2nd Annual Cambridge Half Marathon
The 2017 Cambridge Half Marathon was a different race in many ways from the 2016 Inaugural Cambridge Half Marathon.
If I recall correctly we started in one big wave in 2016. This year they had three waves based on self reported estimated finish times.
Wave One was the way fast group. Wave Two was for the two-hour and under runners (ME) and wave Three was for anyone who planned to finish over two hours. I like this type of start as it helps reduce congestion at the start.
Wave One started at 7:30AM, Wave Two around 7:35AM and Wave Three around 7:40. Since the race is chip timed it wasn’t that important where you lined up.
I got to the race around 6:30 and cars were already backed onto Land Blvd. The garage in The Galleria was full and they were switching over to the garage across the street.
There were a lot of cars in the garage all ready, but I quickly found a spot. I soon realized that I had less than an hour to the race start and needed to get moving.
I pinned my bib on my Melrose Running Club singlet, and loaded up my running belt. My Cambridge Half Marathon jacket was stuffed in my drop bag, so there wasn’t much room for extras.
When I got into the mall things turned chaotic. Volunteers seemed scarce, but the few I saw seemed to know what was going on.
The bag drop and porta-potties were all outside, not in the mall. I guess I knew this, but last year everything was conveniently located in the Galleria garage. So I headed back outside and looked for the bag drop area.
The first line I saw was for the porta-potties and it looked an hour long! God help me, I thought. It was now about 40 minutes to start time and I still had my drop bag.
Fortunately the bag drop was within sight and in no time I dropped off my bag and got into the porta-pottie long and winding line. It was like being at Disney. The line was long and then we turned the corner to see another long line!
The couple behind me was running their first half marathon and we had fun joking about the weather and the line. I told them the race was chip timed and this was the most important line to be in, so hang in there.
The race didn’t have any volunteers policing the porta-potty area. Some people tried to wander in front of us and pretend they didn’t see the line wrapped around the block! I saw several people who were in line block the cutters from getting into a porta-potty!
These people knew they were in the wrong and there was a large crowd ready to back anyone up.
Eventually a bunch of us started yelling when we saw a cutter wander towards the porta-potties. No one should mess with a runner who has stood in line for 40 minutes waiting their turn. I swear if someone got out of line 20 people would take them down!
When you have a black eye people just seem to take you more seriously!
I finally got my turn. It wasn’t disgusting and the person before had left both rolls of TP hanging so I didn’t have to try and get a roll started. This little detail is often lost on other runners.
I was now ready to run and headed towards the corral for Wave Two. It turned out I didn’t need to line up on a side street. A volunteer waved me through towards the start line and sent the Wave Three runners back down the street.
Cambridge Half Marathon New Course for 2017
Last year we started on First Street, and took a left onto Cambridge Street and headed to Harvard Square, then ran down 2A to Mass Ave and then went through the Alewife neighborhood.
We turned around under the railroad bridge in Belmont and made our way back past Fresh Pond, Harvard and then down Broadway to MIT/Kendall Square. Then took Galileo Galilie Way to Binney Street back to First to the finish line.
This year we headed West on First Street to Binney Street. I was trying to keep my feet dry for as long as possible, but there were a lot of divets on Binney Street. When Binney crossed Third Street it turned into Galileo Galilie Way and when we crossed Broadway the street turned into Vassar Street.
At Mass Ave we took a right for two blocks and then turned left onto Albany Street. The last time I ran Albany Street was for the Summer Classic 5K. This was where the torrential thunder and lightening storm began. For this race the rain seemed to be ending at this point.
A few more turns and we were on Putnam Street. We ran Putnam for about a mile and hit the 5K mark before taking a left towards the river. At the 5K mark they timed us. Very nice!
I thought we were going to be running on Memorial Drive, but they had us on the bike/walking path.
It was narrow and congested. Shortly, most of us were back on Memorial Drive. I was making good time and mile four came in at 8:28 and my overall pace was 8:30.
Shortly after mile four we had to get an the path to go under the Elliot Bridge. As I approached the underpass runners started backing up. Turns out there was a puddle under the bridge that left very little room for runners to get by without soaking their shoes.
I lined up behind some other runners on the right and went as fast as I could. A few people ran through the puddle and splashed all of us. A bunch of us yelled at them, but what could we do?
We were now on the path next to the river. This far up, the river looks like a wild area compared to below the River Street bridge. There were a few crew boats on the river and I wondered if one of them was my daughter.
Around 4.5 miles some of us got onto Greenough Blvd. for the next mile or so. At the 10K mark they timed us again. Mile six came in at 8:39 and my average pace was 8:41.
