New Jersey Half Marathon Recap

1:31:13. 2:23 PR. New York City Marathon Qualifier.

In my usual fashion, I signed up for this race 1 day in advance. That tends to be when I do best. I’ve been doing the training since mid-January, and had logged 700 year to date miles leading up to NJ, so it wasn’t that crazy of a spur of the moment decision.

Despite the lack of taper (53 miles the week before 😱), I was feeling good enough, the weather was perfect, my friends were there and even though it runs a smidge long, it’s a GREAT course. And, unlike bigger races, you get to self-seed which meant I could line up with the pacer I needed versus dodging people.

Before races I’m usually anti-social. Joe and I usually get our own hotel and do our own pre-race dinner. For New Jersey we stayed in a beach house with 15 people, went to the expo with a packed car, did our shake out run with half a dozen people and loaded up a couple of cars to go eat dinner. Way outside my pre-race norm.


Why didn’t I do this every time? Before some races, it’s nice to have my own headspace but it’s also really nice to have friends there.

Saturday morning we slept in hung out a bit before doing our shakeout then headed to the expo. It was a smaller expo which was good since I usually walk around them and I was needing to save my feet and legs any extra expenditures. They had an area with free printed photos of you with your bib and race magnets. A+ on this one, New Jersey. The expo was on the beach and it was tempting to go walk around but we had a lot to get done before dinner and I needed to save my feet.


I dropped Joe off to finish his run then headed to the grocery store. This time around I tried a different diet strategy, lots of nuts, olives, beets and hummus leading up to the race. I read a Runner’s World article about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on performance. I love these foods so it was a nice excuse to eat them!

Pre-race, I never, never, never share my goals. Usually Joe might know (not always – last marathon he didn’t even know I was training for one), but otherwise I keep them to myself. I even shut down my Strava or at least hide my workouts in the few weeks before a race. I have a lot of doubts about what I’ll be able to do and I’m one of the least confident people out there. But no one, literally no one, cares if I fail at my goal and no one is going to laugh at me for trying – we’ve all failed before.

Before dinner I went outside to enjoy the nice ocean air and had a really good conversation with one of my friends who asked what my goals were, I decided I didn’t care and I would just be honest, “I want to qualify for New York”. I said it several times. Something about saying it out loud was a relief. I knew I could it, I had practiced that pace, over and over and over. I memorized it and learned to feel comfortable with it.

Finding a spot for dinner was tough. Most places didn’t take reservations and we had a group of 10. Thankfully after a few phone calls we found a great place and I had my usually pre-race pasta.

After dinner I hung out downstairs for a bit. Massaging my achy calves and getting in a few last minute carbs, aka more beets.


Around 10 I laid out my flat runner and went to bed. Knowing I wouldn’t sleep much, I spent some time scrolling through Instagram looking at puppies, something mindless and happy to help me sleep.

I got around 4 hours of sleep before the race and woke up at 5 AM, ready to go. Joe, who should win a Nobel Peace Prize for this, also woke up at 5 AM and went downstairs to make me coffee.

Most of the house was awake at this time and downstairs eating breakfast, stretching and having coffee. I went with my usual clif bar and coffee breakfast and packed a bagel to munch on for the ride there.


We got to the race a little late and I ended up having to cut a guy off in the port-a-potty line (sorry – but I can’t pee in a bush as easily!) then dashed to my corral with a couple of minutes to spare. I lined up with the 3:05 marathon pacer to ensure I wouldn’t go out too fast as the next one down was the 1:30 half and 3:00 marathon. I saw a couple of my friends, we took a pre-race selfie then I pushed them ahead of me and I plugged in.


Since NJ is a mostly flat course (a few little bunny hills in the beginning, if you could even call it that) and I’m a very consistent metronome I decided even splits with surges where I felt good was the way to go. I started a bit ahead of the 3:05 group and got caught up a little bit with the faster people but quickly realized this and was able to back off. I felt great up until mile 5 when I had a strong urge to back off the pace, this was due to my stomach (AGAIN). At mile 6 I was not feeling hot and started scanning for a port-a-potty. I spotted one at the just right time and darted off to it. Absolute perfect timing. I was in and out in 38 seconds. A second best for me.

By this point the 3:05 group had passed me but was in sight and I knew I would see Joe soon which was enough excitement to push me a little faster. I spent this mile and the next slowly reeling them in. Shortly after my stop I saw Joe, then my friends about a quarter of a mile later.


I was starting to gain on the pace group but felt like I was struggling. I’m new to racing so that struggle feeling is uncomfortable and I end up backing off quickly unless I’m sufficiently distracted. Something I’m learning to do less of.

