Half Fast Half Marathon

On Saturday, February 18th, I ran the Half Fast Half Marathon. I fully intended to do a race recap shortly after the event, but at the time I had very negative feelings about it and I wanted to mull over them before I shared.

I chose this particular race because it offered a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon. There aren’t many races to choose from in February in Minnesota. This allowed my family to do a February race, with us each being able to pick our distance. I chose the half marathon because it fit into my training plan’s required mileage for the weekend; my husband and son chose the 5k.

Packet pickup was available at Tri Fitness’ retail location the two days prior to the race, which made it very easy for me since I’m often in that area. There weren’t any lines when I arrived around 5:30 pm the day prior to the race. The packet consisted of the race number and the long-sleeve cotton t-shirt. While the shirt is a cotton blend, it is a soft fabric and my entire family really likes the shirt for casual daily wear.

The logistics the morning of the race were very simple. We arrived approximately an hour before race time, which gave us abundant time to use the restrooms – there was a porta potty by the parking lot and indoor restrooms inside the hosting school. Because it was such a small race, we very easily could have grabbed our packets the morning of without any problems.

Just prior to the race, they offered a group warm-up inside the school gym, but I chose not to participate. The person leading the warm-up was just too peppy for morning. She was asking people to do squats, jump squats and jump ropes, which is NOT a good idea for me prior to running. More to come on the peppy lady later.

The half marathon started 15 minutes before the 10k and 30 minutes before the 5k. The start line consisted of lining up in the street. The half marathon course consisted of two loops. Having been billed as a “fairly flat” course, I should have known better when we started off by going up a long uphill. The course was HILLY.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the course itself, because it just wound through neighborhoods in the Vadnais Heights area. While it was a quiet course, it was an open course, so it didn’t feel like a race. In fact, it was such a small race that I never saw another runner after mile 6. Yes, seriously.

For most of this race, I felt absolutely defeated. The time limit was 3 hours for the half marathon, which I knew I could meet. All three of my prior half marathons times were sub-3 hour and I’m running much stronger these days, with the consistent marathon training. That being said, mile markers were being pulled up as I approached them and water stations were being packed up as I came up to them. I will say that the volunteers were friendly and encouraging, and I was able to get water at the stops, but it was still discouraging to me. I’ll jump ahead and say that my finishing time was 2:45, so well within the time limit. The field of runners was fast, though, so I was the LAST person out on the course.

Around mile 11, the peppy warm-up leader jumped out of a van and started bouncing next to me. I was at a walk break at that moment, since I’m doing intervals. Right as she bounded up next to me, my interval timer beeped and I started jogging again. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: Hey, how’s it going? We’re not trying to rush you, just wanted to make sure it’s going okay.

Me: I’m doing fine.

Her: Oh, are you using an app or something?

Me: Yes, I’m doing the Jeff Galloway method. This is just a supported training run for me.

Her: Do you want me to run with you?

Me: No, I’m on track to PR.

Her: Are you sure you don’t want company?

Me: Yep, I’m good. Thanks.

Her: Oh… Okay. I guess I’ll just go grab the van.

Honestly, I was pretty crabby and the LAST thing I wanted was some peppy cheerleader type bouncing beside me. I wanted to tell her that I definitely did NOT need someone running near me, considering I’d been running forever without another runner in sight.

When I reached the finish line, they were in the process of packing up. The finish line itself was still up, and they had saved me a baggie of water and snacks. There was one lone volunteer holding my ONE lone medal. I fully appreciate that they saved food and water for me and that the finish line, timing mats, and clock were still out, but it felt like they wanted to pack up and rush out of there as quickly as possible. Again, I was 15 minutes ahead of the time limit and even though I was the last runner out on the course I guess I expected better support.

One of the reasons that the volunteers were likely eager to get out of there was that the awards ceremony and breakfast buffet (not included in the race fee) started at 11:00. It was now 11:45. In retrospect, the fact that the half marathon awards started two hours after the start of the race should have tipped me off that this would be a fast field of runners.

After the finish, my mind quickly went to a very negative place. I told myself I was slow and that I’d never be able to run a marathon; that I was stupid for thinking I could. I don’t go to negativity like that often, and the fact that I did was even more disheartening. After stretching and eating a snack, though, I was able to go back to the fact that my finishing time was a PR by 10 minutes and that there was no reason to feel bad. Had it been a large half marathon, my time would put me solidly in the middle of the field. It’s all relative.

My family said that it was one of the hardest 5ks they’ve done. The 5k course ran up that first hill of the half marathon, then turned around and came down. A friend of mine who also ran the half marathon said the course was so tough that she considered quitting after finishing the first loop; and she’s much faster than me. For some reason, this was just a tough race.

Once the 5k race results were posted, though, I learned that my son won 2nd place in his age group. I emailed the race organizer to see whether he had to be present to claim his prize. They told me that I could come by their retail location to pick up his medal. In that same email, they asked me for feedback about the race, in which I was very honest. The response was apologetic; she (a co-owner at Tri Fitness) stated that they want to be inclusive and welcome runners of all abilities. She was disappointed that I had a negative experience and said that she, as a runner who would never see the podium and has finished last in races, understood where I was coming from. She urged me to try one of their other events.

There were several factors that played into this race and I hate making it sound like the race organization did something wrong, when in fact, they ran a very well-organized event. The small field (38 runners in the half marathon), the fact that it was a hilly course, and that it was early in the year were negatives for my own performance. But, as I mentioned, it was well-organized, logistics were easy, volunteers were friendly, and the shirts were great. I also appreciate the personal email correspondence regarding my thoughts on the race; they could have easily ignored my email.
I’ve learned that I need to stick to larger races for longer distances if I don’t want to be running by myself for long stretches of time. Though, I still prefer small races for shorter distances. Overall, I would consider doing another event organized by Tri Fitness, but only at a 5k or 10k distance.

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