Race Report: 2017 Huntersville Half Marathon

When I was setting my goals for 2017, I didn’t know if I would get in to the New York City Marathon. I figured, well, if I don’t get in to NYC, I’ll just do a fall half, which is why one of my goals was “6 races, with at least 2 that are 13.1 or greater.” Well, I did get in to New York City, but wasn’t able to finish. I obviously didn’t plan for that scenario. I mean, at the time I entered the lottery for New York City, I had started and completed 26 races, so the thought of a DNF never crossed my mind. After New York City, when I realized I would fall short of my race goal, I realized that if I ran a half marathon in December, I could still hit that goal. I went looking for local half marathons in December, and found the Huntersville Half Marathon. I asked around about it, and heard good things, so I decided to sign up.

They had Thursday (and Friday) packet pickup at Fleet Feet Sports in Huntersville, but that would involve driving up to Huntersville on either Thursday or Friday evening during rush hour traffic. So I opted for race day packet pickup.

I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary on race morning, other than make sure the weather conditions were OK. Friday night, we got a dusting of snow, but it only stuck to the grass, the roads were just wet, and it stayed (barely) above freezing, so there were no issues getting there. Even in perfect weather, it’s a bit of a haul from my house (about 35 minutes), so I did have to allow a little extra time for travel, and for packet pickup.

There was a footbridge between the recommended parking lot and the starting area, and that did get some snow and ice accumulation. To their credit, the race organizers shoveled and salted the bridge, so it was passable, if a bit nerve racking.

Packet pickup was pretty easy. I got my bib and my race hoodie, pictured here.

Yes, I had to go back across the footbridge so I could put the hoodie in my car, but that also allowed me to sit in my still fairly warm car and attach my bib. And then one last trip across the bridge, although thanks to the volunteers working on the bridge, it got a little better each time I had to cross it.

I need to give a shout out to Fleet Feet Sports Huntersville for opening up before 8 AM on a Saturday so the runners could stay warm before the start. It was around 34 degrees outside, and spending a few minutes inside was really nice.

Going in, my half PR was (and, spoiler alert, still is) 2:08:01. I didn’t think I had a 2:08 race in me, but I saw that they had 2:10 pacers, so I figured I’d try to hang with them and see what happens.

OK, so you don’t have to do the math, the required pace for a 2:10 half is 9:54.9. Remember that number.

Before the start, they did something that I don’t think I’ve seen at any other races. They played a recording of the National Anthem. It seems like every other race I’ve done either had someone there to sing it, or they just skipped it altogether.

Of course I took a picture before the start.

Mile 1: 9:51

The first mile was pretty crowded. When I saw my time of 9:51, I though, OK, that’s reasonable. I stayed with the pacers through mile 2, and then I looked down at my watch to see how fast we went…

Mile 2: 9:20

(More math: A 9:20 average pace in a half will get you 2:02:21. That’s…significantly less than 2:10)

At that point, I backed the hell off, and probably cursed the pacers under my breath. But the damage was done. My pace slowly crept up over the rest of the course.

Mile 3: 9:57
Mile 4: 9:54
Mile 5: 9:58
Mile 6: 9:59

I hung in there for a while. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible.

Mile 7: 10:45

There were some rolling hills throughout the course, but there was one fairly decent climb at around 7.75 miles, and that slowed me down. Compared to some of the other Charlotte area races, besides the big hill here, the hills weren’t too terrible overall. (Charlotte has a lot more hills than you might think.)

Mile 8: 10:23
Mile 9: 9:58
Mile 10: 10:23
Mile 11: 10:20

I’m not sure what happened on Mile 9, but clearly it was a fluke. I was definitely struggling through here. That crazy pace on Mile 2 was definitely affecting me.

Mile 12: 11:18

Oof. Not good at all.

Mile 13: 9:44
Last 0.18: 9:26

I did manage to speed up a little bit at the end, and Mile 13 was my second fastest mile of the race (and the fastest without the influence of bad pacers). An extra 0.08 for a half marathon isn’t too bad. I can live with that. So at least I finished strong.

My official time was 2:13:32.93. (10:11/mile average pace) Still good for my 3rd fastest half ever, and the two faster ones were on much easier courses, so there’s that. Also, I held on to my car key.

Oh, and late in the race, it started snowing. It was still just above freezing, so it didn’t stick, but it did make things very festive. (If you look closely, you can see some snowflakes on my shoulders in that picture.)

After the race, I got some water and a banana. I honestly can’t remember what else they had at the finish (that’ll teach me to wait so long to write a recap).

The finish line was across a fairly busy street from the starting area, and it was probably about a half mile walk to get back to my car. The distance wasn’t that bad, but once I stopped running, I got really cold. I wish they had done a bag check, then I could have had something warm to put on after the race. I survived the cold walk to my car, though.

Overall, I was a little disappointed, and I admit I was kind of mad at the pacers, but it wasn’t a completely terrible performance, all things considered. I did meet my “6 races, with at least 2 that are 13.1 or greater” goal, so there’s that. And I finished, which, after New York City, I no longer take for granted. It was a fun race, and I’m curious what I could do if I paid closer attention to my pace and didn’t try to run freaking 9:20 on the 2nd mile. Maybe I’ll go back and try it again some day.

Vital Stats

Full Name of Race: Huntersville Half Marathon
Location: Birkdale Village, Huntersville, NC
Date and Time of Race: December 9, 2017, 8:00 AM
Bib Number: 8044
Official Finishing Time: 2:13:32.93 chip time (2:14:07.42 gun time). 554th of 919 Overall, 316th of 428 Men, 61st of 80 in Age Group (Male 40-44)