Monday, November 11, 2013

Trenton Half Marathon

After my disappointment with last year's inaugural race and my experiences as an ambassador for this year's race my expectations were quite low. When the race started 15 minutes late (which, yes, was better than last year's 45 minutes late, but still late) I was still questioning my sanity -- especially since it was 33 degrees at the start.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by some changes the race organizers made this year. For starters, they changed the route to include a loop through Mill Hill between miles 3.5 to 4.5. Yes, it did add a hill (Mill HILL), but it also added great scenery and crowd support. The change in the route was so pretty I went back the next day to take pictures. I love the old gaslights in this historic neighborhood. I am most impressed they were able to convince the residents to move their cars so we had a clear path. That's not so easy when you don't have a driveway. Yet, they still came out to cheer us on.

That change meant we spent less time running up Route 29. We still had a few miles south on Route 29, but not as many going north.

Another huge improvement was the addition of water stations. They had a few last year, but this year there seemed to be one about every mile. Some, like the one going into Mill Hill were used both on the way in and on the way out. Great use of volunteers. Many of the water stations even had port-o-pots. Very few had lines, which is appealing to a runner. At least half of them (or so it seemed) had Gatorade.

Another change (not sure if good or bad) from last year was the spacing of when I bumped into the 10K runners. Last year the elite runners intersected with me around the first bridge. This year, as I crossed the first bridge I was passing the back of the pack 10K run/walkers. The difference is how long the lag was between the start of each race, plus we did that loop through Mill Hill that the 10K runners did not do. I think personally I preferred passing the pokes than being blown past by the speedy runners. Still thinking about this. Either way, there was great crowd support and energy all through Morrisville, PA.

The swag was nice. I really like having my name on my bib and hearing complete strangers cheer me on by name. The long sleeve pull-over will get a lot of use on these fall days. The medal is enormous -- even bigger than last year's medal, which was huge, and colorful.

2012 vs. 2013 medals

There are lots of benefits to doing a local race. There are no travel expenses. Packet pick up is a breeze. You are familiar with the area, so parking is not a challenge.

The best part of a local race is you see your running friends!!!

Michelle (who ran the Perfect 10 Miler with me) came out to do her first half marathon. She had hurt her back the week before this race, but still rocked it!

I bumped into new friend of a friend, Stacy, at the start. We met briefly before the Rutgers race in April, but connected through Sharon on Facebook earlier this month.

As I was starting the course, Gabrielle blew past me saying "hi" and that she was running late. Even with having to push us slow pokes out of the way, she still rocked it.

My neighbor said hello to me. She always recognizes me on races. We should actually meet sometime when we are not mid-race!

I enjoy running past places I know. I felt this way during the Columbus Half Marathon last year because through all of our trips to Columbus, I've gotten to know the city. Still, nothing could compare with running through a town I used to live in (we did not pass our old neighborhood, but we did pass Debbi and Mike's old home).

Michelle, Don and I had a plan. He would follow along on his bike, take pictures of us and keep an eye on us. Well that plan fell apart quickly! Don could not find Michelle in the sea of runners wearing mostly black (one of the reasons I wear my Sparkle Skirt is for visibility). By the 2 mile mark his camera battery was dead. The next time I saw him (before mile 3) I gave him my camera so I could focus on running. 

Then I regretted giving him my camera. History was made at this race. The world's youngest person to complete a half marathon, Anthony Russo, age 5, completed the race in 2:22 (yes, I am slower than a 5 year old). 

After crossing the Calhoun Street Bridge (where Don was able to snap a picture) I came across another amazing runner. Mark, who is blind, was running with two guides. I thought of my cousins Laura and Allie who lead musicians from the Ohio State School for the Blind through their half time routine. What an amazing gift these runners were able to give Mark. It was his first half marathon.

I saw Don again in Cadwalder Park. I had really hoped that our detour through Mill Hill meant less time in Cadwalder Park, but I was wrong. We did the whole loop. When I came to the end of the loop, Don was there with his upside down bicycle. Uh oh! He told me to go on. Offered me the car keys (which I decline, but I did take my camera back) and told me he didn't know how we would meet up again. Fair enough. I was still on course for a PR and was not planning on stopping for a conversation, or to be weighed down by his keys.

I'm glad I had my camera so that when I saw Marshall, I could snap his picture. Marshall was at the Princeton Half Marathon. He was way back there. Don was impressed by him. I snapped this picture as a way of reminding myself to tell Don I saw Marshall again. We'll be keeping an eye out for him at future races.

The wheels nearly fell off of my race about the 10 mile mark. According to my watch, and the watch of runners around me, we ran about 1 1/3 miles between mile marker 9 and mile marker 10. Considering some of the earlier markers were more like 8/10ths of a mile apart, this was hard to take mentally. Was the finish line going to be around 13.1 miles on my watch or 13.6 (as it seemed to be shaping up). The former meant my PR was definitely on course, the latter meant I would probably miss it by a minute or two. I told myself to keep pressing on and see what happened. In the end, my watch read 13.2 miles, which is fair. The time on the clock was 2:36 -- which meant a PR! Subtract 2 minutes for me to get to the start line, and my time was actually 2:34:30.252 -- or 9 minutes faster than my old PR, and 18 minutes faster than my time in Princeton a week earlier. Very, very happy!

I staggered off the field, took some water and my lovely new medal and realized we had no plan for ever meeting up again. Oops. I looked for Michelle, didn't find her and just sat down in one of my favorite seats at Waterfront Park (not my "usual" seat, but still a nice one). Within a few minutes Michelle walked up to me. Before I had a chance to explain that Don was MIA, he walked up to where we were. all worked out without any worry on my part.

Overall, a much better experience than last year. I might even consider doing it again in 2014. 

A couple of downsides:

1) The race still started 15 minutes late

2) I found three runners who did not see the 10K split and were heading towards doing the half marathon (one was at the far end of Cadwalder Park having a melt-down, I left her with another runner and ran ahead to find someone who could help her). They could have used a volunteer whose sole job was to look at bibs and point the red bib (10Kers) on the right path. 

It was a brisk 33 at the start, but not windy! I was glad I ditched the long pants, but was glad I kept my sweatshirt. This looks like the outfit I wore last week, but I had a long sleeve shirt on under the sweatshirt this time, and wore earmuffs instead of a hat. I'm not used to wearing the same outfit for back to back races.

A new PR and tired legs.


  1. I love your pictures! What a beautiful race it was, and let me tell you, I am glad to re-read your recap of the expo you volunteered at. When I worked Atlantic City, the guy split with his girlfriend as soon as we got there and din't come back for 3 hours! We were starving! We had to leave the hotel for food, because it was so smoky inside. We never went back. I got no bonus swag, and am waiting to hear back about a refund, since i had already signed up!
    I love running the race, and will likely run again next year. I LOVED Mill Hill, even though it meant more hills, and that long mile between 9-10 killed me! I really ran out go steam, I finished much later than I had hoped for!

  2. Thank you, Kimmiep. I'm so sorry your ambassador experience was also miserable. I've come to stop expecting any of their promises to come true. I finally did get a shirt for volunteering, but it was a large instead of the asked for medium. What they do right, they do very right. Unfortunately (for a company that does this as their main profession) they do really wrong.