Saturday, September 17, 2011

Race Recap: The Run For Green Half Marathon

When I signed up for the Run for Green Half Marathon in my home town a month and a half ago, I knew I'd be taking a bit of a risk. Temperatures for a late-September race in Davidson, North Carolina could end up being in the 70s or even 80s. But as race day approached, it was clear those fears would not be realized. Instead we had nearly perfect weather, 55 degrees and overcast. A slightly cooler day might have been preferable, but given the alternative, I wasn't complaining.

I arrived at the town green at 6:50 a.m. and spent 20 minutes hobnobbing with the locals. Despite having lived here for 17 years, somehow I'd never been in a race in town; I'm not used to knowing 20 or 30 people at a road race. As I mentioned yesterday, it's a hilly course, with the toughest hills on the last half. Indeed, the total elevation gain for this half-marathon is more than what I expect to see for the Richmond full marathon in less than two months.

I lined up about three rows back at the starting line, next to fellow DARTers Mark Ippolito and Tommy Wagoner.

I told them I was planning a 7:30 pace and that sounded good to them. I also chatted with Richard Hefner, AKA Old Runner, and Allen Strickland of Allen's Road to Boston. Kevin Ballantine was also there. Kevin and Allen are lightning fast, but they were pacing friends, so wouldn't be running this one all-out.

The first mile was downhill, so as the starting gun went off I took off at about a 7:00 pace, planning to slow down later. Mark and Tommy stayed with me and we were running fairly close to Kevin and his partner, whose name I didn't get. After a mile, we hit the first uphill and still felt pretty good so didn't slow down much. Then it was down, down, down, for another mile and a half. Splits for Miles 1-3, 7:08, 7:22, 7:17.

Now we were heading into River Run, and its rolling hills that are short but can be quite steep. A woman, who I later learned was Krista Schoenewolf, passed us, saying "I've been trying to catch you for four miles!" I guess that was supposed to be a compliment. As we ran, we started to wonder when we'd see the elite runners, Kalib Wilkinson and Molly Nunn, both contenders for the US Olympic Trials. Since the course was an out-and-back, we'd definitely get to see them leading the way home. The hills rolled along, and I was expecting to start to feel the need to get back to a 7:30 pace, as I had planned. Meanwhile we also seemed to be getting ahead of the mile markers; everyone's GPS was beeping a considerable distance past the markers. That means the pace recorded by our GPS timers would be slower than the official time — always a comforting feeling! Finally we saw Kalib around mile 5.5, looking very relaxed as he crushed the course. At the six mile marker we saw Molly, surrounded by three guys, including DART's own Tim Richter, who also looked quite strong. Splits for miles 4-6, 7:16, 7:17, 7:09.


Right around the end of Mile 6, we turned onto the final section of greenway, one of the few fairly flat parts of the course. Now we were seeing quite a few runners headed the other way, including DARTers Kathy Rink and Matt Williams.


We hit the turnaround and started back into town, and then I really began to realize how many folks I knew in this race. I saw Terry Ake, Tristan Van Vuuren, Gabrielle Craig, Julie Alsop, Chris Flaherty, Eileen O'Flaherty, Keyne Cheshire, and probably a half-dozen other who passed by too quickly for me to remember.

Julie and DARTer / husband Jeremy

Eileen and family
This got me pumped, and I started to put out a bit more effort as we started back into town. River Run is considerably lower than downtown Davidson, and so once you've run down into the place, you have to climb back out. Despite the hills, Tommy and I maintained a solid pace. Mark dropped back a bit, and Kevin started pulling away from the guy he had been pacing. It looked like I wouldn't be able to "beat" Kevin in this race. But I did seem to be gaining a bit of ground on Krista. Maybe I'd be able to pass her back before we reached the finish. Splits for miles 7-9: 7:16, 7:14, 7:16.

Next we'd be hitting the biggest hills of the race. Ahead of me in the distance I saw Richard, who had predicted yesterday in the comments on my blog that I'd be passing him around mile 8 or 9; he was doing considerably better than that. The first steep hill came and went and I still felt pretty good. Then there was a gradual downhill before we started the final ascent. I passed Richard on this section and told him he was on pace to run sub-1:40, which seemed to please him. Tommy had now dropped a little behind me. I reached the water stop before the notorious hill on Patrick Johnson Lane. Though I still felt good, I stuck to my plan of grabbing a cup of water, taking it to the bottom of the hill, and drinking the whole cup as I walked up the hill. As soon as I finished, I went back to full stride and made it to the top. The toughest part of the hill is the fact that you don't get much relief afterwards; it's a short downhill, then a long, gradual uphill to the finish. Somehow I managed to keep up the pace fairly well. Splits for miles 10-12: 7:09, 7:09, 7:22.

Just over a mile left, mostly on a gradual upslope, and somehow I found the energy to get going even faster. Krista was still ahead of me and I thought I might be able to catch her. I focused on solid, even strides, and picked up the pace. The final 200 meters or so is a dramatic uphill, and I ran as hard as I could all the way across the line, but I never managed to catch Krista. I was a little frustrated with that until I looked down at my watch. My final time was 1:33:30, including a 6:42 pace for the last mile!

Thanks, Bobby Aswell, for getting this picture of me crossing the line.
My goal had been a 1:38, so I shattered that, along with my previous PR of 1:43. Tim, Chad, Jeff, and Jeremy were there to congratulate me at the finish. Then I got to watch Mark, Tommy, Terry, Keyne, and several others cross the line as I ate a banana and rehydrated.

We had heard that the Flatiron Taphouse would be giving away free beer at the finish, so Tim, Terry, and I headed over and each got free small cup. It was the first time I'd ever had a beer after a race, and it wasn't so bad. Then Terry bought everyone another round — full pints this time. Normally I can handle drinking a pint and a half of beer without much of a problem, but this time I found I felt quite loopy. I guess that's the difference between drinking beer on a relaxing afternoon and drinking it after finishing a punishing half-marathon. While I enjoyed the beer, I don't think I'll imbibe after a full marathon when I'm almost certain to barely be able to walk, with or without a beer.

Then Matt showed up with his prize and told us they had already announced the awards, so we hurried back to the finisher's tent to find out if we had won anything. Indeed, we had. Here is a summary of the DART take:

Tim Richter: 5th overall, 1st master, 1:24:20
Matt Williams: 7th overall, 1st age group, 1:26:31
Kathy Rink: 3rd female, 1st master: 1:29:46
Dave Munger: 1st age group, 1:33:31
Tommy Wagoner: 1:34:34
Mark Ippolito: 1st age group, 1:35:55
Terry Ake: 2nd age group, 1:39:14
Julie Alsop: 2nd age group, 1:39:53
Chris Joakim: 1:51:31
Tristan Van Vuuren: 1:54:47
Lori Ackerman: 2:01:26
Eileen O'Flaherty: 2:34:16

Let me know if I missed anyone!

My GPS measured the course at 12.97 miles, just a little short. That's within the margin of error of GPS, but even assuming it was correct, my pace of 7:13 for the race would have given me a time of about 1:34:30 over 13.1 miles, still a PR. All in all a great day of racing; I guess all my hard training over the summer paid off.

The photos here are all courtesy of Chad Randolph, who was a race volunteer; at the starting line I realized I still had my phone, so I gave it to him and he took some great shots!

My GPS record of the race is below.


  1. Great job Dave... especially those last 3 miles! You were really moving up that big hill after walking for about 3 seconds. I was pretty much out of gas by that point.

  2. Thanks Richard, it was great to finally meet you in person after reading your blog for the past year!

    I loved your recap of the race, too!