On Sunday, November 6th I ran the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Half Marathon. The race starts in Slatington, PA and follows the D&L Trail, ending in Northhampton, PA. I ran this race last year (as part of my 2 halfs in 1 weekend challenge), and since my dad missed out on running it due to an injury, we decided to come back again this year. It also fit perfectly in my marathon training plan, where I swapped it out for a 14 miler, assuming that the .9 mile difference in distance would be made up for in the effort I would put forth.
We picked up our bibs and race shirts (long sleeved, tech, bright orange) the morning of with zero issues. The race starts at a local high school where you can easily use a real bathroom (and there were port-a-poties as well), and park for free. This course is a point-to-point and ends 13.1 miles away, and the race provides busses to get you back to the start post-race.
For the most part, the race is flat, if not slightly downhill, on a crushed gravel trail. There is one steep hill right at the beginning, but the key is to just expect your pace to be the slowest in the first mile, and make up for it over the rest of the race.
As we milled around, waiting for the race to start, I decided to start with the 2:30 pacers and from there decide if I needed to drop back, or speed up. I didn’t have the goal to PR (especially since I PRed the previous weekend in Canada), but I had a feeling that if I felt good I may be able to finish under 2:30 again. I did plan to walk the water stops since that was my strategy for all of my long runs and the upcoming marathon.
It was a little chilly, but would get up to the mid 50s, so I opted to wear a long sleeved tech shirt and capris. The trail is shaded, so I figured I’d rather be warm for the last mile or so than cold the majority of the time.
The race started promptly at 8, and I started right behind the 2:30 pacers.
Mile 1 – 11:38 – I ended up loosing the pacers on the uphill. I ran it as long as I could and then opted to slow to a walk when my legs started to feel fatigued. They passed me while I was walking but I forced myself to go at the pace I was comfortable. I figured I could catch up to them in a few miles, and if I didn’t, it was no big deal. I really tried not to put pressure on myself.
Mile 2 – 10:25 – After a long steep uphill, you are rewarded with a nice down hill, so even though I was still trudging up at the beginning of mile two, the downhill made up a lot of time for me. I reminded myself to let my legs relax and to not exert much energy. Just let gravity do the work.
Mile 3 – 10:25 – I caught back up to the pacers and was thrilled. I felt good but knew I should back off the pace, and stopped looking at my watch. That’s what pacers are there for right? 🙂
Mile 4 – 10:51
Mile 5 – 11:07
Mile 6 – 11:00
Mile 7 – 11:04 – Miles 4, 5, 6 and 7 felt great. I talked with the pacers and other runners around us, and let them set the pace. We all had a hard time slowing down because the course really makes it easy to go faster. I followed my plan of walking water stops to get water, and got in the habit of opening and eating my Gu slightly before hitting the water station (often while still running), so the amount of time I lost with those short walking breaks was minimal.
Mile 8 – 11:01 – At a water stop I got ahead of the pacers, and I decided to just go with what felt comfortable. I only had 5 miles to go and knew I could stick it out. I also knew that if I maintained my pace I was well on track for a PR. I wasn’t obsessing with my watch but I looked at it every mile to see each miles time and the overall time, and assess how I was feeling.
Mile 9 – 11:01 – When I looked behind me I couldn’t see the pacers anymore, so my goal became to not let them catch up and pass me.
Mile 10 – 11:09 – I hit mile 10 in 1:49:43 and was SHOCKED. I remembered how usually it takes me a full two hours to run 10 miles. Amazing. I felt good about my pace and my body felt strong!
Mile 11 – 11:07 – When I hit 11 miles in 2:00:50 I got a bit emotional. I knew I was on track to PR, and be well below 2:30. The question now was by how much.
Mile 12 – 11:40 – Like the previous at the Niagara International Half Marathon, mile 12 was my slowest. My body suddenly wanted to quit, and mind was not sure I could keep pushing. So I let myself take a 30 second walk break. This is clearly the hardest mile for mentally in half marathons. I want to work on getting stronger with this next year.
Mile 13: 10:42 – The last mile takes you off of the trail, across a bridge, and into a park. The change of scenery and increase in spectators invigorated me and gave me my second wind. I was ready to go and see how fast I could finish the last mile.
Mile 13.1 – 1:24 (9:53 pace)
I crossed the finish in 2:24:36 – my garmin time matched the official time exactly. If you’re keeping track, that’s just under a 4 minute PR from the week before. To say I was thrilled and amazed was an understatement. I never imagined myself finishing in the 2:30 range, much less breaking 2:30 and finishing squarely in the 2:20s.
This race is well organized, inexpensive, and really scenic, and totally PR-able. That aside, for me it was the perfect confidence boosting long run for 2 weeks out from my marathon. I feel so so good about how I did and how I’ve improved as a runner this season. Regardless of what happens at the marathon, I feel so strong based on my performance over the last few weeks.