It’s not very often that I drive over an hour to run a half marathon. But I received an email from the race director in November and the On The Run Half Marathon registration was only $32!
The price caught the attention of a lot of people and for about a week I had over a dozen people excited about this race. Ultimately we had five runners from The Melrose Running Club drive to Maine.
The price wasn’t the only reason we signed up. Half marathons in March are few and far between, so you have to seize your opportunities.
Over the past two years I’ve been working to get more club runners to go to races together. It’s much more fun with a group and I hope to get our new members to try racing.
For Dave Bryson, this was his second half marathon. Durm Cahill, Jose Viveiros, Katherine Kulig and I have run a few of these. We really like running halfs though Katherine and Jose do a lot of Ultras also.
We estimated the drive time to Old Orchard Beach Maine to be 90 minutes. The race was at 9:00 AM so we decided to leave Melrose around 6:00 AM.
When I looked out my front window before heading to Melrose I was surprised to see snow on the ground! Not a lot, but there was accumulation. When I got to Brueggers in Melrose the snow was still flying! Snow is better than rain, but I wasn’t expecting snow.
And since Maine is often colder than the GBA I worried that we would be running in snow. I’ve done it before, but it’s March 23rd. I’m done with snow.
When I pulled into the lot Dave was already there. He was our driver because he has the largest car and I had worked out the carpool. Even though I was pretty sure it was Dave it still felt odd rolling down my window to holler and get his attention.
I grabbed my stuff and called shot gun. Durm showed up as I was going into Brueggers for a coffee and restroom break. When I texted Katherine she was walking over and Jose arrived soon after Katherine. With the full crew and the seats figured out, we were off to Maine!
Traffic was light and the snow turned to light rain and then sun peering through the clouds! It looked like it was going to be a good day.
We found the Brunswick Hotel using the wizardry of modern GPS technology. It was about 7:30 and we headed in to get our bibs and swag.
When we walked in it was a bit confusing as the race management company is 5K Sport Race Management, So every sign we saw had a big “5K” on it. It’s not unusual for a half to also have a 5K, so we stumbled around the hotel lobby for a bit looking for the half marathon pick up table. Fortunately the first table I went to was the right one.
It seemed like all five of us were in a bit of a daze. We had all been sufficiently caffeinated but our brains were still cloudy.
5K Sport Race Management had our bib, some promotional literature and our swag all together in a plastic bag. Each of us received a pair of Stickman Sports running gloves and a sport towel. I have several pairs of these gloves and they are Made in USA! They are a nice quality mid-weight glove.
The hotel parking lot was packed and we were told to drive around the block to abundant public parking. Getting out of the tightly packed lot was a challenge, but Dave actually backed about 100 meters to get out. He didn’t use the camera and the warning alarm only went off once!
Getting Ready to Run
Now that we had our bibs and a parking spot, it was time to get ready.
It was still about 33° and there was a good breeze blowing. The forecast said mid 30s with a 10 to 20 mph breeze. I didn’t want to run with a jacket again. But was worried about 10 to 20 mph breezes off of the ocean. That water is still under 40°.
I ended up wearing an old beat up running vest. It blocks the wind and the pockets still zip. The chest pocket is missing but the hole stays closed for the most part.
I had one gel from a brand I’ve never tried and one Shot Block. Not really enough to get through a half marathon, but that’s all I had in the house. My belt held two 9oz bottles of sport drink.
Everyone else went with three layers but I ended up with four on top and three on the bottom. I knew I could un-zip my vest and take off my hat and gloves if need be.
Katherine took off and did some warm up running while the rest of us got ready to run. I don’t warm up before a half marathon. That’s what the first mile is for.
About 8:20 we headed back to The Brunswick Hotel. It was great being inside. Plus they had hot coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts! We hung out for a while, used the facilities and headed outside around 8:50.
The start was in front of the hotel. We could not hear most of the announcements as we stood in the wind. Then at 9:00 AM they played the National Anthem and we all took off our hats and stood silently. The only flag I saw was the Canadian flag!
There wasn’t a timing mat for the start, so I tried to be near the front when the race started.
Moments after the National Anthem they gave the verbal start.
Running The On The Run Half Marathon
There were less than 200 runners, so the start wasn’t crowded. I ran with Dave for a bit but my pace was a bit faster than his.
The entire race was virtually flat. We had a 10ft elevation gain in the first mile and that was the most of any mile. My first mile was 8:28 which was a bit too fast for my plan.
I did notice that my watch chimed one mile right on the one mile marker. Very impressive. For the rest of the race I was usually 0.05 to 0.8 ahead of the mile markers. Still very accurate. My race distance was 13.18 miles which to me is very accurate.
We ran 3.5 miles down Rt 9 through the Ferry Beach neighborhood of Old Orchard Beach and past the Ferry Beach State Park. It was nice to see so much land protected from development. There is a lot of construction going on up there.
At 3.5 miles we took a sharp right on Rt. 9 and continued on Ferry Road. My Garmin shows hardly any hill but it seemed like there were several low incline hills that went on for a half mile or so.
As I ran along I wondered which was better, short steep hills or long slow hills. At that moment the long slow hills seemed worse. They just went on and on.
