As I crazily declared a month or two ago, my new running goal is to do one half-marathon a month for a year. Last Sunday, I checked number two of 12 off of my list by doing the Blue-Gray Half Marathon in Gettysburg, PA.
One of my unspoken goals for this year was to run more races outside of Philly, so this race also fit the bill for that. Since I was already going home for a bridal shower, I decided a great way to get the most out of my weekend home (other than chillin with my grandpa) would be to throw in a race. The Hershey Half and this race were both the same weekend, but I went with Gettysburg because I had heard good things and it’s a beautiful landscape if nothing else.
Since I was busy the day before, I was glad they offered race day packet pickup from 7:30-8:30am. Of course my mom and I got there super early, so there was plenty of time to pick up my packet (no lines and pretty well organized) and sit under the pavilion shivering….when did it get so cold?! I’m used to bigger races with plenty to do and look at before the start, but they just had a small tent for packet pickup and some porta potties. Luckily I told my mom to pack herself some coffee!
It was also a great time to FINALLY meet Lindsay! We have been emailing back and forth for so long now that I was thrilled when she came up to me before the start. She was there to cheer on her sister during her first half, and I know she rocked it!
The race started promptly at 9am with a starting gun, which was kind of fun. They did offer chip timing, so I wasn’t too worried about getting an accurate read on my time, so I just cranked up my Spotify and followed the crowd. What I was worried about was the hills.
As most of you probably know, Philly has zero hills. If you want to train on them, you have to search them out and since running on hills isn’t fun, why would I do that? This race was a total crapshoot for me.
In all honesty, the hills on the course weren’t that bad. I guess you could consider them “gentle rolling hills” but by the end they seemed to be constantly rolling and more mountain-shaped than anything else. The course was beautiful and there were lots of animals along the way (horses, cows, and even a cat) so between my music and the views I was set. My legs got seriously tight around mile 9 and I slowed to a walk for a little which was a HUGE mistake. It was really hard to get going again, but whatever….I’ll chalk it up to the different terrain.
As for the on course support, I thought it was great, especially for a smaller race. The water stations were mostly manned by high school students, and they were so funny and encouraging. My bib number was 1 (they did it in alphabetical order) so I got a lot of “You’re ACTUALLY number one! You can do it!” The course was also well marked, even if they didn’t completely shut down the roads during some parts (they warn you about that on the website). For safety’s sake, I took out one earbud during those portions. My only complaint about the setup was that the water stations weren’t quite where they said they were in the packet (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11.5) so you often thought you were further along until you finally saw a mile marker. All in all, not a big deal.
I had a pretty strong finish and felt great. The race was about 5 minutes off of my PR, which I was happy with considering the hills and the fact I ran my PR during marathon training when I was running much higher mileage. And since I picked the North when I signed up and so did everyone else (who in their right mind picked the South? Seriously.) I got a free coffee mug! Swag is the most important part of any race. Just kidding. Sorta.
I’d definitely consider doing this race again next year and I’m thinking about doing the North-South race in the spring. You get to run on the battlefield, which sounds like a much better way to see it than the 400 field trips I did in elementary and middle school.