Hilton Head Half Marathon
Running, Training, Training Sub 1:25

Hilton Head Half Marathon (1:31.13)

Hilton Head Half Marathon (1:31.13)

Last week, my husband and I took a trip to Hilton Head. I was looking at various winter races and thought the Hilton Head Half Marathon would be fun. We’ve been to the West Coast twice and Arizona twice, so we wanted something different. Typically I like to take a winter vacation to break up January and February. I don’t love the winter, so this gives me a short recoup time. The winter in 2020 hasn’t been winter at all, but we still decided to go down to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Our flights down to Hilton Head were bumpy but fine. We got one of the last planes out of Charlotte before a tornado hit. We arrived on beautiful Hilton Head Island Thursday morning. We did a short shakeout run where I felt like garbage (10-minute miles were pushing it for me). On Friday, we ran again and felt a little better.

The Hilton Head Island Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8k all started at Jarvis Creek Park at 8 am. The course takes participants through two parks on beautiful Hilton Head Island and is supposedly an overall scenic certified course. To me, it was scenic in some spots, but at least half of the race was on a highway or through narrow windy bike paths.

Overnight the weather went from being about 45 at the race start to 39. I didn’t have a hat or gloves, so I stopped at a local Walmart and picked up some stuff. Luckily the $3 headband is actually nice and didn’t get any ear chaffing.

The Hilton Head Half Marathon, Marathon and 8k all start at the same spot at 8 am. While the start has plenty of space, the race does funnel into a lot of small bike paths. During the first mile, I didn’t know who was racing what. We went around a turn and I hit the first mile of the Hilton Head Half Marathon at 6:55. I didn’t feel good or bad and just tried to get comfortable.

The second mile started to spread out and felt like I finally got some space. It was uneventful, and I ran in 6:45. I thought I might have the fitness to be below 1:30, but that didn’t happen.

During the third mile, the 8k broke off, so I was able to see who was in front of me. I didn’t know if they were running the full or half, but I estimated I was around 6th female.

The next few miles of the Hilton Head Half Marathon went by without a lot of anything. I kept to myself and was ran alone. There were people about 20 seconds ahead and 20 seconds behind, but no one around.

I ran mile 3 in 6:58, mile 4 in 6:57, mile 5 in 6:58.

It was fun to run under a toll booth and I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that. I knew there were two climbs in the Hilton Head Half Marathon, but I didn’t know what that meant. I hadn’t run the course, nor really researched it.

Then during mile 6, I quickly realized what it meant. We were climbing up and over the bridge. It gained about 100 feet of elevation in about 1/3 of a mile. It was tough, but I just told myself: “2 minutes of your life”. I climbed over the bridge, passed someone and went sailing down the other side. I hit mile 6 at 6:51, which I was pleasantly surprised with.

Mile 6-7 of the Hilton Head Half Marathon was my least favorite part of the race. There were no less than 12 turns on a narrow, windy course. I felt like I couldn’t get any rhythm and it was just one sharp turn after another. Then we headed into a muddy section of the race. That entire mile made me feel like garbage. I started negatively thinking: “well, that’s it,” the race is done. I ran a 7:08 mile.

The next mile went back onto roads and into a headwind. I was running with a young kid who kept me more motivated and engaged in the race. I hit mile 8 of the Hilton Head Half Marathon at 6:59, which I was happy with. Getting back under 7 made me feel like mile 6 was “just a fluke” with the turns.

Mile 8 of the Hilton Head Marathon was spent weaving around marathoners. We caught back up to those running about a 4-hour marathon and between the narrow streets and weaving, I ran a 7:09. I don’t mind when races overlap, but having them overlap on narrow bike paths is unacceptable and dangerous for everyone.

Ater getting back on the road, mile 9 of the Hilton Head Half Marathon went back over the bridge. I was running with marathoners. I just tried to keep to the left to minimize weaving but this also meant I was closer to cars passing by. The bridge went by quickly and before I knew it, I hit mile 10 at 1:09.30. I was happy that it was 30 seconds faster than the ten miler I recently did. Progress, I thought.

Then I told myself just a 5k to go. We went back down into narrow paths, and I weaved around marathoners on the windy roads again. I was just frustrated that we didn’t have more space.

Finally, we got back onto the main road and it opened up. I was happy to just have room to run again. I told myself 2 miles to go. You can run hard, blow up, and pick up the pieces for a mile. So I did. I just ran as hard as my body would allow. It didn’t feel good or bad, but indifferent. My breathing felt fine and I never felt like I was redlining it. I hit mile 11 of the Hilton Head Half Marathon in 6:44, which was my fastest.

During the last mile of the Hilton Head Half Marathon, I was trying to keep the momentum going. I passed a young kid and a few walkers from the 8k. We cut across the grass and went back down to the narrow paths. I thought I could break 1:31 and I desperately wanted too. I just ran as hard as I could.

I ended up crossing the Hilton Head Half Marathon in 1:31.13. I got the race at about 13.15 on GPS and most people got it longer.

Hilton Head Half Marathon Thoughts:

While I feel like I’m in faster shape than a 1:31 half marathon, it was a tough day. The weather was ideal but several spots on the course made it tough to get into a rhythm. I’m not sad or upset about my time, but I am looking to improve it. Sadly, the Hilton Head Half Marathon might be one of the few Half Marathons that I’ve run that doesn’t do race photos? I don’t think the Hilton Head Half Marathon was my least favorite course of any half marathon, but I don’t think I would run it again. The number of turns and congestion on the narrow paths made it less enjoyable than anticipated.

Questions for you:

Have you ever run a half marathon on narrow roads?

Have you been to Hilton Head? Have you run the Hilton Head Half Marathon?