Running Around Cleveland

2011 Park 2 Park Half Marathon

I have a goal of breaking the 2 hour mark on my half marathon time this year, but I haven’t ran an actual half marathon that wasn’t on trail or in the snow in a few years. My PR for a road half is a 2:47, but I did run the 1st half of the Cleveland Marathon in 2:00:30. I have picked up quite a bit of speed since my last half. But I need a dedicated road test to see what I can do. I was planning for that test to be the Buckeye Half in August. You would think that I would want to run the Park 2 Park Half because its course is the 2 parks I run in the most. I know every turn, hill and bump on it and the start/finish line is less than 2 miles from my house. But I have not run it since 2004. I only run a few Sunday morning races per year because I’m very active in my church and really try to limit my absences.

So Saturday morning I did my 10.25 long run with no plans of running the Park 2 Park Half the next morning. But sometime on Saturday afternoon I figured out that I am now just fast enough to run this half, get home to take a quick shower, change, and make it to church on time. It would be tight so I’d need to run a perfect race, be at 2 hours or less, and not let a 10.25 mile run 24 hours before affect me. Since last October, I’ve been pretty impulsive with my races, so why change now. I decided on Saturday night to run.

I got to the start line early enough to register and do a short warm up run. I’m usually not one for a warm up run on long races, but I needed to be at my pace that first mile and make sure I wasn’t stiff from the day before. As I finished I ran into fellow Marathon Maniac Molly. It always great to see a familiar face at a race. I headed to the start area to wait for the start. Molly lined up near me and we discussed our goals for the day as we waited. I told her I need a 2 hour finish or less to make it to church. I would be watching my pace closely and knew each mile had to be at a 9:07 or less. She was going to try and come in sub 1:40 all while coming off a 5k the morning before.

The temperature was warm already and the humidity was 86%. We kept waiting for the start, it was 5 minutes late now and the race director was waiting on everyone at the bathroom line. It was a nice jester especially since there was no chip timing here, but I was on a schedule. 10 minutes late now and the race announcements finally started. The race started 13 minutes late, between this and the humidity things were not looking good for my time schedule.

The start siren went off followed the beeping of 100 Garmins. However, mine was not one of them, and of course I didn’t realize it till about .3 miles into the race when I checked it to make sure my pace that first mile was not too hard. ARGH! I had a schedule to keep that made keeping splits more important than usual. My 1st Garmin mile came in at an 8:36 pace, but this was the mile with the smaller of the two significant downhills of the race. It was a good sign. Going into the 2nd mile I started passing those runners who took off a little too fast, another good sign that I was doing the passing and not being passed. Mile 2 came in at a 9:04, but it was running back up the hill that we had just come down. Still good for my original 2 hour goal, but I needed to make up some time for the 13 minute late start. Mile 3 was the last mile on the packed dirt trail till mile 12 of the race, everything till them would be asphalt and bridges. It was 8:51 pace. Things were looking good for the first 3 miles.

This is were the race leaves the French Creek Park park and follows the road for about 1.25 miles to Black River Reservation, hence the name of the race, Park 2 Park Half Marathon. Fortunately, it was still early enough that the lack of shade on the road, which we had in the park, didn’t cause significant heat from the Sun. I was able to run an 8:48 for mile 4 and an 8:52 for mile 5. I also started passing some runners again at mile 5. Another good sign, people started to fade, but I was holding strong. Mile 6 enters Black River Reservation and has the large down hill and a water stop. I paced it at 8:51. Talk about consistency.The end of mile 6 is where I started seeing the lead runners on their return trip.

I was halfway done and feeling strong so I picked up the paced for mile 7 for an 8:38. I did see Molly during mile 7 on her return trip was able to tell her that she was in 3rd for the females. We high-fived as we passed each and it gave me a nice little spirit boost. Mile 8 was an 8:48 and 9 was an 8:57. I did get passed by one runner during mile 9, but made a goal to keep him in my sight and try to pass him if I could. Things had heated up now and the hill was coming up. It is not a terrible hill, I had run 11 times in 40 minutes on Monday, but it was late in the race. The hill started just before mile 10 on my Garmin. It slowed me down. Due to the heat I had drank all my water on my hydration belt. The water stop was right at the top of the hill. I made a quick stop to refill my water, then finished mile 10 leaving the park and headed back on the unshaded road on which the Sun was much more intense now. After all that, I kept my pace for mile 10 to a 9:29 pace. Mile 11 was completely on the road and was still an 8:58 pace in the Sun. Things were going great.

I entered French Creek Park again at mile 12 still on the heels of the guy that passed me. I noticed someone gaining on me then too. Time for one more goal, don’t let her pass me. I ran those last two miles with all my heart. I never lost sight of the runner in front of me, and I never got passed. I saw the 13 mile sign and and turned on all the speed I could muster. I turned that last corner and there was Molly waiting to cheer me on and take pictures with her mom.

I finished at 1:55:42.7. I smashed my 2 hour goal and only missed 3rd in my age by 39.8 secs. And technically I PRed by 52 minutes. I am very happy with my finish. I got my medal, ate some watermelon, and had my picture taken with the women’s 3rd place finisher, Molly.

Photo provided by Molly's mom at

And yes, I even made to church on time completely showered and in my Sunday clothes.

Got to love the bling!

Do you have any activities or commitments that regularly interfere with your opportunities to participate in races? Do you ever enter races last minute? Do you ever enter races on no rest?

5 Comments so far
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Justin! This was such a great race recap!!!! I am so excited for you, you did soooo flippin’ well!!!!! When races fall on Sunday, I go to Mass on Saturday evenings, or even Sunday evening, my church now offers a 5pm Mass on Sunday, so that is really nice. I tend to enter things like 5K’s and the occassional half on a whim, it’s fun to be a little spontaneous, since the rest of my life is so structured. And I’ve only ever done one half marathon where I did an actual taper, it was last fall in Columbus and it was a huge PR for me.

Comment by mollyberries

You did awesome!!!! Great job!

Comment by kimi

Great race report, Justin. It reads like fast fiction! Imagine if you tapered…I bet if you set your sights on a specific half, you’d absolutely CRUSH the 1:55:42!
And way to make it to the church on time!

You ask good questions at the end of your posts. It’s not the races that interfere with my committments, it’s the training runs. Weekdays are stressful, so fitting the runs in and rushing to meet people when you still have hours of work to do creates more stress. I always feel like I’m entering my training runs on no rest. I bet most people find weekday running most stressful. Yet we still do it! How do you juggle your weekday training runs with work and a young family?

Our Saturday morning neofit runs are my favorite because they are the runs that never require me to be rushing from somewhere else. It’s easier to wake up at 4:30AM on a “neofit saturday” than any other day of the week!

Comment by Lee Anne

[…] the 2:00 mark to the curb with a speedy finish of 1:55:42!!!! Be sure to check out his awesome race recap!  Finishing strong! Excited or delerious about my 3rd place female finish? NEO Marathon Maniacs […]

Pingback by Park 2 Park Half Marathon: 1:39:42 « mollyberries' hodge podge

[…] broke the 2 hour barrier for the 1st time in my running. You can read more about that in my blog post about it. After that I headed to Sunday morning church service with the family to hear my dear […]

Pingback by A Fantastic Fathers Day Weekend « Running Around Cleveland

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