I like hills but I could tell that other runners were being challenged. This is where I passed most people that I passed during the race.
At 5K I took my one Shot Block. With so few supplies I had to manage what I had and do my best to make it work.
We took a right onto Bayview Road at about 4.5 miles. This took us away from the shore and most of the wind. We hit mile five on Bayview and I told my self that I was one-third through the race. My time was 8:46 for that mile.
I was basically running my 10K pace during a half marathon and worried that I had gone out too fast.
This was my third half in three weeks and I worried that I was becoming complacent and over confident. You always have to respect the distance or it will kick your ass.
Around 5.5 miles we got back onto Rt. 9, Seaside Ave heading East back into town. I began to recognize buildings and marshes that we had run by before.
We hit 10K/6.2 miles before we got back into town. I had run a 53 minute 10K which was about right. I was slowing down. I ran the first 5K under 26 minutes which was way too fast for a half.
At about 7.3 miles we passed The Brunswick Hotel and a few folks out cheering us on. At about 7.5 miles we ran through an intersection with some traffic and got onto East Grand Ave. We were still in downtown Old Orchard but this road would send us out of town to the turn around at mile 10 where we looped through a neighborhood.
Garmin shows miles 7 through 10 to be virtually flat and at Sea Level. But I distinctly recall running one of those long slow hills. It chewed a few people up and I passed a few walkers.
Somewhere around 8.13 miles the lead male runner passed us on his way back. He had a smooth pace and looked in control.
At about 8.36 miles the second place male approached me. Amazingly just as he got to me he broke stride and started walking! I told him he was in second place and to keep going. I have no idea how he did. I was busy running up a hill that doesn’t exist!
I kept counting runners and got to 25 when I saw Katherine heading my way around mile 9. I called out her name and waved. She seemed comfortable and happy.
Bringing it Home
As we looped through the neighborhood the road seemed to keep rising. I could see it and I could feel it.
I kept telling myself that I would be running back down that hill nice and easy just like the lead runners had. But as we headed West back into town it seemed like we were still going uphill.
Again, Garmin doesn’t show this but I sure as hell felt it. Maybe the ocean air was causing me to hallucinate?
I was now down to just my sports drink. Not a lot of sugar but electrolyte infused water. Why do these companies think runners don’t want some carbs in these mixes?
All the way back I was amazed at how many runners were still heading out. I really thought I was about mid-pack.
Around mile 11 I saw Jose in his bright 2018 BAA jacket. He seemed to be doing okay. Then before mile twelve I saw Durm and shortly thereafter Dave. They looked okay also.
My mile twelve pace was 8:48 and my overall pace was 8:41. I really wanted to break an 8:40 pace so I picked it up a bit. We only had 1.1 miles to go.
I didn’t have a lot of energy left and my hamstrings had been sore for a few miles. I drank a bunch of sports drink to at least stay hydrated.
Finally the road seemed to have a slight decline, but not enough to really run down.
So close to the finish and I passed a young guy walking. I felt bad for him. I’ve been there and it is disappointing.
The entire road back to the hotel was mostly strait and just went on and on. As we approached the hotel I could hear people cheering. My watch chimed mile 13 about 0.08 before the mile marker. So I still had about 0.2 miles to go.
And the finish line was in the parking lot, so I couldn’t even see it!
There were two people with red flags so I knew where to turn. So close.
As I turned into the parking lot, the finish was only about 25 feet in! It looked like the clock had 1:54 on it already. I had to kick it in to finish before 1:55. As I approached the line I saw a guy with a camera on a step ladder. I did a thumbs up and did my best to smile as I strained to cross the line.
Right after the finish someone handed me a medal and I put it over my head. When I looked at my watch it was 1:54:13. Not great, but not bad either.
I walked around a bit and got a bottle of water. The cases were on the ground and I had to bend over to get one. It was surprisingly difficult to do this.
I poured water into my sports bottle to get the left over sports drink and headed inside to get out of the cold. As I walked into the bar I saw Katherine at a table with some food.
5K Sports Race Management had chicken wings and pizza for us! Hot food. They also had plenty of fruit and veggies. I filled a plate with wings.
Apre On The Run Half Marathon
As I ate my wings Katherine told me that she came in second in her age group. She hadn’t expected that! The page with my finish time hadn’t been posted yet. I wasn’t thrilled with my 1:54 finish but didn’t let on about it.
Slowly the gang drifted into the bar. Everyone was tired but seemed satisfied with their time. I got another plate of wings and a glass of water.
When they started doing the awards Katherine sprung to her feet and headed over. We could hardly hear them from our seat, but she seemed to know what was going on.
I followed her over so I could get a few pics of her getting her medal. There was a crowd and large windows looking out onto the ocean. This made it difficult to get into position to get a good shot. I ended up with an okay photo with a little help from Photo Shop.
Usually we hang out a bit after a race. Today we had a 90 minute drive back to Melrose. It kind of felt like we were on the moon. Having a good time far from home with some urgency to depart before time ran short.
So we steeled ourselves for a cold walk back to the car and did a light jog laughing all the way.
The drive home always seems to take so much longer!
Run well my Friends!