Beat 539 Half Marathon (1:25:28)

Last Saturday I ran the base half marathon which was also called the “Beat 539 half marathon”.  The full marathon runs along Route 539 and if you have to run faster than 5 hours for 19 miles.

The full is USATF certified, and on a good weather day, it’s a fast course (minimal wind, blocked road, flat).  Since there were several races that weekend: (Atlantic City as well as the Perfect 10 Miler), all of the races had a small turnout.  There were about 200 people who ran the half marathon and 100 that ran the full.

My dad came up as well last weekend to visit.  Together we drove to Lakehurst base for the start of the half.  Since it was on base, the entire car was searched back to front.  (Even though we were both military).  When we got there, we headed to the fitness center where the other runners were.  Around 7:30, everyone headed outside.  I had no idea why and by the time I knew it, we were the only ones in the building.

I didn’t want to head outside, but I also didn’t want to be the only ones inside. It was pouring rain, 40 degrees and windy. Once I went outside, I realized everyone was walking close to a mile (yes a mile) to the start line.

Beat 539 half marathon start
Before we knew we were getting delayed

After getting to the start line in the pouring rain, the race was postponed.  There was flooding along the course due to the storm and the race director informed us there were sections that were completely flooded over.  By 8:30, I was freezing, miserable and not even wanting to run. For those who don’t know, I don’t run well in the rain.  I would rather run when it’s 100 degrees than when it’s 40 degrees and rainy.

Unfortunately this year alone I’ve run Shamrock half marathon, Broad Street 10 miler and this race in the pouring 40-degree rain.  So life is trying to make me love the rain.  Due to my luck, I bought a Gortex jacket and haven’t looked back.

To the race: once we started at 8:41, I was cold and miserable.  I wasn’t warmed up, and I didn’t feel good.  My goal was to run 6:40-6:50 the first half and try and hammer down after that.  Due to weather, I wouldn’t be disappointed if that didn’t happen.

I felt stiff during the first two miles.  My legs were tired; I was shivering, and I was just trying to warm up.  I was running in a pack of about four people.  There was one male leader ahead followed by my pack.  The course went through a few rolling hills, and I ran a 6:40 then 6:43.

Around mile 3, I found myself with one other male.  We were running alone with the first male way far ahead.  It was the last time I would run with anyone.  Around mile 4 I left him and ran the entire race all by myself.  That’s what happens with small races, though.

From mile 4-6, we were running on a couple different runways and roads.  It was a lot of side wind and not much view.  It was boring, lonely and honestly mentally challenging.  There were no spectators except several military personal passing out water every other mile.

I noticed cones going in the opposite direction, and I was excited.  It meant that there was an out and back portion and I would get to see other runners.  Out and back courses typically motivate me and seeing other runners motivate me too.  I’m a talkative runner and people cheer for me; I cheer for them too.  Out and back courses generally pump me up.

As I headed around mile 6, we entered a soft muddy ground.  I assumed this would be the portion that was flooded over and caused the delayed start.  The next mile was muddy were soft.  My feet sunk in but it wasn’t flooded (yet).  Then I saw the flooded section.  There was no way around it, and I just closed my eyes, cursed about 20 vulgar words under my breath and charged straight through.  It was about ankle deep.

There was another flooded section, and I charged through that too.  After that, I mentally regrouped.  I hit the halfway point in 43:40.

My A goal at the halfway was to drop the hammer and negative split the race.

My B goal was to maintain the same pace and be under 1:28.

My C goal was to finish because and not have a situation like Shamrock earlier this year.  As you can see, that race haunts me. 

And then for me, the race began.  The second half of the race went by much faster than the first.  I ran mile 7 in 6:16 and I began feeling confident.  I felt as if I had finally warmed up.  Mile 8 and 9 were both at 6:16 too.  Since I was running the race entirely by myself, there isn’t a lot to say.  I could see the overall male about 30 seconds in front of me.  I wanted to catch him!

During mile 11, we rounded a turn, and I could see the finish line.  Since the base is open (Lakehurst is a flight base so there are very few trees and you can see for miles), I could see the finish line 2 miles away.

The finish line is at the moment of the famous Hindenburg disaster.  Before the race, I actually did not realize that happened in New Jersey.  The blimp hanger is huge (over 300 feet tall and 900 in length), so you can see that for a lot of the race.

hindenburg disaster
Image via Weird New Jersey

It felt like we were almost done, but anyone running a half marathon can tell you, 2 miles is a long way.  I guess I was overly motivated and ran a 6:07 11th mile.

As we rounded a turn into mile 12, it hit me.  It began hailing, and there was a significant headwind.  It was blowing me backward as I tried to progress forwards.  Except mile 16 at the NYCM, it was one of the hardest miles I’ve run.  It was windy, hailing and I could see the finish line.  It just wasn’t coming any closer.

Base half marathon me running

My effort was still high but due to the wind, I ran the last mile in 6:40.   Finally, I crossed the finish in 1:25.29.  I quickly grabbed warmed clothing and changed afterward.

Thoughts:

After racing Runners World 5k and Half last weekend, I wasn’t expecting to be faster.  With the weather, I got everything I wanted out of the race.  If you are looking for a flat, fast marathon, I recommend it.

Questions for you:
Rain: Love it or hate it?
What is the smallest race you’ve run?  How about the biggest?
I think the Run from the Sun half in Watertown, NY was a little smaller but this is one of the smallest halves I’ve run. 

Have you ever had a delayed race start?