Run for the Dream Half Marathon (1:27.53)

I went into the Run for the Dream half marathon as last years overall female winner.  It was the race I broke the tape at for the first time last year.  This year despite being about a minute faster I was the 3rd woman to cross the finish line. 

I guess that must be how Shalane felt after Boston.  She ran a personal best (for me it was a personal best on the course…not half PR) but there were faster people that showed up that day.  Granted I didn’t have the weight of the US running community on my shoulders but unless you’re Jeptoo then chances are there are faster people then you.  They can show up to any race.  I won’t lie that it was hard to experience that first hand but every race teaches you something.  I still had an incredible time and I think Run for the Dream is one of the best and most well organized races I add to my schedule every year.

Tim drove me to the starting line and we had a lot of extra time.  (This barely ever happens). I chatted with several people and by the time I knew it, I found myself runderwear ready and it was time to race.


The race started and I found myself immediately third female overall.  I was running faster then I was comfortable at (and I knew there were a ton of hills towards the second half of the course).  My first mile I ran with a few males and we chatted a bit.  When I hit the mile 1 at 6:14 all I could think was that was dumb real dumb.

Course elevation chart from LOLZ garmin

After the first mile, hills began and I was also dropped by everyone around.  By the second mile I had a clearing of .25 miles in front of me and .25 miles after me.  I was running in a half mile space of no mans land the entire time.  (A couple of spectators even said “how unfortunate”. It was okay on the road because I could see people up ahead as well as spectators…but unfortunately that was not the case on the trails and woods.

Mile 2 I hit at 6:29 and mile 3 at 6:26.  I was already feeling the effects of the hills and it didn’t help that I was running all by myself. To me it felt like my own personal tempo run.  It became mentally challenging for the last 10 miles.  It’s never good when you break up a half marathon as the first 5k and the last 10 miles.

Until around mile 5 we were on pavement.  It was somewhere between mile 5 and 6 that we went into some trails.  They changed the course a bit so when I headed down the trails, I immediately fell even more into my own zone.  I went close to 2 miles without seeing a single other person (not a volunteer nor another racer).  The only reason I knew I was going the right way was because of the mile markers.

I found myself needing a forever alone meme. It was so mentally hard to push myself with no spectators and no other racers in sight.  Each water stop gave me a burst of excitement.  I thought about clever things to say at each one.  (I forgot about 90% of them before getting to a water stop).

I just kept trying to tick off the miles.  I found myself looking at my watch a lot more than usual.  I failed to mention that in these woods was the biggest hill.  Mile 9 hit 6:59 and I was going into cardiac arrest climbing up the hills.  I was able to see a spectator and volunteer at the top of the largest hill.  He said good job and the water stop was coming up.  I dry heaved thank you.  I think I could probably have gotten a role as Darth Vader’s twin.

Sadly that water stop didn’t come until mile 10.  I found the human interaction of the water stop the best of anything.  It provided me with Gatorade, some side fives and quick banter.

Mile 11 and mile 12 I spent just focusing towards the end.  Around mile 12, I noticed another female beginning to catch me.  Before entering the track myself, I heard them announce the overall female winner.  You could hear the announcer from about mile 11.5 onward.  That was about 10 minutes of wishing I was laying down on the track past the finish line.


Finally we entered the track for the final 400.  If you have ever run a half marathon where the final 400 is on track…then you understand the pain.  I saw the female catching me…all I could think was…I’ve just run close to 12 miles alone and I’m going to lose a place in the last 400.  I dropped the last 400 at 5:38 pace.


I was so proud to cross the finish line as third woman overall.  I was then surprisingly greeted by both my mom and dad as well as Tim.


Cliff notes:

It was mentally tough to accept that faster people showed up that day.  My time was a minute faster then last year but I was higher in places.  I’m not upset and I think I ran an honest race.  It was certainly a new experience to race close to 12 miles by yourself and 6 miles not even seeing anyone else.  Every race has a new experience though.  No more half marathons until (probably)Rock and Roll VA Beach August 31st.  Time to get these ostrich legs a higher turnover.