I was running with another guy for about a mile now. We were both locals and had run these roads before. His last run had been on a treadmill over a week ago. I joked that he had fresh legs and should do well.
I ran with him over the Beacon Street bridge but let him go when we got onto the path on the Brighton side of the river. He was a lot younger than me and I knew I had to run my race, not his.
We were now on the path next to Soldiers Field Road. I’ve run this one many times also. It was packed gravel in some parts but the runners were pretty well sorted by now and it was less crowded. At Arsenal Street we ran across the road.
After Arsenal Street we were on a paved path about 8 feet wide. A few holes and lumps, but overall not too bad. At the Elliot Street bridge we had to go under the bridge, but fortunately it wasn’t as flooded as the other underpass.
We continued along the river until just after mile 9 when we crossed the Harvard Street bridge back into Cambridge. Mile nine came in at 8:39 and my overall average was 8:43. I had plenty of time to play with.
I was beginning to feel tired and my left knee was saying hello. Around mile seven I took my only gel and the guy next to me looked at me like I was crazy. That juice was wearing off and my bottles were near empty.
Mile ten came in at 8:43 which made me feel like I was beginning to slip. My average was 8:49, so I was still way ahead of my 9 minute pace goal and only had to run a 5K.
At the BU Bridge we had to run up and over. The deck is steel and cement and always looks slippery. I’ve never slipped on it, but wet steel always looks like a slipping hazard!
It was only 16 feet up and down over the bridge, but at this point in the race it felt like 60 feet up.
Miles 11 and 12 came in at 8:59 but my average pace was still under nine minutes.
Finishing the Cambridge Half Marathon
As I ran mile 13 I thought about how much difference this mile can make in a finish time. If you push and cut 30 seconds off the last mile, you are up 30 seconds on your finish time. If you relax and add 30 seconds to the last mile, you have effectively added a minute to your finish time.
With 1.1 miles to go, why hold anything back?
A minute may not seem like much, but this thought helped me manage an 8:50 mile 13.
We ran under the Long Fellow bridge and took a right onto the Cambridge Parkway path along the river.
At the Broad Canal we took a left onto a gravel path. As we went under the Land Blvd bridge I noticed a homeless person trying to sleep on some cardboard and kind of behind a trash barrel. With all the crap this person has to deal with, 8,000 runners were passing his/her bed.
At the end of the Broad Canal we were behind the mall and the path turned wet and muddy. No one could avoid the puddles and soon I was just running through them. You can only get so wet.
As we ran down Thorndike Street to the finish I could see the clock. I gave it one last push and passed a few people before I crossed the finish line at 1:56:03.
I was a little surprised that I didn’t do better than last week’s 1:53 at the Howling Wolf Half. Cambridge hardly had a hill, but it was very congested in many areas. Under the flooded bridge I basically had to walk. So, I guess taking all of that into consideration I did okay.
Cambridge Half Marathon Apre Party
One thing that hasn’t changed since last year is the Apre Party! They had 26 team areas set up, just like the Cambridge Classic 5Ks. The line for hot falaffal was longer than the beer lines! After running in the rain for two hours or so, I guess everyone wanted something hot to eat.
KIND, Nature’s Path and That’s it. were giving out snack bars. All three are about simple ingredients. KIND is all about ingredients you can see and pronounce, That’s it. makes all fruit bars with two or three ingredients and Nature’s Path Organic uses Chia and Hemp seeds to pack energy into their bars.
Bantam Cider was there with two varieties. I tried one but it was just too sweet, and I tossed most of it. Sad.
One of my favorite brewers was there, Notch Brewing. They had a nice light and clear wheat ale, Infinite Jest. I usually drink Left of The Dial, but the lighter flavored wheat hit the spot.
I was a free agent at this party so I just wandered around. I only knew one other runner and that was our new club president, Dan Slattery.
The place was hopping and I never saw Dan or the six other runners from our club. I did meet a guy from The Mystic Running Club named Rich. We hung out, traded stories and had some beers. There’s always someone to talk with after a race!
The jackets they gave us were much more than swag. The were a nice nylon jacket with a fleece lining, zip pockets, Velcro sleeve enclosures and inside pockets. It’s always cold in that garage after a race, but this jacket managed to keep me warm.
Since I was on my own, I decided to limit my indulgences and headed for home before 11AM!
As I drove down Land Blvd and saw the time, I couldn’t believe it! A half marathon, a few beers and I’d be out of the shower and dressed by Noon! I wasn’t thrilled about the 7:35AM start. But the early start and close proximity made for a fun filled morning and I could now chill for the rest of the day.
Over 6100 runners completed the race. Use this link to view hundreds of great photos from the course and the party.
Run well my Friends!