Middletown Half Marathon – Race Report

 This was my third half marathon of the spring and my last chance to get a sub-2 time before the Providence marathon. It’s the first time our town has hosted a half marathon and all my local running buddies were running it. It’s been fun watching the signs go up all week and seeing people out running the course. We also lucked out and got fabulous weather. Six days ago we had a surprise snowstorm and got five inches. Today it was about 45 at the start, wonderfully sunny, and warm by the finish. My parents were in town for the race and my dad was running the 4 mile race that went with the half.

We all got downtown early, hit the port-a-potties, and had a chance to meet some of the famous runners in town for the race. This is billed as the “Legends” race because the organizers have convinced some famous running Wesleyan alumni to attend and even run the race. Jeff Galloway, Bill Rodgers and Amby Burfoot all went to Wesleyan and ran cross country. They were hanging around at the start for everyone to meet them and get their pictures taken. They even signed our bibs!


Me, Bill Rodgers, and my dad’s thumb



Bill Rodgers and my dad



Amby Burfoot and me



Me and Jeff Galloway

Then it was time to go line up. It was so fun standing on Main St. with all my friends just chatting away. The last week has been hard with lots of personal stress and the last two days I’ve even wondered, why am I spending so much time running anyway? But that moment at the start took all those doubts away. It was such an amazing sense of camaraderie, friendship and anticipation that all the training felt instantly worthwhile again. Running and my running friendships have transformed my life in the last few years and this race felt like a celebration of that transformation. Then the gun went off and off we went!

The course starts on Main but quickly turns up Court St., which is a pretty big hill. We looped campus and came back around to High St. where the 4-mile race split from the half. During this first loop, it was pretty crowded, but I was able to keep a good pace, even running at a sub-9 pace. Sub-2 pace is 9:09, but hitting that exactly would be cutting it way too close and I knew I needed some extra time for water and Gu stops. I had water, Gu and salt around mile 4 and was running about 2 minutes ahead of a sub-2 pace. Later I found out that a good friend was cheering in his front yard on this part of the course and another friend was working a water stop that I ran by twice. I have to say – I was really focused and didn’t see either of them.

I was checking my pace and my overall time at the mile markers while they were still low enough and I was still coherent enough that I could calculate how close I was to my goal. That meant I looked at my watch at 5 miles and saw 45:xx. I’m pretty sure that is the fastest I’ve ever run five miles. Miles 5-7 were a good part of the race for me. These are all streets we run on a regular basis, but the race routed us backward from our usual direction. Somehow that made it more interesting. I was definitely working hard here, but not suffering. I had good music to listen to. I thought about the Legends running these same streets when they were students and that was actually quite cool. This part of the race is a slow and steady climb but with a lot of straightaways and it was work, but it was fine.

Miles 7-10 were harder. I apparently crossed the halfway mark in 56 minutes, which is an average pace of 8:37. That is crazy fast for me. Miles 7-10 are a hillier part of the course, though, and this felt really hard. I somehow lost track of where I was geographically. Weird, because this is very familiar territory. When we came out on the top of Brush Hill, I was completely surprised to find myself there. Thank goodness this surprise was at the top of the hill! This is one of the biggest hills in town but we run up the steep side all the time and they routed the course up the easier side so that is partly why I got confused. Also, frankly, I was starting to be a little out of it. Miles 1-4 were sort of like “Wheeee! This is fun! I remember that I love running and I love racing and my town is awesome and this day is awesome!” During miles 5-7, I listened to that Britney Spears song “Work Bitch” and even though I feel a little guilty about it, I love that song and it was perfect. I was tempted to put it on repeat. Miles 7-10 felt more like, wow, this really hurts. I would like it to be over now. My right leg was cramping. I walked at the water stop at mile 7 more than I would have liked and sort of cursed my way through it as well. The dirt road through Wadsworth Park, which is generally great to run on, felt like it was specially designed to rough up my legs. I definitely started to lose heart a bit and I couldn’t tell if I was going to get the sub-2 time or not.