The Run for the Dream half marathon is one of my favorites .  It has been well organized every time I’ve run it (3 our of 4 years it’s been held).  (No they didn’t pay me to say that).

Questions for you:

Have you ever raced by yourself?

What is the hardest course you’ve run?

This half marathon is a pretty strong contender.  The Flower City half marathon or Turning Stone half marathon (both in NY) are also not pancake flat.


  1. For some reason I find myself stuck between pace groups all of the time… I start with groups then taper off alone… it’s sooo frustrating… I guess I just have to get faster!

    The hardest course that I have run was the Cops and Joggers 5k. I know it was only 5k but it was sooooooo hilly… I literally wanted to die after mile one:(

  2. I actually ran a half and ended up in the lead but the course was not clearly marked and I had to slow down so I could figure out where to go…The trail section was nice and shady on run for the dream but it definitely must have been tough to run alone…I think third is awesome and you did better than last year…I bet you will go out and win it again next year because you are a tough cookie!!!! I was in the 1:30s last year and I am just not there now…so my dream of getting down into the 1:20s where you are is pretty much over so enjoy the awesome pace you have and be proud!!!!!

      1. I got a little roasty at the end!!!!! I did the Tromptown Half Marathon in Deruyter…I was also in the lead at the run for the sun last year and was in the middle of a dead zone where I saw no other girls in sight and then it was like they came out of nowhere and I lost by less than a minute and ended up in 3rd…this year I have been doing too many races…I went from my pr of 1:37 last year to not getting into the 1:40s…I am really bummed. I do not know what I am doing wrong except maybe just the overload of races. I liked the course on this race. I just need to simmer down. This was my 12th half since march and I have done some 5ks and 8ks…I also ran the first 5k of this in 22 minutes…oops…

  3. I’ve raced by myself a decent amount (small events), but I could almost always SEE other people. I would be nervous at a race where I couldn’t see the people ahead of me, especially for several miles like that. Plus not even seeing people along the course of a half, that would get to me. So I know why you need a forever alone meme for it. You still did a great job and even 3rd overall, a faster time is what really counts… you just had more competition during this one… you can’t ever help who shows up (or doesn’t show up… in the case if I ever win anything) on race day, you can only work to train YOUR best and put your best out there, not the others. Glad your parents could come support you too, the benefits of doing a race in their area!

  4. Awesome job despite how mentally challenging it was. I have never raced alone like that and I’m not sure I would handle it well, lol.

  5. Great recap, Hollie! I run most races alone, not in a “pack” but I always like to see other people. It helps to pass the time. Running races without the scenery seems pointless b/c the reason I sign up is for the camaraderie. I’m sorry you found yourself in that no-mans-land spot! Great pace despite that.

    The hardest course I’ve run is a Boston Prep 16 Miler in Derry NH. It is hilly and usually freezing (at the end of January). But the volunteers and turnout make it seem easier. If I were just to go run the course on a non-race day with no support it would be TOUGH.

    Awesome race result for you – congrats!

    1. Cold races seem to make everything more miserable in my opinion. NH courses from where I’ve heard (I have a friend that lives up there) that thinks they are so tough. I can only imagine.

  6. When I ran my 50K last year it was in the trails and after I left my buddy because she had to do more walking I was in no mans land – luckily I was having the time of my life…but may or may not have gotten lost a couple of times 🙂
    I cannot imagine racing alone – that is an incredible mental struggle – so great job on pushing through!

  7. Great job girl! Running alone can be so hard and when it is in a race it’s even tougher! Way to keep to your pace and not let that girl pass you in the last 400! 🙂 Way to go!

  8. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great job!!!!That is an awesome last 400! I can’t believe you still had that in you! Since we moved to Maryland I feel like every race that I have run has had hills like I am NOT used to! I did a local 5k that was hilly and then a half in PA that was hilly and I just did a half in Annapolis and it wasn’t horrible…but it was definitely hilly! My 1/2 PR is 1:32 on a totally flat course in Chicago but since moving the last 2 1/2’s have been 1:37. I did better with the hills this last race…I just need to work on them in training!!! 🙂

  9. Way to go – great job! Running alone in a race can be so tough – nobody to pace you, nobody to talk to (or make fun of in your head … that’s normal right?), etc. but great job with the course PR!

