I signed up for this race a few weeks ago on an impulse. A group of my friends had already registered, and it was easy to convince others to sign up. It was inexpensive (around $20 to register) and local. It happened to fall a week before my first marathon of the spring season, and I usually run 10-12 miles at marathon pace (or faster) the week before anyway. The stars all seemed to be aligned for this one so I barely thought twice about signing up.
Except that the week before the race I was chaperoning a school event in Hershey, PA. 1,800 total high school kids, and 170 of them came from our school. We stayed at the Hershey Lodge. I spent the three days before the race getting almost no sleep and eating horribly (it’s very likely that I ate my weight in chocolate). When I got home on Friday around 5:30pm, I went to bed in hopes that I could sleep it all off. The race offers a 4 mile and a 10 mile option, and I was seriously considering dropping down to the 4 miler if it were a possibility. Then I told myself to stop being a little girl and suck it up. At worst, it would be a good final long run before the spring marathon craziness begins.
It was seven degrees at the start of the race. Although it was colder than the day we ran the Fred Lebow Half Marathon, it felt warmer. Even with the cold weather and poor build up to the race, it ended up being a successful day! I ran a teeny PR for the 10 mile distance with a 1:10:52, about a 7:04 pace…my previous PR was 1:10:54. However, this race was extremely hilly – much hillier than the Oley Valley 10 miler, where I ran my previous 10 mile PR – so I’ll take it. I got first in my age group, and most of my friends placed in their respective age groups. Regardless of whether you ran a PR or not, running that course is quite an accomplishment. It was so freaking hilly, but an awesome training run for Boston. My Garmin registered 680 feet of climbing over the entire run. The marathon I’m running next weekend doesn’t have that kind of elevation gain over the entire 26.2 miles!
Around mile four I hit one of the many long, arduous climbs and just thought to myself, “Seriously? You have got to be f**cking kidding me. This is bullshit.” My internal dialogue was pretty much consistent with that for the rest of the race. However, I really did love the race and enjoyed the course, hills and all. Besides, I like hills so of course I can’t wait to do it again next year. It was very scenic and felt like you were running in the middle of nowhere. The roads weren’t closed to traffic, but there were minimal cars so traffic wasn’t an issue. Volunteers were at every turn to direct the runners, which was a necessity because the course went all over the place. If there wasn’t a volunteer directing you, there were clearly marked signs.
There were three water stops on the course (I think), but I only took water at two of them. I can’t believe the water wasn’t frozen. The start and finish of the race was at an elementary school, and the runners were permitted to use the bathrooms and the cafeteria. Speaking of the cafeteria, that’s where you got your bib and your shirt. We all know that I love the race swag, but these shirts are less than desirable and are way too big, which is the only negative I could come up with about this race. I brought my change of clothes into the building and left them in the cafeteria during the race. At the finish, it was easy to walk inside, change and warm up.
There were soft pretzels, chips, and fruit in the cafeteria for the runners after they finished. It felt like a luxury to have indoor bathrooms and a warm place to hang out. Any of the winter races I’ve run recently didn’t offer amenities like that. I don’t always love signing up for winter races (I show up at the start thinking, “WHY did I think this was a good idea?”), but I would sign up for this event again. I wouldn’t call it a PR course, but it is an excellent addition to a spring race schedule.