Fox Valley Half Marathon Recap

This was my sixth half marathon.  In this race I set a goal to finish in under 2 hours.  My previous half marathon PR was 2:04:56.  I followed a McMillan custom plan for my training.

The race starts in St Charles, Illinois.  There is also a full marathon and 20 miler, all starting at the same time.  St Charles is a small town along the Fox River. Packet pick-up was in a building that looks like it was converted from a church.  There was a small expo and the pick-up was quick.  Free public and street parking around the area was not difficult to find.  The race shirt was a nice women specific long sleeve tech shirt. Not many other goodies, just a Clif Bar sample, sunscreen spray, and lip balm.  Everything was in a durable backpack type bag that doubles as the gear check bag. I stayed at the Best Western on Main Street, about 1.5 miles from the race start.  St Charles, Geneva, and Batavia all have many small shops, bars and restaurants.  It’s a nice location to make the event a weekend getaway. The Baker Hotel looks very nice and is very close to the start line. But there are many inexpensive options within close proximity.

On race day, the weather was perfect for running, a cool, sunny 50 degrees with no wind with a race start of 7:00 AM. Parking again wasn’t difficult to find and we walked a few blocks to the start. I had a “disposable” sweatshirt from Goodwill that I picked up for the occasion.  Instead of ditching it, I gave it to my husband before the start of the race. I noticed that they did gather the discarded clothing and put it into a pile near the finish, so it could be retrieved. There were no corrals but the start chute line-up was by expected pace.  My only complaint about the race were the people that arrived late and felt compelled to push their way forward to get where they wanted to start. I got into position as soon as I saw the corrals starting to fill to avoid that. Anyway, with a race this size and with the wave start, there is no problem with running your pace even if you start a little further back.

There was an informal wave start, about 200 people were allowed to go at a time.  There were about 3,000 total runners for all 3 races.  Volunteers held up a rope to stop each wave.  There was just a few seconds between waves.  I started with the 9:15 pace group and I crossed the start line about 5 minutes after the clock start.  As usual, everyone started out fast.  People were passing me in droves and I found that I was running under a 9 minute mile. So I just moved to the far left and slowed down.

The first part of the race is along a 2 lane street.  The road is closed off.  The course does a little bend through some side streets which were also closed, then eventually went onto a paved bike path along the Fox River.  There were very scenic views along the river, and even the section along the road gave nice views of old homes.  The bike path is standard width but it never felt crowded.  The race materials suggested running 2 abreast at most on the path and the majority of runners did that, or they were single runners so passing was not a problem.  There are a few odd loops thrown in, more on that later.  Water stops were plentiful and the volunteers were all enthusiastic and friendly.

I noticed that my Garmin was tracking ahead, as was the Nike+ app on my phone.  So I knew I had to run faster than a 9:09 average, but I wasn’t sure how much faster.  I was averaging close to a 9 minute mile so I figured that should be safe.  As you head to the finish, there is a crossing over a bridge and an oddly configured loop where you run right past people running in the opposite direction, then back over the bridge.  Only the half marathoners do this additional loop. Then there is a final bridge crossing with the finish line in sight. The finish is near the start (around the corner from it), but closer than running back to the start.

The last 3 miles were hard work.  I focused on just trying to keep pace for the current mile.  My Garmin screen showed the current lap distance, total time, and the lap pace.  I looked at my watch as I saw the finish line, 1:59.  I didn’t realize I was that close to 2 hours!  I finished in 1:59:45. The announcer read everyone’s name at the finish, always a nice touch.  The finisher medals were heavy and large.  They were simple but attractive, one of my nicest race medals.  There was also an additional medal for repeat runners, and even larger medals for those that ran this race in conjunction with other marathons.

The food at the finish was quite varied, the typical fruit and chips but also macaroni and cheese, bread pudding, and small plates of barbecue beef. However, even though the bib has a drink ticket, there was no beer.  I don’t usually drink beer after running, but I figured I should mention it for those that do.  🙂   I skipped the food since I am not hungry immediately after running. I think they were trying to discourage people from getting food multiple times, it was a bit tricky to re-enter the food area, but it can be done. My husband complained about the lack of beer and the fact that there was no post-race entertainment.

Overall I was pleased with my performance in this race. I never doubted that I could accomplish my goal. The last 3 miles were extremely hard, but I felt that I was prepared for it by all the fast finish type runs in my training. I expected the end to be hard and I think that the mental preparation is important. I divided the race into segments, 3/4/3/3 miles. Then I just focused on finishing each segment. The race seemed shorter to me that way, and I was almost surprised when I saw the 11 mile marker!

This was a great race. I find that I enjoy smaller races and this was the perfect size. It was very well organized and the location was beautiful. My husband rode his bike to make spectating in different locations easier and he really enjoyed riding his bike in the area. It made it a little more interesting to him as a spectator.  I am thinking or returning for the full marathon.

I would recommend this race for anyone looking for a half marathon, full marathon, or 20 mile supported run.

Finished: 1:59:45
Overall: 468/1542
Female: 175/952
Age Group: 26/162



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