Saturday, March 8, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Chambersburg Half Marathon

This morning I completed my eleventh half marathon in Chambersburg, PA. Matthew and I added this race to our calendar for two major reasons: 1) It was super cheap- $55. 2) It was 10 miles from our house. I wanted to do this race because I am trying to "moon up" in Half Fanatics (basically reach the next level of fanaticism) and I needed one more half before the Shamrock Half Marathon next weekend to do so.

We signed up online for this race a few weeks ago. In doing pre-race research I discovered that this race was small- less than 300 participants- and over 80% finished in two hours or less. There was an option to purchase the race for $40 (no t-shirt) or $55 with a long-sleeved gender specific shirt. We chose the shirt option.

We arrived at Chambersburg Middle School at 7:30 am to pick up our bibs and shirts. We also picked up some flyers for upcoming races and chatted with some friends that were also running the race. It was a little cold this morning so we stayed inside until the race was about to begin.

Ready to race!

Around 8:20, everyone moved outside and directed us towards the start. There was no starting line, just an area where the race director was speaking through a megaphone. He explained that this was an open course meaning that traffic would be on the roads and that we needed to run single file as much as possible. Headphones were also not allowed at this race because we would be running in traffic. Both Matthew and I wore headphones for music- we just kept the volume low and only had one earbud in.

After a moment of silence for a member of the Chambersburg Road Runners Club who had passed away a few years ago (the race was dedicated to him), the director shouted "Go!" and off we went! I started in the back of the pack knowing that I would soon be alone on the course. With another half next weekend, I was planning on running this one pretty slow and hoped to finish somewhere around 2:50- 3:00. The course limit was three hours.

Bye, speed racers! See you at the finish line!

There were about three people in the back with me- one behind me and two in front of me. We were all spread out over about a half mile distance. By about mile one, I caught up to one of the gentlemen in front of me. I was pretty sure I had seen him at another local 10k this year. I got close enough to ask him and sure enough, he was the same guy I'd seen at the Christmas Dash for Cash a few months ago. Turns out, he's also a Half Fanatic and I'd actually emailed him a few days ago because I had seen his name listed on the Half Fanatic website as running this race. We chatted for a few minutes about running and local races, wished each other a good race, and then I pulled ahead.

Just after mile 3, I could see the first of many major hills. I asked a volunteer if the upcoming hill was a joke and he just laughed. Ugh. This course was advertised as "rolling hills with a few challenging hills." Yeah. Right. This was by far, the most challenging half course I've ever ran. I don't think there was ever a time when it was flat.

Hard to see, but there's a course volunteer on the left and a giant hill on the right in the distance.

This course was a simple loop with a short half mile out and back section. While I was running towards mile 7 on the out and back, I was able to catch up with Matthew for a few moments.

Always cheesin :-)

I reached the turn around point and there were these awesome cows so close to the fence. I HAD to take a selfie with them!

The benefit (?) to running in PA.

After having my day made by the cows, I returned back to my focus of getting to the finish line. There were lots more hills on the way back- mile 10 nearly killed me. Fortunately, the training montage from Rocky IV, "Danger Zone," and "Eye of the Tiger" all helped push me along. I love my playlist :-)

If you look closely, you can see a runner in a pink shirt ahead of me. Mile 10 is at the top.

As I approached mile 11, I was getting closer and closer to the runner that had been in front of me the entire race. I could tell she was slowing down and didn't seem to be having a good race at the time. Around 11.5, I caught up to her and asked her if she was ok. She said she was just tired and ready to be done. I wished her well and continued on. I was feeling strong- I had been running 12- 12:30 minute miles and felt really good. I knew I was going to finish this race within the time I had wanted to.

As we got closer to miles 12 and 13, I started to recognize where we were. Another runner was in front of me. She must have slowed down considerably because for the majority of the race, I could only see the woman in pink in front of me. I wanted to pass her before the finish. Just as we rounded the last corner, a volunteer let us know we were only .25 miles from the finish line. I kicked it up a notch and passed her.

I could see the finish line and could see Matthew standing there cheering me on a little before the finish. He ran up next to me and said "You are going to beat 2:50!" And I yelled back, "I'm gonna crush 2:45!" And then I sprinted to the finish, got my medal and looked at my watch- 2:43:30. My third best half marathon time on a hilly course. Not too shabby :-)

We stopped for a few pictures and then went back into the school to get some water and pizza. They had a quick awards ceremony and everything was finished by noon. There was also a vendor there selling tech t-shirts with fun sayings- Runtelligence. I bought something for next weekend and I'm really excited to wear it!

Happy finishers!

Not my favorite medal, but well-earned.

Runners waiting for their awards.

Pros of this race- low entry fee, long-sleeved shirt, GREAT volunteers- seriously, they were cheering for every runner, even those of us in the back of the pack. I got lots of compliments on my Sparkle Athletic skirt. There were also four water/Gatorade stops.

Cons of this race- HILLS! Lackluster medal, no port-a-potties, and an open course. There were several times when I was worried about being hit by a car because of the limited visibility on some of the hills. And some jerk drivers who were driving way too fast on the back roads.

One of many spots of limited visibility on the course.

Overall, I felt strong in this race. I was shooting for 13 minute miles and ended up pacing 12:29/mile. And this felt really nice and easy for me. I never felt weak or tired. I took a Gu at mile 5 and again at mile 8. I also ate a sandwich and had a cup of coffee before the race- I think I did really well with fueling on this course.

Medal, race shirt, and my sparkle skirt :-)

Will I do this race again? Probably not. It was challenging, and I did it, but I don't need to do it again. Matthew agrees. We did talk about volunteering next year for this race, just no need to run those hills again :-)

Elevation from MapMyRun.

With this race behind me, I'm focusing on the Shamrock Half Marathon and Dolphin Challenge next weekend. Virginia Beach, here we come!

Are you doing any St. Patrick's Day races?

Happy running!


  1. Haha. I have those songs on my iPod too! That Rocky IV soundtrack is a gem when it comes to motivation.
    I have a St Patrick's 5K next weekend. I wish there was a bigger race around here for the holiday, but I'll take whatever I can wear my green socks to!

    1. Yes! Rocky is always motivating for me :-) And we are traveling about six hours for Shamrock. But I have green socks too and I just have to wear them :-) Good luck with your 5k!

  2. Congratulations on the race. I'll be missing out on the Shamrock races in Atlanta this time around. Love your race recaps and look forward to the next one!

  3. Way to go Sarah! I would have been so scared of some of those blind spots/hills!

    1. Yeah, they were pretty scary! And because I'm a "back-of-the-pack" runner, I was alone on the course the majority of the time. I just kept trying to get up to the top of the hill as soon as possible so if a car was coming, I would be able to see it and they'd be able to see me :-)

  4. Thanks for the write-up! I'm looking forward to running the Chambersburg Half next weekend.