Hellacious Half Marathon

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ran the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon this past weekend. I'll make this a short race report because I've written about it before (see link at end). This is just such a wonderful race - it's become my favorite HM. So here is some new stuff - mostly about this year's version.

In short, if you like hills, this is the race for you. It features two "cat 5" climbs (i.e., long and steep) with 1000 foot increase in elevation by the end.

Anyone who has felt good for the first seven miles thinking they're cruising through some smallish hills will stop in awe at mile 7 when the first big hill arrives. Many runners begin to walk (and curse) up the main street of Harpers Ferry as it just keeps going up and up. And up even more.

But I had done this race before so I knew what lay ahead. Others were not so fortunate. One guy passed out (still haven't heard if he's ok) and another wiped out on the trail section of the course. The course is half road and half trail. Great if you like variety but it's a bit tricky to transition from roads to trails mid-race if you're not a seasoned trail runner. (I'm not that seasoned myself but I do know that I have to slow down on trails!)

Conditions were interesting to say the least. A half-hour before the race, the RD warned us that there was a 90% chance of thunderstorms (relative humidity was already 100%) and that if there was lightning, he would suspend the race and we were to seek shelter. Of course that was laughable as 2/3rd of the race was nowhere near any shelter.

So we ran under thunderclouds the whole way that amazingly never broke. But some of the runners weren't happy about the humidity. But the temp was only in the 60s so I found the humidity no problem.

Lest I make this race sound too absurd, I will point out that the oldest runner was 82 and he finished in 3 hours. (Admittedly, he is a very experienced runner and had run the course before.) And the youngest was a 10-year old. I was very impressed by her 11:30 pace. At the same time, the RD was really great and kept the finish line open for 3.5 hours so you could actually walk the entire course and still complete it. But it would be a helluva workout. (Anyone thinking that walking a HM is much easier than running will be sadly disappointed. Walking a HM is just as hard as running one.)

I crossed the finish line in slightly over 2 hours which was a better time than I've run on this course the previous two years. I suspect the difference was because I had done a real taper this year for the first time. (I've really never liked tapering. Stupid, eh?)

Once again, they were giving out hand-cut medals looking remarkably like last year's so I won't bother updating the pic. With a tech shirt, food, and great course support, this is an amazing deal for just a $50 race.

At the end, there was unlimited pizza and two kinds of beer on tap (of course, I tried both). I didn't come close to an AG award, alas. Competition is tough here even in a race of just 200 runners.

Also had live music. I never paid much attention to Phil Maffetone, knowing him only slightly as a fitness and diet guru. But he and his band provided the live music! I felt a little embarrassed I had no fitness questions to ask him because anyone could just walk up and talk to him. Instead, I just enjoyed the music. His group was really good!

I encourage you to read what I wrote about this race the first time I ran it where my concerns and observations were quite a bit different:
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I really enjoyed your two blogs about this race. I just started running. I remember walking through Harpers Ferry 25 years ago, carrying my son when he was a baby. I, of course, was young, thin and strong as an ox then (so I thought) but I remember thinking my boy weighed a gazillion pounds by the top of the hill by John Brown's house. Think I'll skip this race....!
    1773 days ago
    Thanks for the recap! Sounds interesting!
    1773 days ago
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