My Half Marathon Journey

Half marathons are my favorite race distance.  I don’t really have an exact reason why but I have had the most success with the half marathon distance… We like what we are most successful at right?  So I guess I truly believe the reason I love half marathons so much is that I’ve had so much success with them.  There is enough time (for me) to get warmed up and race (5 and 10ks are so short) but neverending like marathon.

I’ve raced a lot of half marathons.  I often forget them all but let me try.   Until I actually compiled this list, I had no idea how many I had actually raced.  I’ve raced a couple of 20ks too but these are all the half marathons.

April 2011 Plattsburgh (1:41) PR
April 2011 Flower City (Rochester) 1:39 PR
May 2011 Run for the Dream (Williamsburg, VA) 1:36.56 PR

Run for the Dream half 2011(Williamsburg) 1:37
Run for the Dream half 2011(Williamsburg) 1:37

March 2012 Shamrock (VA Beach) 1:33.29 PR
April 2012 Plattsburgh (1:27.17) PR and win
April 2012 Flower City (1:29)
May 2012: Run from the Sun (Watertown, NY) 1:33 Win

Myself, dad and my oldest brother Doug
Myself, dad and my oldest brother Doug

May 2012 ZOOMA Annapolis (1:31)

At ZOOMA…This might be my only centered bib ever

Sep 2012: Turning Stone Utica (1:33.33)
Feb 2013 Lake Effect Syracuse (1:31)
March 2013 Shamrock (1:25.15) PR
April 2013 Nike Women’s DC (1:24.49) PR

May 2013 Run for the Dream (1:28) Win
Sep 2013 RnR VA Beach (1:28.39)

Sep 2013 Scallywompus (San Antonio) 1:28.30 Win
Feb 2014 Lake Effect (1:25.32) Win
March 2014: Shamrock (1:25.29)

Some random fun facts:

Hottest: Scallywompus

Coldest: Lake Effect 2012


Best Swag: Scallywompus gave out a huge growler for winning.  Also Run from the Sun gave out wine tour tickets so that is definitely a bonus.  I think in general the best race swag comes from the Shamrock races though.  (That is why I keep coming back).  I cannot remember the item from 2012 (edit: It was a sweatshirt!) but last year we got a blanket and this year was a towel.  (On top of a tshirt and medal and four free beers)


Best logistics: Any that I can physically park near the start or finish.  (This probably includes all of the smaller ones).  For the amount of racers Shamrock is very good at parking and logistics too.  Actually any of the races except for DC have been great logistics wise.  The only race I didn’t care for the logistics were Nike Women’s but I am not a city person.

Biggest: Nike Women’s DC  (15,000)

Smallest: Run from the Sun (Probably around 300-400 racers?)

Best On Course Aid (water, fueling, ect): Shamrock, Nike Womens, RnR.  (The pricer ones)

Worst On Course Aid: Run from the Sun had 2 water stations and you end up being in the middle of nowhere without a single person in sight.  There were several times I hoped and preyed I was going the right way because I really didn’t know.

Coolest Medal:  Lake Effect 2014 or RnR Va Beach

Most Zoned Out: Shamrock 2014.  Where did this race go?  In the blink of an eye I was done.

**Nike Women’s gave out a Tiffany and Co Necklace but I haven’t worn it.  It’s not for me honestly.

Overall Favorite Race: Shamrock 2013 .  It was a lot of fun to watch my dad run the full marathon, hang out with my friends, I PRed and the race is fabulous.  Shamrock 2014 and Lake Effect this year are very close runner ups.

Least Favorite: While I don’t have a least favorite or any I regret doing, The Turning Stone half was pretty miserable.  Also Run for the Dream 2012, my ipod broke at the starting line.  The race was hot, hilly and it was the first race EVER that I did without music.  (It is the reason I no longer race with music and haven’t since).

So glad t have finished this one.
So glad to have finished this one (Turning Stone).  This smile is a dirty lie…or the smile of I’m going to the casino now.

States Raced in: NY, VA, TX, MD (also DC_


I’ve won 5 (Plattsburgh 2012, Run from the Sun, Run for the Dream 2013, Scallywompus, and Lake Effect 2014)

Finishing Plattsburgh
Winning Plattsburgh 2012


I’ve placed second or third in 3.

I’ve come in places 3-10 in: 5 (My most notable is 9th in Nike Womens)

And I’ve had multiple half marathons with no placements at all.

Debut half marathon:  The Plattsburgh half marathon in April of 2011.  I didn’t know what to expect honestly.  With less than a full year of running and never having done more than 10 miles beforehand I ran with friends.  I took it out at a pace I thought that seemed maintainable and it was.  I felt so confident crossing the finish line that I could achieve more.

Hilliest: Either the Flower City Half marathon in Rochester or the Run for the Dream half marathon in Williamsburg.  They both have long rolling hills.  I would honestly say that Run for the Dream felt a little harder but that is because it’s also very hot and humid.

One of my first half marathons (Flower City, Rochester).  I was in the top 10 with a time of 1:38 and I was proud...on another note that top gave me the worst chaffing I've ever had in my life.
One of my first half marathons (Flower City, Rochester). I was in the top 10 with a time of 1:38 and I was proud…on another note that top gave me the worst chaffing I’ve ever had in my life.

Most Surprising time: Lake Effect Feb 2014.  I was absolutely not expecting that time at all.


Most Surprising placement: Nike Half Marathon I was 9th overall.  It was not expecting a PR either.

Worst Chaffing: Flower City 2012 (bad top…armpit chaffing) or Shamrock 2014 (thigh chaffing was awful).

Regrettable Races: Although I didn’t have the most desirable race at Turning Stone, I’ve fully enjoyed each race.  I don’t regret any races I have ran because I have learned from each one.

Questions for you:

Have you run any half marathons?  How many?

What is your favorite racing distance? 

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  1. The logistics of Nike WM’s DC half last year was a disaster. I was near the front (thankfully), but I heard people were stuck in the tunnels and walking because of the poor planning/congestion. Somehow I ended up signed up again, so we will see how this year goes… but I’m not optimistic. The packet pickup was also super lame.

    1. I heard about that too! I had no problems with the Nike women’s course though. My problems came from packet pickup as well as how I was treated through email correspondence and therefore couldn’t bring myself to sign up for it again.

      It’s a great flat, fast course though and good look.

  2. That’s quite the half mary resume Hollie. The 5K is my most sucessfule distance however I do like going 13.1 because it allows just enough time to work yourself into a good pace but it’s not so long that you feel like you are going to die. I’ve only done two half marathons so for but I’m looking to do my third next winter 🙂

  3. Really interesting post. You’ve gotten so fast, would love to read on what you credit for your improvement in speed.
    I love half marathons too, there’s enough time and distance to start easy and then pick it up.

    1. I agree! Honestly I credit getting faster on consistently running and staying relatively injury free. I only started running in 2010 so I had a lot of room to improve.

  4. Hmm… favorite racing distance. I really liked the 8K I did, it was a fun distance to race I guess because they’re kinda rare here. Overall local 5Ks are my favorite to do because there are so many and you just see so many types of runners there, everyone from the super speedy guys who finish in 15 minutes to the Couch to 5Kers, it’s kind of inspirational to see the joy that running brings everyone.

    I’ve liked the half marathons I’ve done. 13.1 miles is definitely an accomplishment and takes training, it’s always something to be proud of training for and finishing, regardless of placements or even time. I also like that half recovery is much shorter than marathon recovery and the training for it fits in so well with life, and it’s becoming a really popular race distance (more than 10Ks).

  5. I love this post! Such a unique way to go throug all of your races. I like the categories at the bottom like worst chaffing because we all go through this !

  6. I loved this! I haven’t raced often in my ‘career’ at all but my favorite distance is probably the 10k or half.

  7. I think it’s great to look back and remember what you’ve accomplished!! I had no idea you’d ran that many half marathons, so it’s really cool to see where you’ve started and how far you’ve come 🙂 I can’t wait to have that many under my belt!

