The St. Michaels Half Marathon was one of 3 races in the inaugural St. Michaels Running Festival, located in St. Michaels, MD on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Nestled against the Chesapeake Bay, the old fishing township is now a favored tourist destination for the more mature crowd that is looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. The quaint main street is lined with upscale clothing boutiques, art galleries and antique stores, all interspersed with impeccably decorated bed and breakfasts. Wonderful little restaurants abound, many featuring seafood brought in at the docks across the street. I choose to run this race because it was touted as “fast, flat and USATF certified”, a perfect combination for a huge PR attempt.
I choose to drive down that morning as lodging in St. Michaels is rather pricey. Plus, with the race starting at 8:45 (8:45?!), I knew I would have plenty of time to make the less than 2 hour drive. Race day forecast was for bright, sunny skies with some breezy conditions from the WNW, gusting to 12 MPH, with temperatures expected to reach into the low 70’s by mid-day. Not ideal, but not unbearable either. I arrived a couple hours before gun time as is customary for me, got my packet and sat back in the car to relax and prepare mentally for the race. This included listening to a good portion of Run DMC’s King of Rock album.
Thirty minutes to gun time, I get all my gear on, void my bladder and do an easy 10 minutes warm-up jog with a few strides at the end. I’m ready to go, at the starting like at 9:40. The RD announces “15 minutes until start time”. I check my watch. I thought start time was 9:45, not 9:55. No matter. What’s 10 minutes among friends? I’m chatted up by a nice young lady from Charlottesville, VA. Finally, we are called to the line and off we go. I start near the front and I am immediately passed by hoards of people that go out like they are planning to run 1:08s or something. Seen this before. We make the turn onto Main Street and start heading through town. Already, there is a bit of wind in my face. I tuck in behind a runner bigger than me, as most of them are, and tag along behind him for a half mile or so. His pace starts to taper into the 7:05 range, so I have to let him go. My goal was to run the first mile at 7:00, so I need to step it up a bit. I break from him and I’m starting to catch and pass all the rabbits that flittered away at the start, many of them gasping like it’s the end of a 5K, not the beginning of a Half Marathon. I pity the poor souls. These first three miles are just to get into a groove and to rid myself of all the pace challenged runners from the start. 7:02, 6:58, 6:51 are the splits as the field has now spread out considerably, the total registrants just being a shade over 400.
The goal at this point is to be consistent. Keep laying down the same, or faster, mile splits for the rest of the race. I pick the next runner ahead, and I run them down. Lather, rinse, repeat. Between miles 3 and 4, I feel a slight challenge from someone behind. At mile 4, I give a little surge to open up a nice gap. It never gets closed. We exit the golf course loop and head back out to the main road, where we run on the shoulder as traffic passes by. Mostly low speed traffic, but there is the occasional asshole that feels the need to fly by because of how horribly they have been inconvenienced by this event. No big deal. I talk the lift from their draft. At about mile 6, I pass the first female. I extoll her efforts and implore her to come with me. Onward I go. Miles 4 through 6 have sailed by in 6:48, 6:45 and 6:45. All systems are go. Not getting too hot. Breathing is controlled. Drive on.
It’s not long before I see the leader coming back on the other side of the road as this is a modified out and back course. I lollipop of sorts, I guess you could say. After a few more have gone by, I decide that maybe I could count them to figure out what place I am in. I try, but I didn’t really do a very good job. The whole counting thing required way more focus than I was willing to give at that time, so I just keep hammering. The turn is at around 8.5 miles. I’ve picked off 4 or 5 more runners in the last 2 miles or so, but up ahead it’s starting to look really thin. There is one youngster up ahead that I’m gaining on. A car pulls up next to him and hands him a water bottle. Hey! You can’t do that! Illegally aiding a runner! Who cares, I drop him a couple minutes later. Next mark is a thin-framed black man. I nickname him “The Kenyan”. I have no idea where he was from. Could have been Easton for all I know, but for this race, at this time, in front of me, he was “The Kenyan” and his scrawny ass was mine. I had to work a bit to pull up with him. I sat on his shoulder for about 15 seconds, then pull slightly ahead, he tries to cover and I surge. He drops back off the pace. Next! Mile 7 through 9 click off in 6:44, 6:40 and 6:42.
Now, it’s go time. I can see a couple people up ahead, but they are no longer my focus. If I catch them, that’s wonderful, but for now I just want to focus on relaxed, clean form. The sun is starting to beat down pretty good by this time. This is the place in a race, the Half Marathon especially, that I find very interesting. It always feels like by now that I can and should be running about as hard and fast as I am capable of at that time. If I have paced properly the first part of the way, I will only have left exactly what I need to finish. I think I may have overtaken one more runner in this stretch, but I really can’t say for certain. I’m feeling reserves of energy and it shows in my splits as 10 through 12 read 6:42, 6:41, 6:35.
By now, we have re-entered the township and the course takes a sharp right turn just prior to mile twelve. Until now, this has been pretty much straight ahead sailing. That right is followed not long after by a short jaunt across a gravel parking lot to a paved park trail. We are treated to a couple of doglegs and switch backs on the trail which I feel really slowed the pace for the last full mile. I didn’t let up at all and was probably hammering even harder than the previous mile, but only recorded a 6:43 for mile 13. I was able to put the hammer down at the end and just missed catching another combatant at the finish. I need another 400 meters and he would have been mine. The course measured 13.17 miles and I covered the last .17 at a 5:38 clip. Just as I cross the finish line, a volunteer walks right in front of me. I have to push him from behind to keep from having a huge collision. He is trying to get to the other side of the finish chute where the parked the medical gator which is tending to one of the guys that finished ahead of me. Poor logistical planning at the finish; the chute was too narrow and they didn’t take advantage of the available space to the sides beyond the finish. They had the tents nestled right up against the trail. This contributed to the FCF that had me shoving this nice man from behind. Overall it was a well-run race for an inaugural effort. I provided my feedback about the start time and the finish chute and hopefully they’ll make it even better for next year.
The nitty gritty.
Time – 1:28:49 PR by 1:40
OA Placement – 12 of 419
AG Placement – 2 of 47
Turns out that the last guy that I couldn’t catch was in my AG too. Grrr! 🙂