This race recap will include my opinions on the race itself, both positive and negative. These are solely my opinions based on experience and others may feel differently.
I am writing this race recap after running my 11th half marathon… which in itself sounds surreal. I can hardly believe I’ve done 11 of these now! This particular race popped up on my radar after talking to a girl while waiting in our corral for the Disney Princess Half Marathon to start this past February. She had mentioned that her first half was in Newport, Rhode Island and it was such a scenic race. Fast forward to this summer and being a good new wife, I signed myself and Paul up and immediately wrote a training program for us to follow that began the next week. He was thrilled 😉
Now, if you know me at all, you know that I despise running in the heat and humidity. My ideal running temperature is 40F because I find the cold air incredibly refreshing. Completing the majority of the training in the summer was a huge challenge in itself, but we put the sweaty miles in and completed 14 weeks of training in preparation for the race yesterday!
Newport is about an hour and a half from where we live in Massachusetts. We decided it would be wise to stay in a hotel the night before the race to cut down on travel time in the morning and give us access to hot showers post-race. If you are ever considering running this race and need to travel, I highly recommend booking your hotel months in advance! We failed to do so and every single hotel room in Newport and Middletown was sold out a month before the race, so we ended staying about 35 minutes away. Better than our apartment, but certainly not ideal.
We first arrived in Newport late on Saturday afternoon to pick up our race packets at Easton’s Beach (or “First Beach” to locals). Paul was disappointed there was no race expo, but I had figured there wouldn’t be since there was never a mention of an expo in the emails leading up to the race. Our take on the Bib Pick-Up was that is lacked organization. All of the other half marathons we have run have been very large, with tens of thousands of participants. I suppose we may be a bit spoiled in regards to awesome packet pick-ups, but the issues we noticed could have been easily resolved. There were several separate lines to stand in, based on your bib number. The main issue is that there needed to be signs high in the air indicating which bib numbers were for each line. Standing twenty feet back, you were not able to see which line to stand in. This created a huge delay because hardly anyone was in the correct line and the poor volunteers were running around trying to accommodate everyone. (We happened to guess our line correctly! Score!) We waited in line for around 30 minutes, which is insane. Usually at a pick-up, you will wait around 5 minutes, tops.
I was pretty excited because the bibs were personalized with your last name instead of first name. Considering this was my first race after getting married this summer, I was more than happy to show off my new last name!
We admired the beach for a few minutes before heading to our hotel to check in, then continue to dinner. We ate at Olive Garden (with a hard no Alfredo sauce rule), followed by setting out our race outfits for the next morning. A 3:30 wake-up is not for the faint of heart!
We packed our own breakfast, knowing that we would be leaving the hotel prior to their 5:30 breakfast bar opening. We ate toasted English muffins with peanut butter and drank water for our pre-race fuel. Never lets me down! Time to drive back down to Newport!
There were separate parking lots for the half marathon and full marathon athletes. We parked in our designated parking lot and got on the shuttle bus to take us to the race start. As far as race transportation goes, Paul and I were both extremely impressed! They had arranged plenty of school buses to smoothly transport runners, the wait was minimal, and our bus driver provided race information before opening the doors to make sure everyone knew where they needed to go. Great job!
We had quite a bit of time to kill because the race website strongly suggested arriving early to avoid traffic delays. After sitting down and zoning out to music for an hour, we got to watch a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean.
We were shocked the sunrise was as beautiful as it was, since it was going to be a dreary, rainy day. The clouds parted with impeccable timing!
Everyone started making their way over to the race start. Because this race was on the smaller size with roughly 4,000 runners, there were no designated corrals. Instead, the race started with three different self-seeded waves based on your expected average pace. Paul and I began in the second wave, which was a 9:00-11:00/mile pace.
Prior to the race, we had discussed whether or not we would run together for the entire race. I had been fending off some calf, knee, and hip pain the week leading up to the race and was not sure that I would be able to run the entire race. I was extremely nervous that I would get 2 miles in and would be in too much pain to continue running. With that being said, I told Paul that if I had to walk, then he should continue on without me. I wanted for him to reach his potential and not be held back. He was confident that that would not be the case, and if he was slowing down, I should leave him. It’s always good to have a game plan! As it turned out, we ran together for about 3.5 miles and then I pulled ahead and never saw him until the finish. I still dream about one day running an entire race together, but we made it further this race than ever before!
Here are my race splits. Keep in mind that I am by no means a “fast runner.” In fact, I would consider myself average at best! But that’s the thing about running, you are there to challenge yourself. To push yourself. To do your personal best. It doesn’t matter if it takes you under 90 minutes or over 3 hours to finish. Breaking through the mental and physical challenge of running 13.1 miles is such a feat, no matter the time you complete it in!
