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Run to Read Half Marathon (Fairmont, WV)

The Run to Read Half Marathon took place at 2:00pm on a beautiful, wintry Sunday afternoon on January 5, 2014.  There was no precipitation with temps in the 40’s with no wind, so I thought it was perfect weather.  However, as the sun went down, it did start cooling off a little.  The entry fee for the race was between $25 to $40, depending on how early you registered.  The proceeds from the event went to the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, a very worthwhile and deserving organization.

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The organizers were hoping for 400 participants, which they came fairly close with 268 people finishing the race.  The beginning of the race was very crowded on the narrow course, so another 100+ people would have made it very packed.  But more about this issue later.  There were runners from all over West Virginia and several other states.  The ages ranged from 13 to 69, so there was a good representation in each age category.

R2R Half4The race was held at the historic site of Prickett’s Fort.   It is a “rustic log fort and is a re-creation of the original Prickett’s Fort of 1774, which served as a refuge from Native American war parties on the western frontier of Colonial Virginia.”

The course itself is one of the unique aspects of this race, especially since it is held in West Virginia.  This course is almost completely flat.  The most gain in elevation my running app showed was 200 feet during mile 10, which for anyone who has run in this state knows that is very minimal.  This made for a pleasant flat, fast course.  A former railroad track, the course has been converted into a rail-to-trail to include bridges, a tunnel and beautiful scenic views of the river and woods.  Less than 5 miles of the course was asphalt, with the remainder being crushed limestone.  The park crew had cleared the majority of the trail of snow and ice the day before the race, so on race day there were minimal icy spots, and a little mud in a few places.  The crew did an awesome job prepping the course to make it safe for the runners. 😀

The race was well run by the director and committee.  The volunteers were friendly and always helpful and supportive.  With this many participants, I’m sure it took a lot of work to organize it so well, so the race crew definitely gets a two-thumbs-up.  The post-race event was awesome.  Since it was chip timed, awards were handed out as soon as the winners crossed the finished line, so there was no need for everyone to wait until all runners had finished.  But there was lots of great food…. including hot chili, fruit and more following the race.  There’s not much better than a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter’s day.

As for how I did… well, I didn’t set a PR which kinda bummed me out since the course was so flat and fast.  But over the Thanksgiving and R2R HalfChristmas holidays, I ate too much and didn’t stick to my training as I should have.  So I paid for it during the race.  I finished 212th overall and 5th in my age group, with a time of 02:23:11 (4 minutes slower than the half marathon I ran 5 weeks earlier).  The bling wasn’t too bad… everyone received a finisher’s medal, and instead of T-shirts we got a toboggan and gloves.  The toboggan had the Run to Read logo embroidered on it and is very well made.

I really liked this race as it allowed me to kick off the new year with a major run.  The flat, fast course was a pleasant change of venue as it was nice for once to not worry about the hills…. you could just set your pace and run.  A couple of things I feel could use some attention was in regard to the beginning of the race.  The start line was overcrowded, and I was surprised no one was knocked down.  On top of that, some of the speed walkers were in the middle of the pack, holding people up (one of my biggest race pet peeves!).  I wonder if waves of runners according to past race pace could be set up so smaller groups could start at different times.  If that’s not possible, at the very least it would be nice if the chip timing mat were at the beginning.  Racers in the back of the pack have a lot of time added before they ever get across the starting line.  Granted, it’s only a few seconds to a minute, but every second counts…. right?

Gold-Medal-225x300Overall, it was a good race and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s definitely one that I will plan on doing again next year.  Additionally, this is the first race of a three-part race series, so this year I hope to run the 10k and 5k (or possibly changed to a 1 1600 meter, I’ve heard) to get in the whole series and earn the series T-shirt.  If you’re looking for a flat, fast long distance race in West Virginia with some history, beautiful scenery and competition, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in the Run to Read Half Marathon in Fairmont, West Virginia.  For this race, I’ve given a gold medal.

For an additional review, visit Sandy Runs.  Her blog tells about her stories as a Marathon Maniac, Half Fanatic and 50 State Marathon Club member.  It was a pleasure having her visit West Virginia and she gives an excellent review of the race.

If you were at this race, feel free to add to the review.  What did you like the most about the Run to Read Half Marathon?  What did you like the least?

A correction from the RD, Jim Woolfitt: Just to set the record straight: MCPARC (Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission) gets the credit for clearing snow off the trail & the parking lots. The parking lots are not under MCPARC’s jurisdiction but the park superintendent is not complaining. MCPARC also helps with the water stops providing manpower, tables, chairs & water coolers.

Miles of Smiles Half Marathon & 5k (Monongah, WV)

This week is typically known as Thanksgiving week, but here in West Virginia we call it hunting season.  It’s the first week of buck gun season, and my two Tony’s (husband and son) have been waiting patiently for this day to come for quite a while now.  I took the week off to enjoy some downtime from work and get caught up on housework and laundry, maybe do some Christmas shopping, and of course get some running in.  But like any other day off, here I am wide awake at 5:00am.  I was even up before the hunters this morning.  I just couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned all night thinking about yesterday.  What’s so big about yesterday?  I did it, folks…. I finished my first “Real” half marathon, and I did it in a fairly decent finishing time.  Technically, this was my second half, but I did so poorly on the first one (which was a too-difficult-for-a-beginner trail half marathon) that I decided this would be my first “real” half.  I shaved 30 minutes off my time, so that tells you just how difficult the first one was.

Since I won’t be doing much housework today and I’m up so early, I thought this would be a prime opportunity to catch up on my blog posts.  I’ve run a few races that I haven’t reviewed yet, and need to get done so I have a journal of the event.  In this post, I’ll talk about the half I ran in yesterday.

