Skinny Raven 1/2 Marathon Recap

After many weeks of planning and training, yesterday I ran my first 1/2 Marathon. As I wrote in my preview post, my realistic goal time was 2:10. My “dream” time was to finish in under 2 hours, which I knew was a bit of a stretch, but figured it could be doable if everything was clicking for me and I was “in the zone”. But again, since it was my first 1/2 Marathon, I really tried to not put too much pressure on myself to have a great race, and instead just go out there and have fun and enjoy the whole experience.

First, a Note on the Event, Volunteers, etc.

Considering that this was my first “big” race and that I don’t have anything to compare it to, I thought that this event was extremely well organized. There were aide stations every 2 miles or so with water and Gatorade, and there were volunteers everywhere. The course winds through a large trail system, where there are lots of branches and intersecting trails. There was a volunteer posted at every single fork in the trail where someone could possibly make a wrong turn. Every volunteer I saw was friendly and cheerful, clapping and cheering all the runners on. A big thank you goes out to all those wonderful people for helping to make it such an enjoyable event! And how can you not love a race with a course map like this?

skinny raven half marathon map

Ok, on to the Race!

The race didn’t start until 9am, which gave me plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep, eat a light breakfast of oatmeal, and then head downtown to the start of the race. I got there about an hour before the start of the race, and had a chance to catch up with Sam of Operation Jack, who was in town to run the full marathon, which started at the same time/place as the half (if you’re interested, you can read Sam’s race recap here – spoiler alert: he LOVED the course and ran a great race!). This was his 38th Marathon this year, out of the 61 he’s got planned to raise awareness and money for autism. Sam was a really cool guy, and I wish I could have spent more time talking with him, but I’m glad he was able to make it up here and had such a great trip.

The first mile or so just kind of wound around downtown Anchorage until we made it down to the Coastal Trail, which – imagine that – follows the coast. My only real complaint about the 1/2 Marathon is that we actually don’t follow the Coastal Trail for very long (the full marathon follows it all the way out and back). At about mile 3, we branched off toward midtown. It was around here that I picked up my first water at an aide station, and learned my first lesson of running races – slow down when you’re trying to drink water/Gatorade from a small dixie cup. The first time around, I tried to just keep running full speed while I drank, and ended up spilling most of it down my front ๐Ÿ™‚

From there we continued on mostly wooded trails until we hit the turnaround point around mile 7. When I hit the halfway point around 1:03, I knew a sub-2 hour finish was a long shot, so I just focused on running the best I could, not worrying quite so much about the actual time.ย At this point I was still feeling pretty good. There were a few points where my breathing kind of got away from me and I really had to concentrate on taking long, deep breaths to get it back under control.

Somewhere around this point I also had a bit of a celebrity sighting (at least a celebrity as far as Alaska goes – and no, I’m not talking about her) On my way inbound back towards downtown, I passed DeeDee Jonrowe on her way outbound to the turnaround.ย If you’re not from Alaska, you probably have no idea who DeeDee Jonrowe is, but she is one of the most famous Iditarod mushers in the state, holding the fastest time record for a woman. In 2003, she completed the 1,049 mile race just 3 weeks after completing chemotherapy forย breast cancer. In other words, she’s one badass chick, and it was kind of a rush seeing her out running the same race as me.

Somewhere around mile 8 or 9 I could definitely feel myself starting to lose steam. My legs were still feeling good, and my feet and ankles weren’t bothering me at all, but I was simply just running out of fuel in the tank. It was around here that I saw a guy holding up a sign that read “If everyone could do it, they’d call it a 5k”. At first, I kind of chuckled a bit, but as I continued on running and thought more about it, it actually kind of pissed me off. Sure, a 1/2 marathon is quite a bit more difficult of a run than a 5k, but that doesn’t mean we should be diminishing the accomplishments of those running a 5k. It wasn’t all that long ago that I couldn’t run a 5k myself, so I know all-too-well how much of an accomplishment being able to run a 5k is. But I digress…

By around mile 11, I was pretty much running on fumes, but I knew I was getting close to the end, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Within about 1/2 mile of the finish, there was one last big hill that just about did me in, but I continued to run up the entire thing, however slow it may have been. Just after reaching the top of the hill, a group of us actually got stopped by a cop that was directing traffic and needed to let a fire truck through. This held us up for probably 30-60 seconds, but the short break may have actually been a bit of a blessing after having just run up that last big hill. The cop was very nice about the whole thing, apologizing several times and saying that they would get us going again as soon as possible.

Almost done - running down the home stretch!
Shortly after the fire truck got through and we started running again, we turned a corner and the finish line was in sight within about 1/4 mile. At this point, a huge sense of elation came over me, knowing that I was all but done at this point. I could hear lots of people cheering and screaming at the finish line, and even though I didn’t have much left in me at this point, I picked it up and finished strong. Shortly before the finish line, I spotted my wife and kids cheering me on, and there even happened to be a few other people I knew in the crowd that I heard shouting out my name, which was a pretty amazing feeling.