Once we were up the last hill I caught to them. I stayed with the pack for a bit not wanting to waste energy passing them just yet.

I took my first bit of “fuel” here. I opted to use honey stinger chews so I could just have one little piece at a time and not a whole gel full of sugar. These also taste fantastic so I “rewarded” myself every so often with one for keeping up the pace. I ended up eating about 5 total of these the whole race, not quite a serving and I was a bit hungry toward the end of the race.

img_4252Around mile 8 I broke off from the group. I was still feeling pretty decent here and knowing I only had about 35 minutes to go and that I’d be seeing Joe again very soon made this part go by quickly. Since I had broken off from the group I started looking for people to catch up to and run with for a bit. I still ended up running mostly alone but this helped mentally.

Just before mile 10 I missed Joe, but thanks to affinity for neon race attire, he spotted me easily and was able to snap some great shots. I saw my friends again which made me happy. Once I hit 10, I looked at my watch and allowed myself to start somewhat doing race math. But concentrating on my form and pace plus doing math was too much so I decided to just run instead.

The turn around was near, we went from a downtown area to a residential one and I saw the signs for the half split off and relay. There was a massive group cheering near the relay swap and this was quite a boost! As we turned off from the marathoners the group really thinned out. This was around mile 11. It was just me and a couple other around me. I focused on catching people and running hard. Mile 12 was a lot of headwind but thankfully it was short lived and at the end of the race were I was more focused. These mile were undoubtedly the strongest part of the race for me.

img_4249Once I hit mile 12, I knew I was in the home stretch – I had told myself earlier I could slow down at mile 11 (where I started to feel tired and hungry) and still hit my goal but adrenaline took over. I chased down everyone I could and didn’t even think about looking at my watch. I don’t remember what music was playing or even what I was thinking. When we hit the last stretch of the race, it was time to fly – I let myself push it as hard as I could. I did this a little early but seeing Joe again gave me that last little boost to fly to the finish and in the process complete the Strava last mile challenge.

The second I crossed the finish line and scooped up some pretzels (I was super hungry), I texted Joe and my mom then found a cozy little spot on the grass. About a minute later I received a text from Nike about their new racing shoes – it’s like they knew – perfect timing but I was unable to scoop up a pair (also $275 for racing shoes is insane). Once I met up with Joe I took my shoes off and we walked back to the car where I changed then then went back out to the finish area to cheer for our friends doing the marathon.

Post race group Fireball shots – I still stand by this as the perfect recovery drink. It warms you up and has carbs.

I’m still over the moon excited to see my hard work pay off. I spend an average of 8-11 hours in the gym or running each week and its not easy to always find or carve out the time. At the beginning of the year, I said my goal was to work hard for the love of the grind. That still holds true.

If you’re still with me, here’s a more technical break down of the race starting with splits:


What went right:

  • Mental attitude – I felt calm, prepared and no pressure going into this race. I was excited and just overall felt good. Being with a great group prior to the race was key.
  • Preparation – I had done a lot of races recently leading up to this one. Running hard in that type of environment prepared me well. Specifically the Cherry Blossom race where I ran the exact same pace for 10 miles and felt like I could have kept going. It was a perfect “training” run
  • Pre-race fueling – I never felt full or bloated and I felt really well hydrated. I drank nuun all day long a couple of days before. The morning of I had a clif bar when I woke up and ate about half a plain bagel in the care ride there
  • Pre-race recovery and stretching – we all spent a TON of time hanging out downstairs, during which I spent of a lot of time massaging and stretching problem areas. This made me feel so much fresher.
  • Factors outside of my control – the weather cooperated, the race was cool enough to not overheat but I did lose a lot of fluids

What could have been better:

  • GI pain – I’m altering my diet a bit more now and trying Imodium for races in hopes that it will keep certain things at bay. 38 seconds is a LOT of time in a race.
  • Race fueling – I didn’t have the packet of gummies ready to go and fumbled with it a good amount. This cost me about 10-15 seconds and a bit of frustration. I also likely needed a gel because I was actually hungry during the race.
  • Timing – We should have left earlier, I just assumed there would be more port-a-potties since I heard that there were a ton last year. I was a bit nervous in the line and had to be a jerk so I could pee pre-race. Next time I’ll bring a heat sheet so I can squat in a corner.
  • Pace – I could have pushed harder in the beginning. I didn’t know this at the time but seeing how the end of the race played out – I had a little more to give.
  • Taper – No fault of my own here, I didn’t taper at all for this because I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to race, but I think it would have been beneficial.



3 thoughts on “New Jersey Half Marathon Recap

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