Fall is here and in Greensboro, that means our favorite local half marathon is too! In its 10th year, the Cannonball Half Marathon is a great opportunity to run a local half as a tune-up for marathon training as we all move towards tapering. It’s easy to add on additional miles if needed since the majority of the race is run along our Greenway.
A few months ago, there were posts on Facebook looking for interested runners to pace the half marathon, something new they were adding this year. I quickly responded that I’d love to pace the 2:15 group, having ran the race 2 times already, but we also run the course on our long runs also, I know the route like the back of my hand. I was super excited to be selected and I was also pacing with running friend, Johnny! This was going to be a lot of fun! It also fit in perfectly to my taper miles. I had to run 15 miles and I could add in 2 more after.
I arrived at 7:00am, an hour before the race, to pick up my pacing sign, find other friends who were running and/or pacing, and hit the bathroom. I wasn’t nervous or stressed at all, which is one of the great things about pacing. No pre-race jitters! The only that made me a bit nervous was the temperature and humidity. It was 68 degrees and very humid! Unlike previous years I’ve run this half, this was a hot one! Once it was about 10 minutes out from the start, all of the pacers moved towards the starting line to meet our runners. One of the girls that I ran with when I first started training back in 2009 was one of the runners in our group! We hadn’t seen each other in some time, but it was great to know someone in our group!
The race starts and off we go! As we were coming down the first hill, we heard someone yelling. We look up and see Cara and Christine up on the hill cheering for us! They had run to the start of the race to catch us! Johnny and I run a little bit under pace at the beginning, knowing that there were several spots along the course where the hills are a little tough. We wanted to bank a little bit of time so that if runners in our group wanted to walk the hills at the end of the race, they could do that and still finish around 2:15. We had a fairly good sized group for the first few miles. We do a loop around the park, so Cara and Christine ran with us for a bit and left us around mile 2 as we headed out of the park. The majority of the race is downhill at the beginning, so we kept it right at a 10 minute mile pace, letting our pace go under that on the downhill sections.
For miles 4-10.5, we stayed as even to pace as we could. There is a 1.5 mile stretch of a slow grade uphill and a nasty hill right at 7.5. Total elevation gain for the run is 572 feet. We were about 2 minutes ahead of pace by mile 8, which was plenty for the hilly section from 11-13.1. We slowly lost and gained runners along the next few miles. By mile 11 where the real hills start again, we were pretty much by ourselves, with a few runners from our group ahead of us and several behind us. I walked the one nasty hill hoping that some of our group would catch up and we would slowly run to catch up to Johnny, who kept pace and powered up the hill.
By the time we hit mile 12, we were pack in the park and had just a few more big hills to conquer. We were cheering on and encouraging our few runners who went ahead of us, hoping they would hear us! We were ahead of pace with .5 miles left, so Johnny and I slowed down and started looking behind us to encourage runners to go! Johnny and I came through the chute on time at 2:14:56!
A new race management company, Junction 311, has taken over a few local races and they have done an awesome job rejuvenating them. This year’s Cannonball had beer, food trucks, a live band and some great long sleeve blended tech shirts. The changes they made to this year’s race showed not only in what people were saying about it, but also by the number of runners out there. It’s a fairly small half. There were 273 runners in the half this year. The 5K had more runners than usual! The volunteers at all the water stops were awesome! Very encouraging! The course was marked well too.
The mile marker signs were off just a bit from our watches which seems to happen in most races. It really wasn’t a big deal and it seemed to fix itself towards the end of the race. We missed the port-a-potties at the start too. They had a row of them past the start line but we were using the bathrooms at the tennis center. It wasn’t a big deal but the line was long for the ladies and it could have been cut in half if we all would have seen them earlier.
I would love the opportunity to pace again next year! It was really fun and knowing the course was a definite advantage.
Follow Runner Girl in a Rocking World