  8. Ugh, armpit chafing. I refuse to race in shirts I know cause this.
    I had no idea you ran THAT many half marathons! I’m impressed. More so because they’re all pretty good races.
    To date, I’ve only run 2. The first was great (beginners’ luck?), the second was terribly and I just barely eked out a sub-2 hour finish because my pride wouldn’t let me finish any slower. It’s taken a while to get back on track since, but I’m hoping I can turn that around this year.

  9. That is a ton of half’s with a ton of success! You rock that distance. My favorite distance is definitely the marathon – I’m really not fast and I consider and shorter distances basically sprints!

  10. I like the 10 mile and 13.1 distance, I seem to race those the most, they are the most fun. I’ve done 11 half marathons and 5 10 miles I think. I wish there was more races closer to me locally because I like sleeping in my own bed before races, although traveling to them is fun too, with Shamrock being my favorite destination at this point.

  11. At this point I can’t really imagine running anything more than a 5k, so I’m just going to go with that as my favourite racing distance 🙂 I’m actually hoping to sign up for some races this spring, so I’m definitely all sorts of excited/nervous about that. And 15,000 people at the Nike half? Omigosh I can’t even imagine 😯

  12. I ran the plattsburgh half last year!!!!! That would have been so cool if you had run it then, too!

    I think my favorite distance is a 10k. I like halves but I don’t consistently run so it’s harder for me to build up the mileage to train for a half. My least favorite is a 5k. They are not THAT much cheaper than a 10k or half and are over SO fast! It doesn’t seem like you get your money’s worth from those…

    1. AHHH. I was so torn to just give up Nike and run Plattsburgh last year too! Are you running it this year? I think Flower City might be the same weekend.

      1. probably not. It’s such a hike from rochester! We mostly did it last year just so I could see where Mike went to school.

        I haven’t even heard of flower city- I’ll have to check that out! maybe that will be motivation to start running again… are you doing it?

  13. Wow that’s amazing!! The upcoming Nike Women’s Half will be my first, and I’m so excited! Overall, how did you like it? That’s amazing that you placed 9th out of 15,000! My favorite distance is anything MORE than 5 miles- not specific, I know, but once I’m in my zone, it feels so good to just keep going, like you’re not tired at all! It’s funny how I once used to look at 5 miles as a lot when I first started running, but now it seems like such a short distance!

    1. I liked the race course a lot. It’s very flat and fast but the logistics weren’t my favorite. I waited in a mile long (literally it was 1.03 long…I garmined) for the packet which was rather frustrating.

  14. I have raced in about 6 half marathons. I used to love running, but I think I got burnt out. Maybe after recovery, I will be back at it! What I wouldn’t give to run right now haha

  15. You’re a beast! In a good way, of course. So cool to see how you’ve improved so much in just a couple of years. You make me reeeeeally want to stay injury-free for an extended period of time so I can improve my times. I like the 10k-half marathon distance, because you can recover relatively quickly and race more often. I wish there were more 10k’s around!

  16. I’ve only ran one! I just don’t have the funds for them right now but I can’t wait till my next one hopefully it happens this year!

  17. I do like the half distance, I won’t be doing any anytime soon, but will get back to them next year. I do have to say, though, with times like yours I am so surprised you haven’t placed in ALL of them! You are so speedy! I know sometimes it is just luck of the draw and who decided to show up on race day – I once placed third in a 10K with a time of like 51:XX which to me would never seem like a placing time, but I just happened to be the third fastest that day!

  18. I have done 4 halfs! I love the distance and am currently training for my first full which happens in a month or so. I would love to see a post about how you have been able to shave nearly 20 minutes off your first half marathon time. It is truly impressive! 🙂

      1. That makes me feel good! I’ve been consistently running about 2 years (only reaaalllly consistently since August) and I’ve shaved 6 minutes off my half time. The half gets easier each time I do it and I’m able to run a smarter race. 🙂 I find your blog so motivating!

  19. Quite a journey so far! Nice!
    I’m not sure how may I’ve run off hand – around 12 I think. Need to go back and check.
    Fave distance is probably the one 10 mile race I did. Mostly because it didn’t have that pesky .1 at the end!

