Admittedly I am falling behind on updating my blog. With a few big events coming up in the next few weeks I have to catch up so expect a few back to back posts over the next few days.
Back in April I ran my third Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. I have not run this race since 2016 and as the last time I ran this I earned my half marathon PR this is one of my favorites. I had a quick time in both 2015 and 2016. Admittedly I am nowhere near the shape I was in in 2016 (I’ve been a little out of sorts physically since my accident in the 2017 Rev3 Williamsburg Half Ironman…okay, I’ve added a few pounds) but I was looking to a fairly decent time considering the course.
This race is put on by CGI Racing which is one of my favorite race organizers. Responsible for ‘The LOVE Run‘ and the ‘New Jersey State Triathlon‘ which are always well organized. Unlike the last time I ran, they were not offering race day packet pickup which meant I had to do the trek up and back to New Brunswick twice that weekend. It’s about an hour each way from where I live so not the end of the world. At least this year it did not fall on an alumni weekend and I was able to get quickly in and out of the expo.
The Expo as usual was contained in the campus sports center and it was easy to navigate in and out. Packet pickup was fairly easy and as it was small I wasn’t there too long and was able to get back home reasonably quick.
Early the next day I woke up and headed out in the dark for what would be an early start to the day. The race was due to start at 8am but unlike in the prior years where I parked at the starting area and had to get a shuttle bus back from the finish line, this year I decided to park at the finish and shuttle over to the start. Knowing from prior years that it was usually cool in the morning and could warm up later, I dressed to run warm but made sure I had a few layers on prior to the race start.
When I arrived at the finish line I was early enough to get a parking space really close to the finish area and waited until I saw some other runners up and around the area to follow. The race guide suggested you could walk to the starting area and I started to follow a few runners but I realized that I needed some personal time (i.e. a bathroom stop) so headed over the to the shuttle buses that would take us over to the starting area. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t walk as it was quite a ride over there. Of course we couldn’t take too many short cuts with the bus but it was still a good ride that I’m glad I was not on my feet for too long before the race.
It was a very foggy morning and I new it would be a humid run. It wasn’t too cold at the start so I checked my bag early and just hung around waiting for the start. As you can see from the pictures below, the visibility wasn’t great…but I wasn’t going to be leading the race so as long as I could see the guy in front of me I was good. A few people liked my InknBurn shirt and joked that there was no way anyone could lose me in the fog.
As the National Anthem was playing I was already in the starting corral. Having run 1:51(wish) last time I was here and although I knew I was not in the best shape I still thought I could hang with the 1:45 guys and settled myself near the 1:45 pacers waiting for the word to go. With little delay we were off.
I did a fairly good job of hanging with the pace group over the first few miles running near their pace and staying within ear shot of the pace runners as they chatted amongst themselves. As we ran through the more modern side of the campus I heard them saying they were actually running ahead of pace…as confirmed by all of us struggling to keep up with them. It was around mile 6 or 7 that a few of us commented that it was getting warmer and we seemed to be lacking aid stations in this part of the course. Nevertheless I hung on the heels of the pacers until around mile 8 when, as I was beginning to heat up, I decided that it was better to enjoy the run than to fight to maintain the pace.
The humidity was already beginning to take it’s toll on me and my heart rate was elevated so I decided to slow down and let the pace group go ahead of me. My pace dropped from 8:45 pace per mile to around 9:30 as I tried (unsuccessfully) to lower my heart rate which was now pretty much stuck in zone 5. I dropped to a run/walk for the back side of the course from mile 8 to the finish line. It was the right decision for the day.
As we crossed over from bridge high above Route 18 a fellow runner recognized me as the ‘Philly2Goofy’ guy and this cheered me as we entered the park for the long out and back. Although we drop in elevation on this half of the course it generally feels like it’s uphill for the remainder of the run up until the crest of the hill leading to the finish line.
Was I glad to see that hill, knowing that in less than half a mile we would be at the finish line. I honestly struggled on the back half. I could not get my heart rate down. I put this down to the more than a few extra pounds I had gained since running the New York City Marathon in the previous fall. It hadn’t been my best winter for maintenance. I certainly saw the results of that today as I crossed the line in just over 2:05. This was 14 minutes slower than my 2016 race or over 1 minute per mile slower over the course. Wow.
However, a finish line is a finish line and it’s always a good thing to get over it standing upright. Not my best performance by any means but far from my worst. I still like this race and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice spring half marathon. If the weather is good it can be a fast course. Still one of my favorites.
The finish line area is great as you are on the main campus and so there is plenty of space to sit on the grass and catch ones breath. The post race area was, as usual well, set up by the volunteers and after a soft pretzel and a cold bottle of water it was back to the comfort of my car and the journey home. Another Rutgers half in the books.