When it came to finding a half marathon to run in Delaware, the choices weren’t necessarily jumping off the page. However, I have known for some time which race I wanted to do, which was the Heritage Half Marathon in Dover, DE. This race took place completely on the Dover Air Force Base and with my connection to the Air Force through my grandfather, I wanted to make sure my DE would be this race. I tried to run it in both 2016 and 2017, but other events kept coming up. To make sure I finished my 50 state quest on time, I had to make sure I finished this year’s race. So, when I got bronchitis less than 48 hours before the start of this race, starting, let alone finishing this race was looking to be a challenge.
I headed to Dover on Saturday since they had packet pick up for two hours that afternoon. They hosted packet pick up at Mission BBQ right in Dover and thankfully it was just down the street from my hotel. It was a small race and since I was so sick, I actually took the time out to talk to the race director about what the medical situation would be out on the course. I figured I would find out just in case I couldn’t make it to the finish line. He informed me that since the entire race would be on base, there would be active Airmen out there at each water stop if I needed assistance (oh, don’t tempt me!!) and that MP’s would be patrolling the course as well. It sounded like if I needed help, I would be in good hands.
For the rest of the day I took it pretty easy. I was on 3 medications and really struggling to catch my breath. I figured I would rest as much as possible and catching a movie sounded like the perfect way to relax. After the movie I grabbed some dinner (noodle soup) and tried to relax at the hotel. Work had other ideas and I ended up having to work on some emergencies until pretty late. I was struggling to talk and breathe at this point so I was getting even more worried about how the race might go. They were also calling for some bad wind and much cooler temperatures for April. Needless to say, I know I should have slept in, but I’m stubborn so we all know I was going to show up to that race to do what I could.
On race morning the alarm went off around 6:30am and I knew immediately I probably shouldn’t run this race. Did I listen to myself though? Absolutely not. I am pretty stubborn after all. I got myself together, took my meds and ate breakfast. The Air Force Base was about 15 minutes away so I left the hotel around 7:15am. I had originally planned on wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I packed my rain jacket and a long sleeve just in case and had another bag of clothes in my car which happened to have a pair of capri’s.
When I got on base, I hit the indoor bathrooms and then decided to change my entire outfit. I threw on the capri’s, long sleeve and my rain jacket. I knew I would be out there for awhile, so I thought they might be better layers. I hung out in the warm car until 7:55am and then walked over to the start line. Unfortunately we had to wait for a few minutes the to start the race. While we were waiting though, the race director reminded everyone that we are on an active Air Force base and no one is to pull your phone out and take pictures or else you might not go home. He also reminded everyone to not go beyond the red line on the active tarmacs we would be running alongside of. So, the curious side of me absolutely wanted to take a picture of me running along the wrong side of the red line, but seeing that I wanted to get home that night, I decided to go against it. Therefore, there are not a lot of pictures for this recap. Sorry!
Finally the race director started the race and we were off. The course was a complete out and back on the base. This also meant being on base we had no protection from the elements and no sooner than we had started, the cold drizzle started. I knew that this race wasn’t going to be stellar so I decided to go to a 2:00/1:00 run/walk. I figured I could try successfully run 2 minutes and not die. Right from the start, I started on these intervals and found myself to be one of the last runners. It wasn’t a big field to begin with, but it got lonely out there really quickly.
As we got going, I actually didn’t feel terrible. I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I was able to bank some time in these first miles which proved to be helpful come the last few miles. Around mile 2.5 we turned on to an active tarmac and there was the red line! There were 13 planes just sitting ready and a few were being worked on it looked like. It gave me something to look at as we ran by.
I have to say that the volunteers out there were amazing! They looked to be mostly airmen and they stood out in that crazy weather cheering on all of the runners and handing out fluids. One interesting thing though is that they had gatorade in cups but the water you got was in full bottle. I am glad I ended up taking my hydration pack as I would not have wanted to carry a bottle around. At about mile 4.5 we made the turn to the back half of the course and this is when the lungs started to go. I could feel that it was getting harder to breathe and struggle was just beginning.
So if my lungs started to go in mile 4, my legs then started to go in mile 7. At least they made it half of the race before really starting to hurt. This was my longest distance since surgery so I had no idea what they were going to do. These were some tough miles. We had another major turn in the middle of mile 4 and from here we hit a heavier head wind. I also noticed that at some point a plane was rearing down the tarmac for a take off. It was sort of cool to be so close, but crazy to think just how close.
It was nice to hit the halfway mark and feel that I was actually getting somewhere. I had been pretty on point with the run/walk up to this point and making the turn then we had a nice reprieve from the headwind which felt great. As much as my legs were starting to give, I really wanted to try and take advantage of the tailwind we were getting. Toward the end of mile 8 though we made that sharp turn and the head wind started back. I think at this point I wanted to just sit down on the side of the road and cry. I was absolutely miserable, cold to the bones and having no fun.
Right at mile 9 there was a water station set up and as I passed by the guys asked how I was going. I responded something to the effect of I’d rather be in your shoes right now, but continued on. We turned a corner and got back on the one side of the tarmac and that’s when the whole race just went to shit for me. I was tired, my legs hurt and I don’t think my lungs were really working at this point. It didn’t help that the wind really began to kick up and for the last 4 miles was a headwind. I just could not catch my breath.
For the last 4 miles, I walked and I walked as fast as I could. I think I ran a total of 15 minutes in these last 4 miles. I pushed through as hard as I could, but running was pretty tough. When we had a section that had no headwind, I ran but as soon as the wind was back, I found myself walking again. My watch was off on distance, but I was able to at least keep these miles under 14 minutes and was thankful to have that time banked from the beginning. Around mile 12.5 a car came by and they asked how I was doing. Between the look on my face and me saying I was terrible and not feeling great, they immediately stopped and wanted to check up on me further. I thought that was pretty nice. I told them I was too close to the finish line to give up now, but head there and be prepared to catch up when I fall over the finish line.
Sure enough I came through the finish line and nearly passed out. The same guy from the car was there and immediately came up to check on me. Being nice, he said I looked great and did a great job. That was nice of him at the time, but I was feeling the exact opposite. After getting my medal, I headed inside the museum, but I was soaked through and so cold that I didn’t stay inside long. Within 10 minutes of finishing, I was back in my car and headed back to the hotel. I was hurting pretty badly and not just my legs. I was feeling pretty off so I tried to relax as best as I could and get a hot shower to warm up. I couldn’t seem to warm up and just kept getting worse. I tried to sleep a little but couldn’t so I decided to just hit the road home. I was glad for when I got home as I had a fever of over 101 that night. Running this race was certainly not the smartest thing I have done.
Even with how bad I felt, I would absolutely recommend this race! It’s beyond pancake flat so if you’re looking to go for a fast time, this could be that race. Cost was middle of the road as I signed up at $50. The nice thing thought it seemed as though there were no price tier increases. The medal was great! Lots of detail, great ribbon and a nice size as well. We also got a race shirt. There also seemed to be some good food set out after the race, but I was too cold to find out. If you enjoy doing the military races, the Heritage Half Marathon is a good one to add to your list. