On a beautiful day, I beat last year’s Mike Sterling 10K time by four minutes

Photo of Vanessa Junkin standing in running outfit in front of the water. Text says "Distance 6.21 mi, Time 1:05:19, Pace 10:31/mi, Mike Sterling 10K, Sep 04 2021, 07:30 @ Crisfield."
I got this photo by the water after finishing the Mike Sterling 10K on Saturday, Sept. 4.

I knew it was a good sign when I went out for a casual 5K evening run last week, a couple days before the Mike Sterling 10K, and ran the first mile in 10:54 without expending all my effort. In this summer’s heat and humidity, struggling through 12-, 13- and 14-minute miles has been the norm.

This gave me some confidence leading into a cooler Labor Day race weekend, which began Saturday morning with the Mike Sterling 10K in Crisfield. After Mike Sterling, I would continue on to Virginia Beach and run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sunday.

This was my ninth year running the Mike Sterling 10K. I wanted to beat last year’s time, and I figured I would aim for a goal of averaging sub-11-minute miles, since that would put me safely below that. In 2020, I ran the Mike Sterling 10K in 1:09:25, an 11:10 pace. My fastest 10K last year was the virtual Reindeer Run 10K, when I ran slightly faster, 1:09:15. I wanted to beat both of these 10Ks from last year, not only last year’s time at this event.

I set a goal this year to beat at least two of my fastest 2020 times for each major distance, and I was able to do that Saturday, Sept. 4, when I finished the Mike Sterling 10K with a time of 1:05:17 — an average 10:30 pace. At the Salisbury Half Marathon in April, I beat my 2020 half marathon time.

Vanessa Junkin running on the road with Crisfield in the background.
Here I am nearing the end of the Mike Sterling 10K. (Race photo)

I felt great as I ran. It was so nice to enjoy cooler weather, and I paced myself well on the flat-as-a-pancake course. In 2020, I ran my first mile of this race in 9:55, but averaged 11:10. This year, my fastest mile was 10:02 (still a bit fast), but my average was 10:30. I wore my Brooks Aurora BL shoes that I received as part of the Brooks Run Happy Team, which I plan to write about soon.

Vanessa Junkin runs and gives the thumbs up.
Veronica got this photo of me running during the race.

The course starts near the Crisfield City Dock, goes past Somers Cove Marina and toward waterfront views on Hammock Drive, then takes runners through neighborhoods. A little more than the last 1.2 miles is on the main road leading into Crisfield.

I got water at each of the three water stops, and walked for a little bit before resuming running. I’ve mostly been doing run-walk intervals on my runs this summer, but Saturday, I only took these three walk breaks. I was around several friends for most of the race, as well.

As I headed toward the crab pot arch marking the finish line, I worried I might be short and not end up with 6.2 miles on my watch — but I did, finishing with 6.21 miles. After relatively consistent miles, I ran the last two-tenths in just under two minutes, at an 8:55 pace.

Although it wasn’t my fastest 10K by far, I am truly happy with this time and could feel my happiness about running four minutes faster than last year — and much faster than I’ve been doing my runs this summer. I’ve mentioned before that how I feel during a race is also important to me, and I really did feel strong and like I had a good run. I also didn’t have to deal with the coughing issues that have plagued me on many runs this year (not COVID).

This race has a special meaning to me, as the first year I attended, I didn’t hydrate enough and ended up with heat stroke. (I’m much more in tune with my body now!) The community was amazing, and I’ve returned every year since. It’s still a fun small-town race, but it’s certainly grown since my first run here in 2012. The race is named after speedy Crisfield runner Mike Sterling, who is always at the event.

There are always fun overall and age group awards in this Crab Capital of the World — I didn’t earn one this year — as well as the chance to win cool prizes like a pound of crab meat, a Smith Island Cake or a pair of running shoes from VP Shoes. I didn’t win any door prizes either, but I had a lot of fun and we had a great group out from the Eastern Shore Running Club. Hope to see you next year for my 10th Mike Sterling 10K!

This year's Mike Sterling 10K race shirt, and my race bib.
Here’s this year’s race shirt. Registration is just $25!


Mile 1: 10:02
Mile 2: 10:29
Mile 3: 10:28
Mile 4: 11:08
Mile 5: 10:59
Mile 6: 10:16
Last bit (watch had 0.21): 1:53 (8:55 pace)
Official Time: 1:05:17/10:30 pace (time on watch: 1:05:18/10:31 pace)

Read my BibRave review, and write your own, here.

Group photo of Eastern Shore Running Club runners.
The Eastern Shore Running Club had a great showing at the Mike Sterling 10K. This isn’t even all of us!

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