On Sunday, May 2, I headed down to the Eastern Shore of Virginia for my second Run For The Animals Half Marathon within a year.
The Run For The Animals is normally held in the spring, but last year’s race was postponed to November because of the pandemic. The race last weekend was the 10th anniversary of the event. It is normally held in Onancock, but this year’s race was held in Wachapreague. The race benefits animal welfare organizations serving the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
I picked up my race bib at a picnic table and each participant’s name and age were written on the back of each bib. Mine also included my blog name — She Runs by the Seashore! It made my day even to be recognized in that way — so fun!
I saw the Corner Bakery doughnuts near the bib pickup table, and I walked by them the first time, but I couldn’t resist having a cinnamon twist before the race. Doughnuts aren’t always my pre-race fuel, but I love Corner Bakery doughnuts and figured by the time I finished my race, most of them would be gone.
It was a good call, as the only ones left when I finished were the jelly doughnuts. I did have one of those, too (there were still some left when people were starting to leave), but jelly doughnuts just aren’t my personal favorite. The race also includes a 10K and noncompetitive 5K, and since I’m also not the fastest half marathoner, most runners finished before I did.
The group of runners made the short walk from the carnival grounds to the start, and I was talking to a friend I’d seen at the last event when I heard the sound that the race had begun.
I had originally wanted to beat the time I ran at the Salisbury Half Marathon in April — 2:20:31 — but before I even started, I knew that wouldn’t be possible, because it was warm. It wasn’t quite summer heat, but it was definitely an adjustment from spring temperatures.
Because of the warmer weather and the fact that I’ve been coughing a lot when running due to allergies — I have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and show no signs of illness — I decided to walk for about 40 seconds at each mile. I did this for my relay leg of the DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon the prior day, and it seemed to work well — I could keep up a fast pace while also giving myself a breather and something to look forward to.
On Sunday, I ran at a fast-for-me pace, then rewarded myself with a walk of what was closer to about 45 seconds when I hit each mile. I also walked at all the water stops. I realized quickly I’d forgotten to bring anything for fuel (though I did used to run half marathons with no gels/chews), so I also started getting Gatorade at the water stops early on. Particularly for such a small race, I thought there were a good amount of water stops.
When I ran the Run For The Animals in November, the last two miles were really a struggle. I’d started out at a pace I wasn’t able to maintain and I slowed down a lot in the second half. I knew if I tried to run at my Salisbury pace, I would have a miserable experience. I didn’t want to be miserable, and I wanted to enjoy the run.
The course took runners out of Wachapreague toward Quinby, then toward Mappsburg, crossing a bridge over a waterway. At this point, I took a few photos, as I figured I wasn’t trying to set a personal record or even beat last month’s time. I was still pretty quick with this.
After turning right to head back toward the start, there was one point where we ran on a gravel-like road. The course was rural and mostly quiet, aside from one driver who got (in my opinion) too close to runners. There were some nice, scenic views, but if you are looking for crowds or a ton of distracting things to look at, this is not the course for you. I knew it would be rural and I was happy with the scenery. Like pretty much everywhere on the Eastern Shore, it was a flat course.
A few miles into the race — I think around the time when the 10K runners turned around — I met someone who asked if I was Vanessa, and when I said yes, he said he followed me on Twitter. It turned out I followed him, Alex, too, and it was nice to officially meet in person. It’s always nice to meet online friends in real life. It took me a couple miles to catch back up to him to ask his name after we were both stopped at a water stop.
As I ran, I realized that I was hitting each mile on my watch before I hit the mile marker. So, I figured I would end my run with more than 13.1 miles, maybe 13.3 or so. Maybe from about Mile 8 or so on, I did some math to try to account for the time I had left at each mile marker so that I could try to come in under 2:30 when I crossed the finish line, even if I had 13.3 miles on my watch. This meant speeding up at the end — my last mile was my fastest.
I was surprised to come up to the carnival grounds, where the race had begun, so soon. I ended up crossing the finish line when my watch read 12.95 miles. I wanted to have 13.1 miles on my watch, so I kept running. Since I had banked the extra time, I ended up with a time of 2:27:33 for 13.12 miles.
This time was faster than I ran for this race in November. It was a different course, in Onancock, but my time there was 2:28:54.
Aside from the start, it was extremely easy to spread out on the course because of how small the race is. There were 64 half marathoners, with times ranging from 1:27:32 to 3:05:23. I came in 47th among the half marathoners.
I headed back to the carnival grounds to get some post-race food. I had seen there was going to be ice cream from Island Creamery, which I was excited about! I asked what the flavors were and chose strawberry. It was delicious, as I’m sure all the flavors would have been. I also had a bottle of water and a Gatorade. There was also chili, which I’ve had and enjoyed at this race before, but I was not in the mood for anything hot.
Because this is a smaller race with five-year age groups, I often win an age group award — for example, I won a first-place age group award with my time of 2:28:54 in November. However, this race was different — I wasn’t even close, and that’s OK. My official time was 2:26:04, and I came in fourth (awards at this race are for the top two). The age group awards are always unique and artistic, and I would have loved to have earned one, but the competition really came out for this race!
All finishers received a finisher medal, and the swag also included a short-sleeve shirt and socks. This race always includes something in addition to the shirt and medal, and the socks were new this year. The race is also only $40 if you sign up before April 1 ($45 after/$50 race day).
This was my sixth time participating in this event — three times for the half marathon and three times for the 10K. It’s always a fun small-town race, and it was fun to see some friends there, too.