Originally, my trip to Boston was supposed to be centered around Vera and me running the Boston Half Marathon. Sadly, due to a work conflict, that weekend didn’t work out. I ended up scheduling the trip for Sept 28 – Oct 4 because I wanted to go in the fall and Southwest had the cheapest fares on those days. We still wanted to run a half marathon together, and decided on the Applefest Half Marathon, since it was only an hour away (so we wouldn’t need to book a room at a hotel or B&B) and not sold out (unlike the Smuttynose Half).

Anyway, I was nervous about the Applefest Half. I didn’t check it beforehand, but the elevation was a bit hillier than what my Midwestern legs are used to. I was scared.

This would be my third half marathon. My first two were slow (2:48 at my first because I didn’t really know how to train [um … run more than once a week] and 2:34 at my second since I was gun shy after my poor showing at my first half). So I was hopeful that I could run a personal record for this race. This year I’ve done two 10+ mile [flat] races at a pace below 11:00.

Vera runs ultramarathons, so going into the race, I told her she could run at her own pace if she wanted, but she wanted us to run together. And I didn’t want a time that would completely embarrass her, so more motivation to do well.

The race started at 10am, but parking was remote with buses, so we got there around 8am and got to the start around 8:30am. The start was at a high school, and after picking up our bibs and shirts, we hung out in the gym until start time. Because it was raining. Yay.

Applefest Half Marathon
Good thing our Garmins are different colors. What if we swapped them
and I downloaded her data to my Garmin connect? RUNNERD DILEMMA.

By the time the race started, the rain had stopped. The start of the race was a small loop back by the high school, and then a bigger loop. Eventually it started raining again.

Applefest Half Marathon
Start of the race. See those hands up? That’s me.

The course was beautiful. Up and down rolling hills, through heavily wooded sparsely populated residential areas. The volunteers were very friendly, especially at the water stops. Despite the rain, they had a lot of energy.

I tried to keep our pace slow, knowing we had some hills to tackle. For me that meant keeping our pace at the low end of or below my half marathon effort. I did a good job of that more or less, but running with Vera did push me to go a bit faster than I would have had I run alone.

Also, I kept chatting during the race and Vera told me that meant we should go faster. I quickly stopped talked (we also hit the biggest hills around that point).

Just past mile 8, the biggest uphill climb starts, and lasts until past mile 10. We ran the entire thing (well, the entire race), and passed a lot of people who were walking at that point. We passed one guy who we chatted with during the first or second mile, and he admitted he didn’t know the course was so hilly. I don’t know if ignorance would help you out in this case. Probably not.

Photo by Steve Wolfe

The course was not closed, but for most of it either one lane was blocked off, or it wasn’t a busy street. Except for the last two miles. Those were along the local highway / main street, and were completely open to traffic. It was a little weird running on the side of the road, mostly in single file.

We finished in 2:22:38, which was actually my goal time for the Rock ‘n Roll Half in August (our time for that ended up being 2:34). Overall I was 736/859; in our age group I was 83/95. So yeah, I’m still slow, but not as slow as I used to be. This was a personal record for me!! Like I said, I did so poorly/mediocre at my first two half marathons, that I was pretty sure I would PR at this race. Even with the hills. It was probably a personal worst for Vera … she runs ultramarathons. At a 9-something pace.

I was happy to get a silver mylar blanket at the end. I felt like a Serious Runner.

Applefest Half Marathon
Serious Runners

Vera suggested keeping it and bringing it with me to keep warm at the start of my next race, and then discarding it. I’m posting that here because I think it’s a great idea.

The finishers medals were also bottle openers:

Finishers medal is a bottle opener.
Adorable AND practical

The post-race food was good: apple crisp, bagels, bananas, apples, yogurt, cookies, Powerade, pretzels … possibly more.

All around it was a good race, and I’m happy with my performance. I kind of want to sign up for another half (or similar distance race) sooner rather than later (later would probably be May 2012) just to see how much better I can do on flatland. But these races are expensive. I’m planning to do a 4 miler on Thanksgiving, and I might just focus on training for that distance for the next two months. More speed than endurance. And then I can focus on running an awesome half in May (which is the first half I ever did).