ESRC represented at the RRCA Club Challenge, and I was proud to be part of it

Group photo of 13 runners in front of a white tent.
Members of the Eastern Shore Running Club team pose for a photo at the Maryland-D.C. RRCA 10 Mile Club Challenge.

For the past three years of the Maryland-D.C. RRCA 10 Mile Club Challenge, the Eastern Shore Running Club has put together a team of club members to represent the club at this race. We have always had fun representing our club on this tough course. But until this year, we’ve never had enough members to show up on the results.

This was a big goal of ours, and we finally achieved it at the 2022 race. I am this year’s club president, and I stressed to members that speed didn’t matter — numbers did. Our club had by far the furthest drive to Columbia for the race — a little more than two hours — and there are other clubs in the region that have thousands of members to pull the required six men and six women from. We had 155 members last year and are working toward that for 2022.

Recently, I was looking up the population of the three Lower Shore counties for another project, and found that the populations of Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties make up less than 3 percent of the total population of Maryland.

Any club members who wanted to carpool the morning of the race, Sunday, Feb. 27, met at the Royal Farms near Hebron at 4:45 a.m. It was an early wake-up call, but it definitely helped to ride up with friends, and then it was an easy drive, with hardly anyone else out on the roads that early in the morning.

When we arrived to Howard Community College for the race, one of the first people who said hi to me was a fan of my blog, Alan from the Kent Island Running Group. It’s always so exciting for me when someone says “She Runs by the Seashore!” Throughout the day, I got to see a few social media friends, which was fun.

Photo of two runners inside a tent.
Here I am with my new friend, Alan!

I was pretty sure I was not going to be anywhere near my previous times at this race — 1:44:10 in 2018, 1:44:20 in 2019 and 1:45:10 in 2020. Those runs’ paces all start with a “10.” I’ve done a few group runs of 3.5 miles that started with a “10” recently, but that has been my faster pace lately, and I haven’t been consistently working on speed work or hills. Leading up to this race, I’d taken 13 days off from running after the Algonquin 50K to try to heal my plantar fasciitis. I did a short run that Saturday, and I’d be wearing new inserts that I’d worn a few times.

I was pretty confident I could meet the 2:10 cutoff, though, and at some point, I decided I would make finishing under 2:00 (12:00/mile pace) my goal.

This was my slowest 10-mile race since I began running, but I’m actually not disappointed because I expected it. It’s a tough course, I haven’t been working on speed, and really, I was mostly just excited that ESRC finally had enough team members to show up on the results.

It seemed most people I talked to started out fast, and I was no exception. My first mile would be the fastest of the day, at 10:21.

I was wearing new inserts that I’d tested the day before and on some walks, and overall, I felt pretty good. I ran for almost two-and-a-half miles before deciding to take my first walk break during the race. Sometimes, I do consistent run-walk intervals on my runs, but when there are hills, I run when I can and try to walk the uphills.

The race mostly goes through neighborhoods. At one point, there was a guy standing outside his house with a sign that said “Bathroom?” Clearly, he had to either be a runner or know a runner — so nice! Later along the way, there was someone dressed up as a mascot-type bird.

Throughout the race, I noticed that I was around many of the same people, which I took as a good sign. At one point, I was passed by a runner from the Kent Island Running Group, Michelle, and she also mentioned that she recognized me from my blog. In her bright orange shirt, she was in front of me for the rest of the race. At the end, I tried to step it up and see if I could catch her, but she stepped it up as well, because she finished in front of me.

Selfie of female runner in "Run Happy" hat and "ESRC" shirt.
I took this selfie after finishing the race.

There was an area leading up to Mile 3 and after Mile 4 with a steep downhill and then a steep uphill right around two water stops. In this area, I was able to see two of my team members, Ryan and Nate, going the other way, and I cheered for them, but I don’t think either one saw me. Later on, I would see Richard along the course.

It was definitely a difficult course, and I know 10 miles is a long way, but given the fact that I had just run a 50K two weeks prior, 10 miles on roads did not seem that bad. Even if I wasn’t that fast, I knew I definitely wouldn’t be out there for anywhere near eight hours. Plus, it was a beautiful day for a run, and I was enjoying the company of fellow runners as we tackled the course and its hills.

I hit the halfway point in 56 or 57 minutes, and in those second-half miles, I stayed on track with my pace and I knew I would be able to meet the cutoff, so I was not under the type of pressure that I was at the Algonquin 50K. I also expected to be slower than my previous times running this race, so that also took pressure off.

I did have some issues with coughing, and a few people mentioned it along the way, but despite the coughing, I actually felt good. Sometimes I have issues with coughing while running and I feel like I can’t breathe, which is extremely frustrating, but other times, it doesn’t feel as bad as it sounds.

Toward the end, there was a hill leading up to the road the race started on and ended off of — Hickory Ridge Road — and once I got to the top of that hill at the intersection, I started giving it whatever I had left. I did not end up catching Michelle, but she was good motivation. There was another set of runners who had passed me close to the end, so I did get back in front of them as I didn’t want to be passed in the final bit.

I crossed the finish line in about 1:58. On my watch, the time was 1:58:09, and on the results, my gun time was 1:58:13 and my chip time was 1:57:47. I’m not sure how that worked out, as I started and stopped my watch when I passed the mats. My average pace on my watch was 11:45/mile on my watch and 11:49/mile on the results.

I ended up finishing in 547th place out of 566 finishers. To give you an idea of how competitive of a race this is, 64 finishers had a gun time under an hour (that’s 11.3 percent). That’s like running faster than the “10” speed on a treadmill for an hour — but with crazy hills. The top male runner’s pace was 5:12, and the top female runner’s pace was 5:48.

The elevation on my watch does not work, but with elevation corrections, Strava logged 580 feet of elevation gain and Garmin logged 587 feet of elevation gain. That’s a lot for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore!

ESRC had several members who stayed for the awards, and when our name was called, we cheered loudly. ESRC finished 14th among 14 teams overall, 13th among 15 men’s teams, 14th among 14 women’s teams and ninth among 10 men’s teams. It was truly an accomplishment just to have enough members to compete.

The race was well-marked and well-organized, with plenty of volunteers holding up orange flags along the way. There were also three water stops, and I took advantage of those.

I am looking forward to having a team to bring back for the 2023 club challenge. Maybe next year, we can show up in even more categories! See the results here.


Mile 1: 10:21
Mile 2: 11:05
Mile 3: 12:14
Mile 4: 11:39
Mile 5: 11:32
Mile 6: 13:06
Mile 7: 11:48
Mile 8: 12:39
Mile 9: 12:00
Mile 10: 11:13
Last bit (watch had 10.06): 29.7 seconds (8:02 pace)

Final time on watch: 1:58:09/11:45 pace; time on results: 1:58:13/11:49 pace (gun time)