Team Running Riddle’s member Josh Riddle ran his first ever half marathon in Ocean City, MD! Aaron joined him for pacing and motivation.
A Riddle Brothers Half
Having a couple of 5Ks under his belt, Josh had set his eyes on completing a more challenging running goal. During a family visit out my way in Winchester, VA, we went for a cold wintery run together one early morning and Josh mentioned the idea of running a half marathon. Being excited about adding ANY type of race distance to my calendar, I told Josh that I would gladly join him and help him run at whatever pace he wanted. We both decided that a goal of just finishing a first-time half marathon for him would be the right way to go. Not long after, Josh found a half marathon held in one of the most popular vacation spots in Maryland…Ocean City.
In doing some research we found that the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon runs from Assateague Island along back roads and across the famous Route 50 bridge…ending on the historic boardwalk area of Ocean City (right along the beach). The half marathon seemed like a great one for a first-time attempt. The weather would most likely be pleasant (late April in Maryland), the course was relatively flat (aside from one incline up a bridge early in the race), and the race was mid-sized with close to 900 runners participating. It looked like a great choice to me, so we signed up in December and got it on the calendar, giving Josh five winter-filled months to get his training in.
Leading up to the race I followed Josh’s progress as his he prepared to run his first long distance race. I recommended he follow the Hal Higdon Half Marathon beginner plan since his goal for this race was to just finish. Save a few minor aches and pains that were taken care of with some extra rest / cross training days, Josh’s training went very well. To add to the difficulty, he happened to be running during the coldest months Maryland has to offer…which included several runs in single digits with wind. I assured him that this would just make running near the ocean in spring time for the race that much more enjoyable. He was also even able to get in a training run of 13.1 miles mirroring the half marathon. By the time race day arrived, he was good to go.
Battling Traffic to Ocean City and Race Day Morning
Josh traveled with his family (wife Katy and toddler daughter Ellie) out to Ocean City the Friday morning before the race. With Corinne and Caitlin having school, Christie and I picked them up from the bus and left from Winchester on Friday afternoon hoping to arrive at Ocean City, MD at a reasonable time. The trip out there turned out to be a traffic-filled, delay after delay, mess of a drive. Having lived in the area I knew the traffic going out to Ocean City on a Friday afternoon would be bad, but combined with a few accidents on various roads out that way and more traffic than I thought, we didn’t arrive in town until roughly 10:45 pm. Luckily Josh was able to handle picking up our race packets so I did not have to worry about that. With a race start time of 7 a.m., this meant a 4 a.m. wake up call for me. So needless to say I didn’t get that much sleep that night.
After waking up, eating breakfast and getting ready, I picked Josh up around 5:15 a.m. at his hotel. Race logistics required us to park at the race finishing area (Ocean City Boardwalk), and then board a bus which would drive runners over to the race start area on Assateague Island. This worked out really well, as there was plenty of parking when we arrived around 5:45 a.m. and a very short walk found us on the bus to be hauled over to the start line.
Arriving at Assateague Island with roughly 40 minutes prior to start, we first headed up and over a sand dune where a crowd of other runners were standing just in time to see the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. It was really beautiful and a great way to get revved up to run. The weather was nice, though a bit chilly with the wind, so the majority of the runners were huddled inside a large event tent waiting for the start. Josh was in good spirits and seemed ready to go and get started. We did our warm ups, joked around and following the national anthem, lined up for the start and began the race.
From Bridge to Bridge – Conversation and a Lost Phone
The race course itself was nice, with the most scenic portions coming at the beginning and end of the race where you run across bridges. Within a mile of beginning, we found ourselves running up a slight incline over the Verrazano Bridge heading off of Assateague Island and onto the mainland. The next 7-8 miles or so led us long side roads making our way north where we would eventually return to Ocean City. These middle miles featured no real spectacular scenery, and Josh and I spent our time conversing about a variety of subjects including running, family, nonsensical humor, pranks to play on our cousin, and of course cryptocurrency. At one point he had me laughing so hard runners around us were probably wondering what in the heck was going on.
As we passed the half way point we found ourselves running through a community development. As we passed one of the aid stations there, I noticed someones iPhone lying on the pavement. I picked it up and thought at first to carry it with me, but then decided to back track to the aid station and give it to the volunteers (I told Josh to keep on going and I would catch up). Turning over the lost phone to the aid station, I hit the gas to try and catch back up to Josh, when I saw to other runners running in the reverse direction. They had to be the lost phone owners, and I flagged them down and directed them to the aid station where I left their phone. Having done my good deed for the day, I eventually caught back up with Josh and settled in to pace him for the last portion of the race.
We began crossing over the Route 50 bridge towards Ocean City for the last 2 miles. It was a beautiful day to run on the bridge towards the ocean…moments like that make me ever-thankful I can run or walk. At this point we rounded a turn and would pass by the finish line having to run one more mile up and back along the boardwalk. Christie and the girls were there cheering us on as we headed into the last mile.
The Last Boardwalk Mile
I could tell Josh was starting to really feel it at this point, especially since he yelled at me “Tell me a story fats!”. (Sidebar…”Fats” is our nickname for each other…it’s a long story involving childhood and a Donal Duck cartoon).
I tried to keep his mind off the last mile and even offered him a sip of my hydration drink as his had just run out. He took a sip from my pack and quickly spit it out in disgust. Only then did I realize my drink tasted like raspberry…his most hated flavor! I joked that I was just giving him an extra challenge.
Drawing closer to the finish line I glanced at my watch and saw that if we really picked up the pace, Josh stood a chance at finishing his first half-marathon under 2 hours and 15 minutes! I egged him on pretty hard and we rounded the turn, with one last push passing Christie and the girls cheering for Josh, he crossed the finish line with a final time of 2:15:05. A great performance by Josh for a first-time finish!
Josh was pretty sore after finishing…saying he really felt it on that last final 1/4 mile. I gathered up some food from the finishers tent and gave him some congratulating him on a great performance. My goal as Josh’s pacer / motivator was to let him run comfortably and keep his mind off the actual race once the miles started to get tougher. For the most part I think I did an okay job, though there were a few times he told me to slow down as bit as I got side-tracked and didn’t realize my pace had started to increase.
With all that said it was such a fun experience to run a long-distance race together. In fact not long after we signed up to run Josh’s second half-marathon together…this time out in my neck of the woods (Battlefield Half Marathon in Winchester, VA).
Official Race Results for Josh
Overall: 449 of 882
Male: 225 of 326
Age Group (M35-39): 35 of 48