Race Report: 2008 New Jersey Half Marathon

This report’s a bit late in coming, but better late than never.


In a nutshell, we both ran very good races. No, actually, that’s not fair. Jonathan ran a great race. My race merely gazed longingly at, but did not touch, greatness.

Jonathan did the full marathon, a race that had been his training focus for the last five months. He did the same Pfitzinger plan (from “Advanced Marathoning”) that I did, albeit with a bit more mileage (and, of course, faster training paces). His hard work paid off. Here are his impressive stats:

  • Finishing time: 2:44:43
  • First place masters male (with first place in 50-54 age group, obviously)
  • Seventh place overall
  • Age graded ranking: 85.4%

That last stat is particularly notable since it ranked him as the highest age graded runner in the entire race. Also, his new marathon PR is an improvement of nearly 28 minutes.

Is it obvious that I’m so very proud of him? Too obvious?

My performance was not too shabby either. My stats:

  • Finishing time: 1:34:39
  • Thirteenth place female
  • Seventh place masters female
  • Fifth place female 40-44
  • Eightieth place overall
  • Age graded ranking: 74.5%

My half marathon PR was five minutes faster than my time for the Manhattan Half in late January. It also gives me a marathon equivalent performance time of just under 3:20. Based on this, I’m using 3:18 training paces now, as I start my buildup for training for the next race in October, and so far my heart rates are in line. Something else: My age grading has jumped almost 15% in the last year.

It is so gratifying to have gone from placing in the top 40 percent of female finishers two years ago to consistently finishing in the top 10-20 females today. It really motivates me to do better and to dream of actually winning one of these things one day.

I had an interesting shift in perspective right after the race, too. I’d like to shoot for a 1:30:00 half PR in the next sixth months or so. That time is right around Jonathan’s first half marathon finishing time two years ago — a pace that I couldn’t conceive of being able to run at the time. This supports my theory that one reason why so many people train and train, but don’t improve very much, is that they get locked into thinking of themselves as only being able to run at certain paces. So they never push themselves enough because they can’t fathom ever running races at 7:00 pace, for example, since they’ve always run them at 9:00 per mile.

We both ran very consistent splits, with the only trouble spots being the 2.5 or so miles along the shoreline, where there was wind of 10-15 mph. The course is a good one; flat for the most part, with a couple of little hills.

Not a lot of crowd support, save for some very enthusiastic pockets at miles 5 and 18, but I don’t really care about having cheering crowds. It was funny, though. I was running with a guy who had a huge cheering contingent. They went totally nuts when we passed them.

I spent most of the race running within about 20 metres of the 3:10 marathon pacing group. For the first three miles, I was right behind them, but the pace leader’s variation in pace was driving me a little crazy — slowing down to 7:30, then speeding up to 7:05. So I finally passed them when they were in a slow cycle and ran about 10 seconds ahead of them until mile 10, when they passed me and I used them as a windbreak.

The race is exceptionally well-organized. Packet pickup and baggage were easy, there was plenty of food (although spoons were hard to come by) and porta potties, the course was well-marked and they managed the finish line split (between half and full runners) well, so it wasn’t chaotic.

One complaint was that the staging area was in a residential neighborhood, and there was too much traffic to warm up safely. But that’s a minor quibble. Best of all, they posted printed results quickly and there was no waiting around for hours for the awards ceremony. You just went and picked up your award (well, I didn’t…if I’d only run a few minutes faster…).

Finally, they have the coolest awards. It makes up for the horrible tee shirt. They feature a miniature replica of the town’s historic lighthouse, glued to a piece of marble (or maybe it’s granite; I can’t tell). To give you a sense of scale, the award pictured is about a foot wide and probably weighs about 15 pounds.

It was a good experience and supports my other theory (actually, I have lots of theories) that it’s possible to run a good half off of marathon training a month later, if you’re careful with recovery from the first race. I’d like to run this one again next year — maybe even the full race.