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a bit of coaching from someone in the sub-30 facebook group and he got me through this tough zone. He sent me a great pep talk the night before the race and I held onto three thoughts: Move your ass. Never give up. You’re tougher than you think you are. I really thought I might have been out of the running for sub-2 at this point, but I just kept at it, even running over that damn dirt road. I wanted this so bad and I just said, if you want it that bad, you’d better work for it and just deal with that pain and run. So I did.

When I got to 10 miles, I could see that I had 29 minutes left to get to the finish line and still have a sub-2 half marathon. Generally I can run a 29 minute 5K whenever I like, but not necessarily after 10 hard miles. Still, I knew that meant something like a 9:30 or 10 minute pace would do it and I didn’t have to keep aiming for 8:50s. I didn’t actually slow down much but knowing that I could was pretty helpful. I hit another dark patch around mile 11.5 when my legs just hurt so bad. But I was so close and by then I could see that sub-2 was definitely within reach if I just kept at it. The song “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” came on. That always makes me think of Team Neon and I just said, damn girl, pedal to the metal, get this done already. I just kept hitting repeat on that song from then until the finish line. I came cruising down High St., pretty sure I was going to make sub-2 as long as I didn’t slow down and didn’t trip. Then down the big hill on Court St., around the corner, and I could see the finish line. Apparently my family was by the side of the course cheering me on, but they weren’t on the side where I expected them to be and I could see 1:58:xx on the clock, two long blocks away. Less than two minutes for two blocks is also totally manageable but I just zeroed in on that clock and ran like hell. Crossed the finish line in 1:59:15!

My friend Triple M was working the finish line as a medic and she was right there with some water and a huge hug for me. I drank a few sips of water and just sat down on the road. I needed to stretch and I was not moving another inch until I did. She laughed and said no one else had actually sat down, but it’s what I needed to do. After a few minutes, I pulled myself together, had some more water, and got up to get my medal. I found my family and my friends. Big hugs all the way around.



Me and Triple M

One of the sweetest memories of the day for me is what happened next. My running pals had sent a text that they were at the massage tent and to come quickly because the line was not bad. That sounded great, so I just grabbed my dad’s hand and started walking with him. He had done great in his four mile race and beat his expected time by over 10 minutes! We walked together, holding hands, all the way to the massage tent and got to compare notes about our races. It was fantastic.


Got my medal!


Me, Fast Friend, and Snarky Girl, plus Kid #2


Sub-2 Baby!


The whole rest of the day was awesome. We hung around the finish area for awhile just chatting and soaking it all in. Then Fast Friend and I grabbed a quick coffee and went back to our place. In an hour or so, a huge gang of running friends came over for a post-race party. The grown-ups got to sit and eat and endlessly go over the race, while the kids ran in and out and laughed and laughed. It was glorious. Only sad note was that Kid #1 was quite sick and couldn’t participate. The Incomparable Mervus was super nice and kept him company. Otherwise, pretty much a perfect day.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Middletown Half Marathon – Race Report

  1. That whiny Florida bitch with the busted up hip says:

    Great post Sarah! Glad you finally took the plunge!!!

  2. Annie Crow says:

    How awesome was this?! Loved reading about the mental component that went into it. Congrats on a well-run race and a cool report after.

  3. Seriously awesome post Sarah! I truly felt like I was right there with you and wish I really was. My favorite part, ” I wanted this so bad and I just said, if you want it that bad, you’d better work for it and just deal with that pain and run. So I did.”

    You rocked that sub 2 and I am so psyched for you!

  4. Mike says:

    Every single thing about this smacks of the awesome! It is a privilege to witness your evolution in badassery. As excited I am about my own race schedule, there are fewer things that I look forward to this year than to High-Five you in NYC!

    JFBA & BAIU!

  5. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.

    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  6. Keep this going please, great job!

  7. Incredible quest there. What occurred after? Take care!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *