I signed up for this one early in the year when the prices were really cheap (I think the half was $15 without a shirt). It was supposed to be my first half until I made the last minute decision to try the Chambersburg Half. I was running this one with my sister. Her husband was also running and the had lots of other friends doing either the half or the full marathon. My husband and mom were both supposed to run the 5K but they both bailed right before it due to not wanting to get up that early and not feeling well!
I woke up early and made the hour and a half drive to Cumberland. That area is very familiar to me since I have family in the area and it's also near where I grew up. I thought I was going to be late for this one. I got on the road a little late since my husband was trying to decide if he wanted to go or not. Luckily, I still made it there in time and found my sister and brother-in-law quickly after picking up my number.
All the races (marathon, half and 5K) started together. This is a very small event yet the start of everyone together made it a bit of a cluster. My sister and I were towards the back but we still had to do lots of weaving to get past a bunch of slower 5K people. It was a short trip through the town before heading up a steep hill and onto the rail trail where the rest of the course takes place. Lots of the 5K people got confused and missed their turn off point...felt bad for those people!
The course is simple, basically once you are on the rail trail you run up the mountain. Then, the half marathoners turn around inside a tunnel (oh, exciting!) and the marathoners keep going up the mountain and eventually turn around and come back down the mountain. The grade is slight and constant. I think I saw where it's a 3% grade? I might be wrong but it was so slight that I honestly didn't feeling like I was running 'up' for the first half.
My sister stuck with me the whole way. I tried to stay slow so I wouldn't bomb out in the end since the longer distances were still very new to me. Throughout talking during the run, I somehow mentioned wanting to run a 2:00 half at some point. I knew I wasn't going to do it at this one but said I thought maybe that's what I'd try for when we do the Hoover Dam Half in October. She pretty much told me not to have any expectations for that one since it'll be a completely different environment than we are used to. However, once we hit the tunnel during Mtn. MD and saw where we were time wise, she suggested picking up the pace if I was up for it because we might be able to get somewhat close to 2:00 on this one.
As soon as we hit the turn-around, I instantly felt that we were going downhill and our pace definitely picked up. I have no idea what pace we were running at any point. I was just using my watch as a general overall picture of where we were, wasn't tracking each mile or anything. I felt great on the downhill and felt strong. I think the increased pace caught up with me though. I would guess we were about a mile or a mile and a half from the end where I started to feel myself fade.
I had my mp3 player with me but hadn't really listened to it since we were running together and talking throughout the race. But, once I felt myself start to fade a little, I told her I was going to have to turn on the music. She noticed my fading and close to the end pulled about 10 paces in front of me. She never said anything to me, just did it and then I just tried to keep up. I needed this big time and it helped tremendously! We crossed the finish line at 2:02:48. It was 7 minutes faster than the first half marathon and I was thrilled with the time!
We waited around for their friends running the marathon to come in and it felt like we walked around forever. There were lots of trips to the car, back to the finish line, looking for people, etc. It was cold that day, really cold and I didn't have the proper gear post-race. But, all in all, it was a great day. The course is very pretty. It's obviously a small event and the only people along the way are those manning the water stops, but that's fine with me!
I remember my sister saying something about doing the full next year. Don't know if we will or not but as long as I want to do another one, I think I would probably do this one!
I recovered well after it so all in all a great half marathon!