It was Miles of Smiles second year for this half marathon and 5k run/walk.  Miles of Smiles is headquartered in Western Pennsylvania and provided timing services for nearly 300 races in 2012, and I would guess more than that this year.  I’ve participated in several races where they are the timers, and they’ve always done a great job.

This was their second year for the Miles of Smiles half and 5k which is held in Monongah, WV (near Fairmont, WV… home of Mary Lou Retton… remember her?)  Monongah (pronounced Ma nawng’ ga)  is a small town of slightly over 1000 residence, but used to be a booming coal mine town in the early 1900’s.  It’s quite rich in history, including a devastating coal mining disaster in 1907 when 362 miners lost their lives.  It was a double out-and-back course on the West Fork Rail Trail, which was 90% paved and included short jogs across a renovated wooden railroad bridge crossing the river.  The majority of the course followed the sleepy, lazy West Fork river which made for some beautiful scenery even though the leaves are gone by now.  The course was flat and fast, with very minimal inclines that any beginner could easily handle. The sky was blue with temps being in the mid-20’s.  There was a cold brisk breeze most of the race that took my breath a few times, but other than that it was perfect running weather for November.

miles_smilesHMmedalThe race was well ran under the direction of two veteran runners, with several water stops, post-race food and of course the chip timing is always appreciated.  We all received a beautiful finisher’s medal with trophies for the overall winners and nice place medals for several age groups.  We also received very nice long-sleeved tech shirts that I’m sure I will wear often.  There were 110 racers in the half and 45 participating in the 5k… just the perfect size for a first half marathon.

 

I didn’t do too bad as I finished 87th overall and 8th in my age group with a final time of 02:19:18 (10:38 min/mile pace).  I feel certain it’s a time on which I can improve and makes for a great motivator for my next half marathon.  Below is a picture my daughter took just a couple of seconds before I crossed the finish line.  It was awesome to have her there cheering me on along with my racing buddy, Wanda who ran in the 5k and placed 2nd in her age division with a sub-30 minute time.  Congrants, Wanda!! 😀

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All in all, it was a great day and a great race.  I’m very satisfied with this accomplishment and look forward to my next half marathon hosted by the same crew in Fairmont again in January 2014.   Did you race this weekend?  How cold was it where you ran??

Run to Read 10k (Fairmont, WV)

Last Friday night, I ran the Run to Read 10k in Fairmont, WV.  My running buddy and faithful sidekick, Wanda went with me.  This was a new experience for both of us as the race was held on a Friday evening at 6:30.  I was a little worried about the time for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a Friday evening . . . the end of a work week.  Typically I’m exhausted by the time Friday comes, so I wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy to run a 10k.  And I proved myself to be correct.  Adding the fact that it was a 90 minute drive didn’t help.
  2. The time of day could be difficult.  It can still be fairly warm and muggy at 6:30pm, so we weren’t sure how the weather would play a part.  Fortunately, a cold front had passed through West Virginia during the previous couple of days, so at race time it was 81 degrees with low humidity.  But it was still warm and the sun was shining very brightly.  I typically run later in the evening to avoid the heat and humidity.

10k race fairmont3But even facing those obstacles, Wanda and I took on the challenge.  The course was probably the toughest course we had run all year.  I’ve run a dozen 5k’s and one other 10k so far during my 2013 running season, and this course won the prize for most difficult hands down.  A close second would be the Clarksburg 10k I ran a month earlier.  The course was a double 5k course.  The beginning was somewhat deceptive as most of it was down hill.  I kept telling myself that this would end up being fairly easy if the whole course was like the beginning.  But then at about mile 2.5, I realized that to run the down hill, I had to go up.  For almost a full mile, the incline was slow and steady.  I find those types of inclines to be more difficult than a short steep climb, myself.  My first time around the course I nearly made it completely up the hill without walking.  However, I ended up walking a little with the hopes of not completely draining myself knowing that I would have to run up this hill again at the end of the race.  Unfortunately, with the heat combined with the weariness of the end of a long work week, the second time up the hill at mile five got me.

I didn’t do well with this race.  Actually, it was probably my worst.  I added a full eight minutes my 10k time and run an 11:00 min/mile pace.  I was very discouraged with my performance, but over the past couple of days I’ve looked at it as a good learning experience.  I have a Midnight Blast 5k in Summersville, WV coming up in a couple of weeks on a Friday night, so hopefully with this one, I can get a good amount of rest prior to the race.

As for the folks who organized the race, they did a good job.  It was small (only 58 participants), but it was well-organized and a great family event.  They held it at the city pool and gave free-swimming passes to all the participants and their families for the evening.  There was loads of post-race food, too.  In addition to the 10k, they also held a 1600 meter dash and a 5k at 7:30pm.  Best of all, it was a good fundraiser for the community library and literacy program.  That’s always a plus in my book knowing that my small contribution helped the people of the community while I got to do some healthy fun.

Furthermore, this race is part of a three-race series sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County.  It involves running a half marathon that was held in January, and the 10k and 5k held last Friday.  Those who participate in all three races earn a special-made T-shirt and prizes for the overall winners with the most points earned from the three combined races (age graded).  The unfortunate thing was if your time for the 10k was over an hour (like Wanda and me), you couldn’t get back in time to run the 5k.  I wish they would flip-flop the races and run the 5k first.  That would give folks time to rest a little and still participate in the 10k (and make it a little cooler for the longer run).  The concept is unique though, and I hope to be able to run all three races next year.  I will definitely need to do some major hill repeats to prepare for the shorter races, though.  I’m not going to let that hill get the best of me the next time!!