My previous PR was 2:09.44, which I ran in Atlanta on Thanksgiving nearly 3 years ago! Last November I fell short by less than a minute and was extremely disappointed. I had a goal this year of running a 9:30 mile/minute pace to give myself a little wiggle room to get under 2:09. In fact, at the 10k mark, I was on track for running a sub-2 hour race! I was feeling really strong and was so proud of the race I was running. As you can see from my splits, I started to fall apart around mile 8. I specifically remember the moment when I thought “I still have 5 more miles left. There is not way I can keep running this fast for 50 more minutes!” My legs were starting to feel heavy, I was breathing hard, and was just all around exhausted. A lot of the race was along the shoreline and there was a strong breeze, but around that time we turned inland and lost that benefit. At this point too, the humidity was almost unbearable as the sky braced itself for rain in the near future. I could feel the heat radiating from my face and was feeling defeated. (Again, I despise running in the heat and humidity more than anything) I allowed myself to back it off a little bit for mile 10 to get back in the right headspace and finish the race strong. Just before mile 11, there was a hairpin loop and as I went around the tight turn, I could feel a blister that had been growing steadily throughout the race on my foot split open from the added friction placed on my skin. My foot felt like it was on fire! At mile 12, I was in a lot of pain from my open blister and had a hard time pepping myself up to finish strong. I lost a lot of my nice time cushion I had worked so hard to create, but knew if I kept running at a decent pace that I would still be able to PR. This past training program, my main focus was on going all out for my last mile of the long run. I wanted to get my body accustomed to running fast after it was exhausted. I trusted my training and took it home as best as I could. While it wasn’t under 9 minutes like it had been in training the past few weeks, I’m still happy that I was able to finish strong. I was able to block out most of the thoughts surrounding the painful blister and overheating by counting to 8 over and over again. I developed this method accidentally a month or so ago and realized that it really helps me run fast and not over-think everything in that last mile where you have a specific goal to reach.
This race had RaceWire provide FREE photo downloads, which is incredible! Absolutely another plus to the race! I don’t think I have run another race that provided free photos.
I will say that the race finish area was a bit of a disappointment. There were two flags that said FINISH, but they weren’t visible from very far away and it left you wondering “when is this going to end?” as you were rounding the curvy seaside at the end. I found myself feeling a little frustrated when I thought I was close to the finish, but couldn’t really tell exactly where it was. I thought I was about to finish for the last half mile, which is a looooooong time to think you are almost done! I think investing in a finish arch of some sort rather than flags would be a welcome touch!
I was so happy to finish! Every time you finish a race you feel victorious, but adding in a PR and knowing you ran faster that race than you ever have before makes it even sweeter. Oh happy day!
I planted myself just before the finish line along the fence and watched for a few minutes while I waited for Paul to cross! I started cheering when I saw him run by, but I knew he didn’t hear or see me because he didn’t look at me or give any sign that he knew where I was. That’s okay though! I could tell he was totally in the zone and was solely focused on finishing the race. Paul dropped 21 minutes from his previous PR that he ran 6 years ago! I am beyond proud of all the hard work he put in the past few months! I’ve been trying to tell him for years that using a training program and not winging it really works… now he is a believer!
After the race, they had a great assortment of food for the runners to replenish their depleted glycogen stores with. My personal favorite included cups of chicken noodle soup! They also had clam chowder I believe, but since I do not like seafood, I didn’t pay much attention to that. The soup was a nice addition from the usual race fare of bananas and bagels! (If you are more of a traditionalist, they had bagels and fruit as well) It was a little bit difficult to hold the snacks though. I had a water bottle, mini Gatorade bottle, cup of piping hot chicken noodle soup, and an apple I was trying to juggle. A plastic bag or drawstring backpack would have made walking with our food a lot safer! I was terrified I was going to spill the soup all over myself while we were walking to find somewhere to sit down with it to eat because I was still a little uneasy on my feet after the race.
This race was voted “Best Half Marathon in the Northeast” by Competitor magazine and I can definitely see why! The course was beautiful as you ran around the adorable downtown area, wound through Newport’s breathtaking coast, past the historic Gilded Age mansions, and around the Rhode Island countryside (including past some farm animals). There are no steep hills, but rather gentle rolling hills throughout. Plus, how adorable is that pineapple medal?! I love it!
We took the bus back to our car and drove on over to our hotel. Post-race showers are the best showers, aren’t they? We stopped by P.F. Chang’s on our way back home and thoroughly enjoyed our meal!
A successful race was had by all! Now… what’s next?