I had been considering this race since the beginning of the year, but I had opted to run the Hawthorne Purple and Blue Challenge 5k instead. When that race was cancelled in August I revisited this one. It was close, small and had a reputation for being flat and fast. It sounded perfect.
The race benefits Haven Ministries. Haven Ministries is a coalition of Christian churches providing shelter, clothing, and food. Their motto is “Run with a Purpose”. Clever.
Pre-Race: They have a very active Facebook page that provided plenty of updated information including the weather report for race day. They also sent out emails with registration and race day information. Plenty of information for someone like me who hates to be surprised.
Race Day: The race takes place in Stevensville at Kent Island High School about 30 minutes from Glen Burnie. I arrived around 0635 for a 0730 race. They directed cars to both sides of the school. If you were lucky, you were close to the football field where the registration/packet pickup tent was. If you weren’t lucky, you were stuck on the far side of the school. I was not lucky. It was a good march to the packet pickup (which was super fast) and then a march back to the car to drop off the packet. By then it was already 0800. I like to use that 30 minutes prior to the race to stretch. By the time I got back to the field I had about 20 minutes to get ready. That was plenty of time for me, but if you are a late arrival you would have to hustle to get to your car and back. I would probably try and be at the packet pickup at 0630 so I could relax a bit more before the race. The weather was cool and in the sixties. Perfect running weather.
The Race: Right before the starting gun we were treated to a skydiving team that landed on the football field and bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace”. There was a short invocation and we were off.
The course was flat and fast as advertised, snaking through the trails of Kent Island with views of the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the race was paved trails but there were short sections of unpaved trail as well. I did find the mile markers confusing. I didn’t think I realized that there were different color markers for different races until mile 6 or 7. I am glad I had my GPS watch to keep track of the miles.
Speaking of confusion, there were multiple points where the races overlapped. The poor volunteers had to continually answer the “which way should I go?” question. I would advise big signs with arrows to keep the confusion to a minimum. I saw at least 2 incidents where someone stopped to ask which way to go. Luckily there were plenty of people out on the course to direct you, but no one should have to stop to ask. I almost got run over at one point when 2 5K runners made a last second turn in front of me to follow their course. The Ghostbuster’s rule also applies to races – Don’t cross the streams! A third spot of confusion was the gazebo turn-around. Some runners went around the gazebo and some turned around in the paved area before it. We could have used a volunteer there to direct people. Make some big signs and avoid all of this confusion.
It was quiet for the first half of race and there were moments there was not another runner in sight. If you need the crowds to keep you going, this isn’t for you. There were people supporting you on the course (including cheer leaders around the 6 mile mark), but the roads are not lined with adoring fans. Once the races combined it gets a little hectic as I mentioned, but I think it really helped to motivate me in the later miles. I tried to chase a number of the 5K/10K people on the way back and I think the fresh runners kept my mile splits pretty consistent. I finished with a personal record of 1:42:33.5. I was thrilled. Looking for a fast course and a PR? This is it.
Post Race: Initially I was confused. There was a Chik-Fil-A booth near the finish handing out water and samples of chicken. I couldn’t figure out why they were only giving out half cups of water to people crossing the finish line. Let’s not be stingy on the water…. I just ran 13.1 miles. I had 4 cups before I realized they had a tent setup at the end of the field that had everything you would want after a race (bottles of water, bananas, cookies, juice boxes, pizza, granola bars, fruit snacks).
They also had a tent setup to see the race results (all 3 race results were available within a few hours). The line was huge so I went and sat on the football field and waited for the awards. There were a lot of awards (3 races and multiple age groups) which is always nice. I think a lot of people received awards that weren’t expecting them. I placed 1st amongst the 40-44 year old males in the half marathon! I couldn’t have been more pleased. They had all of the results posted by the early afternoon.
They also gave away a number of gift certificates including trips to Ocean City and Belize.
Goodies: A technical T-shirt, pen, chapstick, nail file, deodorant and some coupons for local businesses (including bagpipe lessons). Also a HUGE medal (for all of the races). I mean really big. I think it caused me neck pain the next day.
Overall: It is a scenic, flat fast course and a great opportunity to achieve a personal best. They need to find a solution to the locations where the races overlap (like big signs). The volunteers were wonderful and the whole race had a friendly small town atmosphere. The field for the half marathon was pretty small (just over 200 runners) but they had the amenities of a bigger race.