On Saturday I completed my second half marathon up in Portland, Maine. The "Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon" was tougher than my first in Newburyport, Massachusetts and given that it took place this past Saturday, featured much higher temps and humidity than the previous race. Even though it was tougher, it was also a great run featuring hills and great views from the Western Prom to the Eastern Prom and everything in between.
So with that said, I figured this "newbie" would share a few thoughts on the race just in case you are considering it next year. Before getting into great detail on how I ran the race, here are some thoughts off the top
- Crowded at the Start: When I ran the half marathon in Newburyport in May, there was only 900 runners and the starting line was the full width of the street. For the Old Port, the running lane was half that distance off the start and three were almost 3000 runners. The crowd did not break up for the most part till we crossed pass a mile under the bridge.
- Scenic: This race had great views of Casco and Back Bays. Running through the Old port by itself was nice too. Some commented on the smell of fish but that didn't seem to bother me much. Part of the race!
- Awesome Volunteers: Everyone I spoke to at this race was very helpful (though that is the nature of most people from Maine). Plenty of water stations were helpful though the one at the 1/2 mile mark left in the racewas curious to me (after they had one at the 1 mile mark too).
- After Race Party had many options: Afterward there was pizza, beer, goodies and watermelon. Plenty of water and everything you need to recover and get a sugar high.
- Tons of "potty" options: if you needed to go to the bathroom before during or after the race, there were plenty options out there for you. The one's on the course did not smell that good when running by them but what are you going to do....
- Parking was Good: I got there at 610 and parked in my customary lot a block up from the ferry terminal. There seemed to be plenty of parking but best to get here early. And while I did not stay at a hotel, there are plenty of those in the Old Port as well if you do not want to drive day of the race.
Now, with the general comments out there for you to read, let's review the actual race!
At the Beginning: As mentioned at the opening of this note, the starting line was crowded! My plan coming in was to start slow (run about 1 minute lighter than pace), get through the first set of hills and ramp up afterward. Well, due to the amount of people packed into a small travel lane on commercial street in the old port, the first mile was very slow! Things finally opened up once we crossed under the bridge but that was .75 miles into the race.
Climbing the Western Prom. Using my Garmin app, the climb looked imposing with a total climb of 150ft over less than a 1 mile area. After running it, I can tell you it was not that bad. I have walked hills in the past but this time around, I just ran slower when it got steeper. Right or wrong it worked for me!
Steep Decline: The road following this climbup the Western Prom declines gradually and then suddenly drops hard back onto Commercial Street. This was not so bad but running down hills has always bothered me as I have popped calves doing so. So while the race organizers said this area is a way to make up for the climb up the Western Prom, I would not say it makes up a major amount of time you lost by climbing earlier!
Flat for a while...then climb!: The next stretch puts you back into the old port and onto the second half of the race along the water and towards the Eastern Prom. This area does have a hill as well and it is more steep...just not as long as the climb done earlier. This stretch of the race was hard though because there are few trees and lots of sun! In fact it took me a minute to get back up to my pace.
Downhill and then Get together!: As one goes forward, the road will then bend down but the next mile is about 8 feet wide along the highway and then a trail. It is hard to pass anyone and there will be people coming the other way so look out! That was particularly frustrating as some runners, as was there right, walked along this stretch and what you were left with was a traffic jam! When I looked at my pace figures for that stretch, they were about a minute higher which is frustrating when one is trying to break 2 hours!
Around Back Bay: The next 3 miles were around Back Bay and aside from the tight squeeze that we all had to endure at the beginning, there was plenty of open space this stretch to pass people when needed. I will say that it was hot running around this area given the lack of tree coverage.
The Stretch Run: Now when we left back bay and crossed back onto the path we would take for the final 2 miles, I was thinking "ok time to kick it into gear." Well, I kicked it into gear and in hindsight, it was a bad idea! With about a mile to go, there was a short loop and then two short hills to climb - they were very short but they felt very long! I guess when you have run 12 miles, that is the feeling you get. Add in NO TREES and all open sun, you get a bunch of people passing out and a tough finish!
Overall, while I have my qualms about the race in parts, it was well worth the journey and while I may not do it again next year (thinking I will try a different one for diversification sake), I recommend this to anyone looking for a scenic race, great people and a challenge.