  10. Dang a half marathon of hills! Congrats on such a speedy time! I did a hill run this morning and about died 😛

  11. I cannot imagine being alone for that much of a race. I would be so nervous I was lost! Great job on a faster time. I think 3rd place is still very impressive!!! I’ve heard that Run for the Dream is pretty hilly – you get major props from me!

  12. I ran a PR at a half that only had 120 people. By mile 1 it was me and my thoughts. No radio either. Just a few cows and sheep. Closest person ahead was about 1/2 mile. Behind me I could only see 4 folks. Got real lonely.

  13. I ran my first half marathon (also my first ever race) on my own from about 0.5 miles in, but that was because I was so slow. I literally didn’t see another runner for the rest of the day – and I mean literally. By the time I finished, they’d all gone home! No joke, I was half hour behind the next slowest person. I’ve gone into all races since then, refusing to be last. So far, I’ve achieved it!

  14. Congrats on your top 3 finish on a very difficult course. I’ve run that half marathon twice and will never do it again. Heat + Hills = Misery. It always feels like the longest race known to man. Especially the last three miles. Don’t get me started on the 400 meter finish. Every time I’ve done that race the volunteers ask me if I need to go to the med tent. That’s how bad I look after.

  15. There was a small local 10k where I ran the last 3 miles alone…until I saw the first guy up ahead and thank goodness because I might have slowed down to make sure I knew where I was going! I don’t mind running sort of alone but I like to be able to follow someone as a way to try to go faster and also know where the heck to turn! Great job on that time!

  16. I know you wanted the win but I know that a course PR is a big deal as well. You are a strong runner and like you said, can’t control who shows up. I’m SOOO happy that your family and Tim were there for you, you deserve that!

  17. Ahh, I feel ya on this…I’m not quite as speedy as you (my goal is to one day sub 1:30 in a half-about 28 seconds off–and sub 20 min a 5k–about 6 seconds off) but I do a lot of small races locally and usually place. It is NOT easy to run a course PR where you’ve won previously and barely crack top three. that is something I’ve struggled with as races have grown or new (faster) runners show up. I just did a 5k Sat where I had my course PR but got schooled by a 13 year old LOL It happens and I’m so glad you were able to be thrilled about how well you did 🙂

  18. I have found myself running alone a few times in races. Its a weird feeling and I always question if I made a wrong turn or something! Great race!! Congrats on your time and bring 3rd female!

  19. I don’t remember ever racing by myself, but I’m sure it’s happened. Nice job finishing strong even though you weren’t feeling strong! Hardest course would prob be the Wolverine XC invitational at the University of Michigan. It was on their golf course and it was huge uphills and downhills the whole way, with zero flat. Pain train 5k for sure.

  20. I can definitely see how that would be challenging to look past the first place and focus more on bettering your time. Great race regardless! You always impress me 🙂

  21. Running alone is the worst — I did a 4 mile run this weekend and linked up with a male runner for the first three but it was horribly humid so he dropped back and I did the last mile alone. It was rough.

    Curious – are you having shin issues? I wear the same compression sleeves when my shin splints act up. Those sleeves are money.

      1. Ahhh. I think I mentally link them to shin pain so I try to avoid them as much as possible! I’m running a half this weekend and will definitely be sporting, at least, one. // Ps- Congrats on your race. I enjoy reading your blog and race recaps.

  22. Holly Cow Holli! THat is EXACTLY the situation I am going into tomorrow! I am racing a race I have won twice (it’s super slow) unlike you and Shalane, I know this won’t be a record for me but it kinda sucks to realize I probably won’t even place!

    On a more important note, congrats on beating your time that much, that rocks!
    I’ve never raced by myself and can only imagine how 6 ridiculously hard 6 miles of that would have been!

Comments are closed.