This half marathon is held annually in our hometown of Winchester, Virginia. I have seen it advertised over the past few years but our schedules kept us busy and out of town for this race each time. This year however I made a point of scheduling it on the calendar in the late Spring as it would be a good benchmark race for my December 2017 marathon in Missouri.
The race is held at the Kernstown Battlefield area just a bit south down Route 11 from the center of Winchester City. The race starts from the battlefield area, runs through a nearby suburb, back through the battlefield on a trail, and then onto the back country roads before returning to the finish at Creekside Station (a local shopping complex).
Hoping to get under a 4 hour marathon in December 2017, I set a goal time of 1:55:00 for the half marathon. Christie said I would probably crush that time, but I laughed that off saying I would be happy with a time under 2 hours.
Packet Pickup and Race Morning
I picked up my race packet the day before which was held at a facility close to the race location. The swag included a really nice racing athletic shirt and hat along with other goodies. It was one of the best race packets I’ve had the pleasure of receiving.
With a start time of 8 a.m., I arrived early the morning of the race around 6:45 a.m. anticipating parking challenges, however the organizers make TONS of parking available via a nearby field close to the start, so parking was not an issue. It was very chilly that morning (temps in the 20s or so…with thankfully no wind), so I spent some time warming before getting back into the vehicle to keep warm until Christie, Corinne, and Caitlin arrived shortly before the start.
The start of the race is really cool as they shoot off an actual civil war canon instead of using a starter pistol. It was pretty flat at the beginning of the race going through the suburb area and back across the battlefield, but once the course led onto the back roads through Frederick County, there were quite a few significant hills to battle. Each morning when I run I deal with fairly steep hills on my home course so I was thankful for being prepared for that.
Also there is not much crowd support along the race course aside from the volunteers at the various aide stations, so the mental challenge was significant too. I do remember one family sitting outside their home along one of the back roads saying “You are halfway there!” when we were only around mile 5 or so. Tricksters!
I had no idea what my pace was through the race and thought I was struggling as some of the other runners that I hoped to compete with (based on a quick scan) appeared to be having no issues running fast. However I realized after the fact that some of them were part of 4 person relay teams, so they were running at a 5K pace instead of a half marathon one. I believe that caused me to go much quicker than I had planned.
Towards the last 2 miles of the course I really pushed it into high gear. I passed an older gentleman (60 years old I found out afterwards), who then in turn passed me. We battled back and forth for the last mile until he took off in the last 800M beating me by several seconds. As I turned the corner to finish the race I was shocked at my time: 1:38:07. I should of listened to Christie who was right as usual!
Support and Post-Race Food
Christie and the girls were there to meet me at the finish line. They had stood out in the frigid morning air the whole time monitoring my progress. Caitlin was worried I was going too fast at one point and kept nervously checking my pace via the online runner tracker. I am very fortunate to have such a supportive family and team. When they are at a race with me, I run faster knowing I have their support waiting for me at the finish!
Post-race festivities included a finishers medal with music and plenty of the usual refreshments along with pizza (I had a banana and got a couple of pieces of pizza for Corinne and Caitlin). I think this race is one of the best that is offered in the Winchester area and I plan on definitely doing it again next year!