Last weekend I ran the Shades of Death Half Marathon here in New Jersey. Compared to all other distance races I've run, it was pretty small, just a few hundred people.
But it was awesome!
It was actually run on my local training routes - I run Shades of Death Road all the time. So it was really nice to race on the roads I know so well. It was very rural, run through farms and fields and beautiful country roads of Northern New Jersey. There were very few human spectators, but lots of the furry kind!
My favorite human ones were two senior ladies standing on a corner. They were there by themselves, and I was the only runner around. They clapped and waved and I waved back. They were great!
The furry fans were the best. I passed a field with a couple of horses - they had their heads over the fence, standing together, watching the runners go by. Across the street was a small field full of goats, merrily chomping on piles of hay.
A little further down the road there was a dog in a driveway. It just stood there and watched us go by, with the occasional bark at a runner.
A couple of miles on, there were the dairy farms. Black and white cows grazing in their pastures. At this point I choked back a tri-berry GU, followed by a swig of Gatorade. Which went really well with the fragrance of cow poo. But I loved it!
As it was a two loop course, I got to run past these sights twice. On my last loop, with about a mile to go, I passed an open field that suddenly filled with about a dozen horses mounted by red- and black- coated riders accompanied by a pack of hounds - on a fox hunt, I presume. They came up on the road beside me, and for a quarter of a mile I ran next to horses and hounds. It was so great!
My goal was to run strong, but not flat out. New York City was just 3 weeks away, and I wasn't chancing any injuries. But I finished with a PR! My fastest half yet! 2:20:18.
The best part? I got to kiss this guy at the end!