This past weekend I raced in the Garden Spot Village 1/2 Marathon in New Holland, Pennsylvania.
As I mentioned in my post last week (click here for a reminder), I was having some concerns in the lead up to this race. I wasn’t feeling 100% because of some lingering issues with my hips and how they affected my physical and mental preparation for this race.
Even though I always want to attempt to get a personal best time, it was clear that the sooner I got that out of my head for this race, the better off I would be.
So, my expectations for this race were just to have fun and treat it almost like another training run.
I arrived on Friday afternoon, got my bib and a general layout of the course. After dinner, I relaxed in my hotel room and did some hip exercises and stretches.
The night before a race has always been the toughest for me. All the prep – no matter if it’s been good or bad prep – is done and the only thing left to do is get to the start line and race.
But the waiting around is always difficult because I constantly go over different scenarios that could come up during the race and how I might respond.
And then all of that is usually followed by a somewhat sleepless night.
Friday evening and night played out exactly in this way.
Fortunately, I woke up feeling ready to run and, more importantly, my hips felt ok after those exercises and stretches.
So, all things considered, I was ready to go!
It’s Time to Race
One of the nice things about a fairly small event is that race morning is relatively stress-free. It took me less than 10 minutes to get from my hotel to the parking area, which is just steps from the starting line.
Then I met up with my friend Jeremy, who I met at the Bird-in-Hand races last September, and we went for short warm-up jog. It was nice catching up with him and talking about other races we’ve done or are planning to do while we got ready for the race. Unfortunately, he just tore his meniscus a few weeks ago, so we wouldn’t be running too many miles together during the race like we did at Bird-in-Hand.
My plan as the race was getting started was to take it easy the first few miles and then assess how I felt for the rest of the race. If things went well, I was hoping to maybe negative split the entire race.
With this in mind, the first few miles went by somewhat comfortably and slowly I could feel my hips loosening up, which went a long way to helping me find my rhythm.
Helped by the sun coming out, and with only nine miles remaining, I could feel myself getting stronger. I wanted to pick up my pace a little bit, but not overdo it and leave myself with no energy or legs for the final miles. For miles 5-8, I kept my pace comfortably between 7:10 and 7:40 per mile and set myself up nicely for the finish.
Now, with just five miles left, I could feel the finish line getting closer with every step and I was ready to really push the pace. The course is laid out in a way that you could almost always see about a half mile ahead of you. Because of this, I was able to see runners in the road ahead for almost all of the race.
As my pace was now consistently under 7:00 per mile, I began catching and passing runners frequently. In the final miles of a race, runners up ahead can be the only motivation necessary to keep pushing towards the finish line.
As you can see from my splits above, I finished the last several miles strongly!
In the end, I finished 38th out of about 540 runners overall and 6th in my age group, which I am more than happy with after my training the last few weeks.
As I write this, I have just started my 8th week of training for the Copenhagen Marathon in May. In the days since the race on Saturday, I have noticed an big improvement in my motivation and confidence as I head into these final 7 weeks of training.
It’s amazing what a good race can do for your mood and confidence!
The Event Itself
Here’s a breakdown of the event itself and how I liked it in case you ever find yourself in the area or are interested in running it:
All runners love seeing “rolling hills” in a race description, right? Well, even though it doesn’t specifically say rolling hills on the race website, that’s how I would expect it to be described. That being said though, most of the hills look tougher than they actually are and all of them were almost immediately followed by a downhill. Otherwise, the course was well-marked and went along and through some great country views.
Garden Spot Village is a continuing care retirement community. All proceeds of the event go to the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund, which helps residents who might not be able to afford the cost of living there.
With just over 700 total runners participating in the 10k and Half Marathon, this could be considered a pretty small event. But the volunteers at the packet pick-up and the post-race meal (many of whom live in the community) were great. Over the last few events I have done, I’ve really gained a better appreciation for the smaller events and how they are run.
Medal and T-Shirt
Included in the race registration was a nice, long sleeve t-shirt, a tumbler and, of course, a medal (below) both of which fit the surrounding areas nicely! Also, due to the proximity to Bird-in-Hand, they have an award for doing both half marathons in the same year. The award is called the “Road Apple Award” (look it up – it’s awesome!) and I plan on getting it in September after completing the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon!
Let me know in the comments below if you like smaller events like this and which one is your favorite!