It’s the absence of the stifling humidity that has us giddy. And it’s that season. You see a leaf or two falling to the sidewalk, breathe that air with a barely distinguishable hint of autumn, and runners go 1/2 marathon crazy. Regardless of experience or pace, the half-marathon calls us. We’re helpless against its siren song.
We rationalize the usual explanations. It is a perfect tune-up for impending full marathons. The half is a great introduction to a longer distance for runners moving up from 5K and 10K distances. But really, we just want to be part of autumn and half marathons.
The Harrisburg Half Marathon has my first 1/2 and continues to be one of my favorites. It is convenient, mostly flat and mostly shaded. Still, after a summer of disappointing results in shorter races and in training, I held off signing up this year.
Has it been the humidity, the air quality, possibly age? Summer running and racing have been difficult. During my last 5K I felt like I was breathing through a mask. The legs felt strong, not so the lungs.
But the fever still strikes. On a hot sultry Saturday before race day while volunteering for packet pick-up, the energy and enthusiasm among runners pouring in for race bibs was palpable. I kept hearing the weather would change overnight, humidity would lift and we would have a cloud-covered cool(er) day.
I bit. At the end of my volunteer shift and just before late registration closed for the day, hand went to wallet, signed waiver, picked up shirt and committed the rest of my body to a 13.1 race the following morning.
Overnight, the humidity did indeed clear out, but the cloud cover did not move in. Still, with temperatures in the ’60s and ’70s and those wonderful trees along the Susquehanna Riverfront, it was a beautiful day for a race.
I started near the back of the pack, unsure of what my pace would be. After the first two miles, from City Island and south through Shipoke to the Greenbelt, runners finally spread out and I was able to move comfortably to an 8:55 pace.
Surprisingly, the tight breathing experienced over the summer wasn’t a problem. I stayed on pace until Mile 13 where I drifted off by 20 seconds.
A solid finish coming in at 2 hours, 0 minutes, and 23 seconds, this pleasantly surprised runner was just over two minutes off PR placing second in age group.
The other pleasant surprise was the relatively large number of women in the 65+ age group. With a field of nine women, first place in AG went to a strong competitor from Virginia with a 1:55 time.
With a beautiful home course and well organized 1/2 in Harrisburg behind me, have I stymied the 1/2 marathon craziness? No. Next stop for me is the Runner’s World Half in October.
So, who else out there is 1/2 crazy? Raise your hand.