A little less than two weeks before the Baltimore Road Runners Club’s Grand Prix Series Half Marathon, I saw a post on Facebook about it. I’m in the BRRC Facebook group, but I’m not a member, since I live in Salisbury.
The GPS Half Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 3, was just $10 for nonmembers, and I already planned to be staying less than 10 minutes from the start at my mom and stepdad’s home that weekend. It fit in well with my training for the Philadelphia Marathon, so I decided to sign up, and since it was a race, I figured I might as well race it. I like to do my long runs with people, and I figured even if I wasn’t running with anyone, I would be near people and it would be more fun than going out for a run by myself. I was right.
The race was on the Northern Central Railroad Trail, also known as the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail — where I often run anyway when I’m staying at my mom and stepdad’s house.
Parking was less than a half-mile away at the old Sparks school building — I’ve passed it numerous times, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was. Registration was on-site, and it was easy — I paid my fee and got a bib. Timing would be done manually, with someone pulling bibs — which I’m quite familiar with as I had just worked a race in Salisbury the previous day doing manual timing.
Since I had 16 miles on my marathon training plan and got there early, I figured I would do some easy-paced miles beforehand. Including a jog from the car, I ran-walked two miles before the 8 a.m. start, so I logged a total of 15.1 miles that day.
There was a three-hour cutoff for the half marathon, which I was confident I could meet, but I also didn’t want everyone to finish way ahead of me and for the timers to be waiting around just for me to finish. I figured I would aim for a just-under-2:30 finish time, a time that I’ve paced numerous times in the past. However, I have gotten slower, and the half marathon I’d run most recently prior to this one was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, which I ran in 2:39:43. If I couldn’t finish in under 2:30 at this race, my secondary goal was for my pace to start with an “11.”
The course started by the Sparks trailhead of the NCR Trail and headed north, almost to the Monkton trailhead. Runners turned around, could stop at a water stop, and then ran past the start again — about the halfway point — where there was a water stop set up.
Particularly for such an affordable race, I really appreciated that there were four water stops along the way (the one along the south half was the same one twice).
During the first few miles of the race, it seemed like I might be able to keep up the pace to finish in under 2:30, but I wasn’t sure. I had also just completed 37.2 miles at the Pemberton 24 the previous weekend, so it was not like I tapered for this.
Mile 4 was my first mile that took longer than 11:30 (a 2:30 half marathon is approximately an 11:27 pace, though courses often show more than 13.1 miles on a watch) — I ran that one in 12:06. When I was by the water stop at about Mile 6.6, which was also right by the finish, a runner had already finished, and someone else was finishing. I expected that, but it’s still crazy to think about.
According to the results, the fastest male runner was Graham Peck, who ran the course in 1:16:14, and the fastest female runner was Megan Digregorio, who ran it in 1:25:33. I recognized both of their names as winners of the Tim Kennard River Run here in Salisbury.
I completed Miles 5 and 6 in under 12 minutes, but with the water stop, Mile 7 came in at 13:08 — my slowest of the day. I had only been walking at the water stops, but in the last hour of the race, I found myself needing to walk more.
For the first several miles of the race, I was going back and forth with two people who were running together. For the last four or so miles, I was going back and forth with another runner, who I talked to after the race. It turned out she was from New Hampshire! I thought I’d traveled a far way.
I also talked to the two runners, and it turned out we all plan to do the Bay Bridge Run. And I met some fellow Algonquin runners afterward, too!
As I was heading toward each turnaround, it was nice to have the support of other runners, who offered words of encouragement, and I enjoyed cheering them on as well. When I was heading toward the cone at the south end, someone who was heading the other way on the trail (not a race participant) exclaimed happily that I was a front runner. I told her I was actually toward the end, but it was cool that she thought that!
After the north turnaround, I’d seen a few more runners behind me, but not everyone finished. I ended up finishing number 48 out of 50, which is totally fine. I would have been OK finishing last, too — but like I said, I just didn’t want to hold anyone up. It was nice to have a few of us near each other — it wasn’t like everyone else finished under two hours, or something.
My time was 2:34:05. My watch had 13.07 miles (which could have been because it’s on a trail), so I ran till it hit 13.1. With that little bit of extra, my watch logged 2:34:33. Either time was five-plus minutes faster than that recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon.
Afterward, there was a nice array of food — again, for a very affordable race — and I had a doughnut and coffee, also getting chocolate milk and water. The route back to my car was uphill, so I opted to walk that instead of run.
I really enjoyed this event. I already have a ton of shirts and medals, so I liked the no-frills aspect and affordable cost. Top BRRC member finishers were even able to win cash prizes. Plus, everyone was friendly and it was a great way to get in a long run on a pretty rail trail and test my current fitness for a half marathon.
Thanks to the Baltimore Road Runners Club for putting on a great event!
Mile 1: 11:17
Mile 2: 11:29
Mile 3: 11:26
Mile 4: 12:06
Mile 5: 11:30
Mile 6: 11:25
Mile 7: 13:08
Mile 8: 11:24
Mile 9: 11:55
Mile 10: 11:51
Mile 11: 11:35
Mile 12: 12:50
Mile 13: 11:21
Last bit (.11 on watch): 1:10 (10:55 pace)
Official Results: 2:34:05
Watch Results: 2:34:33; 11:48 pace.