Friday, September 16, 2011

Race strategy: The Run for Green Half Marathon

Tomorrow morning I'll be running my town's half-marathon, the Run for Green. I'm a little surprised at how this crept up on me. A year ago I had only run two half-marathons in my life, and running one was a major event. Now that I've run two full marathons, a half feels more like a hard training run than a race.

That said, I am still a little concerned about the race. For one thing, I ran a very challenging relay last week and I'm not sure I'm fully recovered. For another, it will be the first really chilly day of the season and I'm not exactly sure what to wear. The weather forecast is for a 50 percent chance of showers and 50 degree weather. I'm pretty sure that's still singlet and shorts weather for me, but even this morning, on a breezy, 59-degree day, I felt a little chilly. That said, an easy recovery run is very different from running a half marathon at sub-8-minute-pace. I think the singlet and shorts will be fine. One thing I may consider doing is wearing compression socks. I wore them for the final leg of the Blue Ridge Relay and I think they helped keep my legs from wearing out on the strain of those long downhills.

The other concern is pace. I ran a preview of the course a couple weeks back and it's a challenging route, with 600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Here's the elevation profile:

We Davidson runners like to say that every route in town ends with an uphill, and this course is no exception, with nearly 200 feet of climbing in the last two miles. While there are some undulations, basically you run into a hole, then run back out of it. So, should you "bank time" at the start with the intention of making it up at the end? I don't think I'll be doing too much of that. I'm shooting for a 7:30 average pace, which would be just over a 1:38 time for the whole race. I definitely want to keep my pace slower than 7:00 miles even on primarily downhill miles. The course is undulating enough that any time "banked" will probably be spent on the next uphill.

I think the key to the course is the final two miles. You're running up a slightly-uphill greenway, then with  roughly 1.6 miles to go you hit the steepest hill on the course, Patrick Johnson Lane. It's not Blue-Ridge steep, but it's a dramatic hill for any road race. I think I will grab a cup of water at the stop right before this hill, then drink it as I walk up the first half. Then I'll get right back to running, finishing the steep hill and maintaining speed for the gradual uphill to the finish.

Given the cooler temperatures and possibility of rain, I won't drink much, just a sip or two every couple of miles. I will bring my usual gel-every-four-miles, which seems to serve me well at longer races.

If I manage to pull off the 7:30 pace, I'll set a new PR by nearly five minutes. Wish me luck!


  1. Good luck Dave! It really is a tough course. Two years ago I ran the Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon in 1:39:55 and that's generally regarded as one of the toughest because of the big hills. The following week I ran this one and thought it would be easy after running in Asheville. Uh, not so much. I was 12 seconds slower (1:40:07). Hoping to break 1:40 this year. I'll look for you out there. I always start out too fast then fall apart about 8 or 9 miles into the race, so you should pass me then if not before.

  2. Thanks Richard. I'll definitely be looking for you too. Good luck to you!