, because they probably started a couple minutes before I did.
Once we started the race, I was disappointed to see a bunch of disposable masks thrown on the ground, because the Eastern Shore Running Club had been having trash cleanups along the course ahead of time. However, since they were all in one spot, I assume they were picked up.
It was a cold morning — I saw 27 degrees on my phone — but it was sunny, and I didn’t feel cold at all. I wanted to wear my Eastern Shore Running Club singlet, and I’d signed up as part of the Eastern Shore Running Club team for the race, but because of the temperature, I wore a long-sleeved shirt underneath. I also wore shorts and the “Keep Running” hat that I wasn’t able to wear at the Algonquin 50K because of the colder-feeling conditions there.
I’m very familiar with the course, and I think this helped mentally, with knowing how far I had left and how close I was to the finish. In addition to knowing the roads, this is also a flat course, with a few small inclines (including the very end).
I felt great as I ticked off very consistent miles. I’m glad I was able to be so consistent, and it gives me some confidence for trying to be even faster at my next half marathon (unless it’s super hot, as that always makes a huge difference for me). My first six miles, according to my watch, were run in 10:44, 10:35, 10:42, 10:49, 10:32 and 10:39.
I also remember being pleased that I wasn’t just scraping by under 11:00 miles — I was creating a nice cushion. I was also stopping at each water stop, which had small bottles of water and Gatorade and prepackaged food because of the pandemic. Volunteers were also wearing masks, which I appreciated, and I pulled up my Buff when I got a bottle off the table. Each time, I grabbed a water bottle, drank some and dropped it in the trash can a little bit down the road. One time I didn’t finish by the trash can, so I crumpled the bottle and stuck it in my pocket until getting to the next aid station.
Mile 7 was my sole mile over an 11:00 pace — 11:10. During this mile, I’d eaten three of the Clif Shot Bloks that I brought with me.
Along the way, I looked for ESRC shirts from behind, as well as other people I knew. Since I’d started so far back, I did end up seeing several friends along the way. However, for most of the race, I felt like I had a good bubble of space around me. It was not cramped and I felt safe. There were a couple times when cars came into the lane where runners were, and I heard someone joke that they didn’t feel like they were going to get COVID, but they might be hit by a car. There were plenty of police on the course blocking lanes and traffic, but somehow a few cars ended up in the wrong place.
I looked forward to seeing the ESRC aid station around Mile 10.8, where the marathon and half marathon courses split. Somehow, I missed seeing my boyfriend, Mike, there, but I think I must have been in the zone and I was also thinking to look for people I knew would be at that spot. I also learned later that I missed seeing one of my coworkers earlier on in the course.
By that point, I had started to speed up, seeing that I had the potential to cut it close for a sub-2:20 finish. It was a challenge to run faster, but I gave it what I had. I enjoyed running through the enthusiastic Midshore Multisport aid station and arch at around Mile 12, but I decided not to get anything from the last aid station since I was so close to the end.
My last three miles were my fastest three miles of the day — 10:29 for Mile 11, 10:32 for Mile 12 and 9:59 for Mile 13, with my watch showing that I ran the last 0.22 in 1:58, an 8:58 pace. (I did have one other 10:32 mile, at Mile 5).
This was pretty far from a personal record, but I felt elated about my finish, as it was the fastest I’ve run for this distance in a long time, and I was able to crush my goal. My watch showed an average pace of 10:38/mile, and the results showed an average pace of 10:44/mile (I’m sure I didn’t run the tangents perfectly; I ended up with 13.22 miles on my watch).
It’s amazing how the way I feel during a race impacts how I feel about my finishing time. I felt strong and confident, and I was able to finish strong with a time of 2:20:31 on Saturday. In 2019 at the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon, I finished my race with nearly the same time — 2:20:16 — but I really struggled in the second half and did not feel like I’d crushed my race the way I did on Saturday.
There were a lot of runners from out of town, making this much more competitive than the usual Salisbury race. I came in 26th of 35 in the female 30-34 age group, according to the race results, but I was the fifth local finisher in that group (including Eastern Shore of Maryland/Virginia and Sussex County, DE). I work for Wicomico County Tourism, and I think it’s awesome that this race was able to bring in so many visitors who were able to explore our area.
After the race, we were not supposed to gather at the finish, which is completely understandable in pandemic times. I saw a few people after the race (including Mike, which is when he mentioned seeing me at the aid station… and the finish), and then I walked to The Ugly Pie to use my $5 voucher, which I’d brought with me. All participants were given a $5 voucher to spend at a Downtown Salisbury business. I got a pint-sized peach pie and some sweet potato biscuits. (Side note: I filmed — with an assistant — and edited this video of my coworker making a pie there for work — check it out.)
Then, I walked the little over a mile home. Since I didn’t get to see many people at the race, it was especially fun to see people’s celebratory posts on social media. Many of my friends had run their first half marathon or marathon, or just had a successful race.
Next year’s race will be April 2, 2022, and I plan to run the half marathon again. Registration opens soon (the website is runsby.com). I’m also hoping that by next April, it will be safe enough to have a traditional post-race party. That’s something I really miss about races — but of course, I completely understand why it was not safe to have a large gathering at this year’s event, and I am taking the pandemic seriously. For now, it was so nice to be back in the racing atmosphere and enjoy a safe but fun event.
Mile 1: 10:44
Mile 2: 10:35
Mile 3: 10:42
Mile 4: 10:49
Mile 5: 10:32
Mile 6: 10:39
Mile 7: 11:10
Mile 8: 10:39
Mile 10: 10:59
Mile 11: 10:29
Mile 12: 10:32
Mile 13: 9:59
Last part (watch had 0.22): 1:58 (8:58 pace)
Final: 2:20:31 / 10:44 pace (2:20:32 / 10:38 pace on watch)