  20. LOVE this. I started running last year and my first and only half so far (unless you count virtuals) was Baltimore in October. By early Feb I had knocked like 8 minutes off my time aaaand then I got hurt so it’s been a bit of an uphill battle since then. I was supposed to run another in early May, but I have a full at the end of that month so I opted out due to the injury and not knowing how the heck my training is going to go.

    I just ran a 15K yesterday and I’m so out of shape that I felt like I was going to die at the end, but I actually really like that distance a lot. So I’m thinking anything between a 15K and a half would be my favorite.

  21. I am a statistics guy so I enjoyed reading this. Shamrock gave a hoodie in 2012 (40th anniversary) and they also give finisher hats – the only race I know that gives TWO finisher awards in addition to the medals.
    You made me count my halfs… 13 (I ran more fulls)

  22. I actually hate half marathons. There, I said it, and I hate them because I have such a great (for me) PR at the distance, and now I can’t get anywhere near it. It’s a constant reminder of the runner I used to be, but will likely never be again. It taunts me with the potential that has been taken away by injuries and my inability to deal with them without resorting to food. So, the half represents everything negative about my running for me…as does the 10K, but to a slightly lesser extent because I feel that shorter distances are less of an achievement, regardless of time (I know, my head is messed up). Half marathons involve so much pain and anxiety for me that I have been physically sick before them, simply due to nerves…you’d think I wouldn’t put myself through so many on that basis (I’ve run 16 of them to date, but only two good ones…) but I keep on coming back and just hoping that maybe one day my leg will magically be okay and not ruin my race. It never happens.

    I used to love the Marathon distance, and I’d say it’s still my favourite because it feels like such a journey, and the sense of happiness afterwards cannot be matched…however, I’m so worried about the Marathons I have coming up this year, and about not even being able to finish, that I’m not sure any distance is really my favourite any more 🙁

    If I was half the runner you are, I think I’d love ALL distances. There are very few runners who can kick butt at every distance from the 5K to the Marathon like you can.


    1. The marathon kicked my butt LOL.

      I think I like half marathons for the same reason that you loathe them. They are the perfect combination of endurance and speed. I also think 5ks are the most painful race.

      I really hope your leg feels better soon. You deserve it!

  23. I’m diggin’ the half myself…I only have 3 under my belt (2 Shamrocks and 1 RnR VB), but I look forward to adding more. I think I like it because it keeps me honest…I have to train for it and I have to hit the weights to stay healthy for it, which keeps me good and fit. Now that I have a marathon on my resume, I can really see that the half is still a badass distance without turning me into a crazy person for 16 weeks! Thinking a race in NY is something I need to do soon 🙂

  24. What a fun post! I agree, half marathons are awesome, they’re the perfect distance.

    Seeing all of your pictures in your summer clothes, make me long for warmer weather. I’m so over this cold!!!!

  25. ‘Worst on course aid’- lol Hollie, you are awesome. What’s more epic is your finishing times.

    My favourite races are the ones where you turn up and they tell you it got cancelled because of the weather. Just keeping it real 😉

  26. Ah, look at little Hollie in the 2011 throwback! Holy cow, those are a ton of races. In terms of road races, I really like the 10-K distance, but when running off the bike, I kind of want to go farther–like a 15-K would be interesting to try.

  27. You ran 1:41 at your first half?! That is amazing ! You not only started racing halves super fast but you have continued to get faster. Very awesome!

    I’ve run 11 half marathons but haven’t trained for one in particular for about 3 years – I always run one on the way to a marathon or afterward when I’m recovering/taking down time (and am therefore out of shape!). Right now though I’m training specifically for a June half and hoping for a good race! I do love the distance! Challenging but not brutal like the full.

  28. Halfs are defiantely me favorite too, though I’ve never run a 10 miler and am dying to! Shorter races just hurt too darn much haha. That Run From the Sun with two remote aid stations sounds rough!

  29. I love this, and love that I was there for a few of these (even the flower city ones, even though that was before we were friends lol). I think HM is a great distance for you- you have really learned how to run it best for you and can’t wait to see you kill that PR this year!

    I think I have done 16 halves- I do love the distance, it’s tied for second with 5 mile.

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