After the race with my medal, happy to have my first 1/2 marathon under my belt!
In the end, just 19 weeks after stepping out the door for my first run ever, I finished my first 1/2 Marathon in 2:06:09. ย I may not have made my “dream” time, but I was extremely happy with how I did. And like I’ve said before – the best thing about your first race is that it’s always a PR ๐Ÿ™‚

Update: I just looked up my official chip time from the race, which takes an extra 17 seconds off my time – 2:05:52 ๐Ÿ™‚

34 thoughts on “Skinny Raven 1/2 Marathon Recap

  1. WOW! Awesome race recap, Brandon. And your time? Sweet!!! My first 1/2 was just under 2:45, so I’m super-impressed with your time. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

    One question. Were you using any kind of gel or GU while you ran? They always help me out on the long runs (said like I’m a pro or something!), especially those last couple of miles.

  2. Thanks Christy!

    No, I wasn’t using any kind of gel or GU – that’s something I definitely have to start trying out for these longer runs, because as I mentioned in the post, I was definitely losing steam the last couple miles!

  3. Sounds like a gorgeous race. Were the trails paved, or were they rough? You did better than me on my first 1/2-marathon. I only squeezed out 2:12. If you managed 2:06 on rough trails, that’s more impressive still. Congratulations!

  4. Thanks Greg! The trails on this course were all paved.

  5. Great Job man! just 19 weeks = crazy awesome!

  6. Wow, Brandon! This is AMAZING! You should be so proud of yourself.

    I think I need to get on the bandwagon and do a 1/2 marathon. One of these days, I will. I swear. You’re inspirational–and you look darned good in your runniong pic. Nice!

  7. Thanks beej! The 1/2 marathon was certainly a lot of work to train for, but it was a heckuva lot of fun too, I would definitely recommend it!

  8. Brandon you’re my hero today! That’s incredible. 19 weeks! It takes me longer to mow the lawn. And I love your new avatar, it’s about time, I mean wasn’t that other guy so 80 lbs ago? A million congrats, fist-bump and high five. I hope I look as happy as you did come mid October!

  9. Thanks Rita, glad you like the new avatar. I had been feeling for a while like it was time for an update, but just didn’t have a good photo to use. When I saw this photo my wife had taken of me after the race, I knew I had the one!

    I’m sure you’re going to ROCK your 1/2 marathon in October ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Just amazing man. You’re a real inspiration for me to really push on the whole Vegas half 13.1 mile stroll ๐Ÿ™‚

    Congratulations on being awesome!

  11. I know it can definitely seem intimidating, but just slowly work up your mileage following whatever plan you’re on (assuming you’re following a specific plan), and you’ll get there. I look forward to running with you and cheering you on in Vegas.

  12. Great race recap.

    Also being able to do a half marathon in 19 weeks pretty much makes you amazing!

  13. FANTASTIC JOB on the race, Brandon! Incredible time, incredible narrative and incredible training – only 19 weeks? Holy smokes! I loved reading your recap – and although I’ve never heard of DeeDee, she sounds like a badass. How cool that you saw her!

    I’ve been struggling with running motivation for the past month or two – I’m slowly getting it back. This post helped a lot!

  14. Thanks Erin! I’m glad to hear that your running mojo is coming back ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Wowowow – congratulations!! That time is AWESOME! Once you figure out the fueling issue (cuz, really, you need to fuel on long runs!) you’ll blow your “dream time” out of the water. You should be SO proud, Brandon!

  16. Do not look at me right now. Seriously turn away. I can’t stand it when someone watches me cry. Okay yes they are tears of pure joy for you but still, its a tad bit embarrassing.

    You are my hero Brandon! Way to get out there and take back your life!

  17. Thanks so much Tara – I hope I didn’t really make you cry ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. I already commented on Facebook the other day, but wanted to come here and read the full recap. WOW. I am sooo effin impressed by that kickass time! That is fast!!! You are simply amazing and super inspiring to someone like me (training for my first half marathon now). Congrats and I agree with Tara! You are my hero!!!

  19. Thanks so much Josie, that really means a lot. I’m sure you’ll do great on your first 1/2 marathon too!!

  20. Great job!!! I have my first half marathon coming up on October and it’s so inspiring to see you do well at yours! Take a couple days to rest, you earned it ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Brandon, you are AMAZING. That goal time is phenomenal and I am so proud of you for just believing in yourself and going out to do it. AND LOOK AT YOU. You’re just shrinking every time I see pictures of you. Keep at it. Keep strong.

    Keep being the awesome, healthy dad for your little ones ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Awesomesauce. Pure, unadulterated, awesomesauce! ๐Ÿ™‚

    And holycraplookhowthinyouare!

  23. Thanks Steve – I always loves me some good awesomesauce ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Awesome, Brandon!!!!! And your new photos show a truly amazing transformation!!!! Congrats.

  25. I’m a little late but congrats on your half marathon! That’s so freaking awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Oh, to live in a place where you can run in long sleeves in the summer. And where onlookers can wear jeans and a jacket. Consider me jealous. We’ve been in the mid to upper 90s (and humid) for close to two months straight. That said, I don’t think I’ll be too jealous come winter…

    Anyway, great job. That time (2:05) was a blessing. If you had finished in 2:01, you’d be cursing that cop and firetruck for standing between you and your dream time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Yes, it is quite nice running in a place with a cooler climate. Although I may be singing a different tune come winter!

  28. Awesome job on your race and that’s a great time. I’m going to have to do a lot more training and lost a lot more weight before I hit that time.

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  34. Amy Crandall

    I just 20 weeks from a 1/2 marathon – I want to run it. Did you have a schedule you used? I’d love to know how you trained, etc.

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