On Saturday April 2nd I ran the Hershey 10k. This was my fourth year running it (I ran in 2013, 2014 and 2015). Despite the hilly course I have managed to PR 2 out of the three times I have run it so I hoped that maybe I could squeeze out another PR this time around.
I had two goals. I hoped to at least coming in faster than the 1:12:48 I did in Bermuda earning myself a PR. I also thought that I could finish with a 1:10 time (as I’ve done it in training before) so I made that my stretch goal.
Knowing this course, I knew it was full of rolling hills and a few longer inclines. In the past I have tried to not push myself like crazy on the up hills and make up time on the downhills (while still trying to let gravity do the work to not tire myself out). Since I have also been running with some gym buddies and not doing interval running I thought it could be fun/interesting to complete the race without my tried and true 1:30/0:30 run/walk intervals and try to really focus on making my pace as even as possible.
I drove to Hershey on Friday afternoon and had some quality “me time” walking around Chocolate World after easily picking up my and my dad’s bibs at Hershey Stadium. My dad met me in Hershey later that evening and we grabbed a nice/quick dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
On Saturday the race started at 7:30am, and they asked that all runners be there by 7 due to road closures. We woke up around 6, changed, got ready and was out the door around 6:20 or so. The hotel was about 15 minutes max from Hershey Park (thanks to a stop we had to make for a train crossing). It was an easy drive and we got parked in the large parking lot no issues.
We walked to the stadium (where the start line was) to use the rest rooms and hang out under cover. I ate my honey stinger energy chews around 6:45. It had started to rain lightly (what is it about my 10ks this year and it raining?!) and since the temperatures were in the mid-40s it felt cold!! I was so glad I had my heat sheet from Rock n Roll Philly to stay warm and dry. I was wearing capris, a short sleeved shirt and my arms sleeves. I only wish I had packed a hat. We had plenty of time to not be rushed and just hang out until they instructed us to line up on the side of the stadium around 7.
After the national anthem and a few speeches we were off right at 7:30. It took less than a minute until I crossed the start. I had set my watch up to beep on 1:30/0:30 intervals but planned to just run as much as I felt like. I kind of wanted to see what I could just do and have the intervals to fall back on if needed. I also decided to not look at my watch if I could help it. I knew I’d check it around the 5k mark but didn’t want to check it much more than that.
The first mile of the course goes around the side of the stadium and down a gradual hill in the parking lot. From there you hit the first uphill but everyone is energized and excited so it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I kept telling myself to SLOW DOWN but it didn’t really happen. Mile 1: 10:07
The second mile loops around the parking lot, heading up another gradual hill to Hershey Park Dr – the road right in front of the park. I just kept pushing and said to myself that if I felt good I should just keep going. Mile 2: 10:33
The third mile continues along Hershey Park Dr and continues up the gradual uphill. The first water stop is along here and I grabbed a cup of water and managed to spill it all over the volunteer. Sorry! Mile 3: 10:37
One thing I LOVE is that the distance markers on this race are done in kilometers, so it feels like it goes faster! I saw the 5k mark and switched my watch so I could see my time. It was 33 minutes and change and I knew I was in a good place for the first half of this race. The question was, could I prevent slowing down in the second half to come in at 1:10? This mile has the end of the gradual Hershey Park Dr hill and then you turn the corner after passing the Hershey outlets and are treated to a nice downhill. It tried to go fast on the downhill without exerting much energy. There is a slight uphill during this mile as well (of course). Mile 4: 10:22
The next mile is where you enter Hershey Park! We could hear the music and smell the chocolate and entered through a side entrance and were immediately greeted with (of course) a short but steep hill. From there you circle through the water park portion of Hershey Park and there are times when you get to see the runners ahead of and behind you. There is some nice downhill followed of course by some uphill. I took my first walk break during this mile for about 30 seconds. My pace was slowing a little anyhow and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give myself a little time to regroup. Mile 5: 11:33
When I saw my watch hit an hour I looked at my mileage. 5.6 miles. I was pretty happy with that! I started to do the calculations in my head and knew I could PR and was shocked when I realized I could be under 1:10 as long as I didn’t loose it in the last bit.
Mile 6 is my favorite mile of the course (and not just because you’re almost done)! It continues through the park and goes under a bunch of roller coasters and by many of the older rides I loved when I was younger. It ends going up a steep hill (of course) before exiting the park. Then you head up another hill via the parking lot before reaching the stadium. I was feeling great about my overall time and knew I would be well under 1:10. Mile 6: 11:20
From there you head around the side of the stadium and then into it and to finish inside. At this point I started running as fast as I could to give it everything I had left. Last .15 (Garmin measured a smidge short): 1:18 (9:23 pace)
I crossed the finish in 1:06:47 and was so happy and shocked and proud! I not only PRed, I cut almost exactly 6 minutes from my last 10k time. My average pace was 10:45 which I was also happy with – under 11 min/miles!
Overall I am happy that I listened to my body and was successful! Sure I wish I could have cut a few random walk breaks out but overall I am happy with my pace from mile to mile and feel that I have definitely gotten stronger just from Bermuda in January and from last year when I finished in 1:14:47. Though it is a hilly course it is absolutely possible to PR, and I’ll definitely be back again next year for year #5 of this race.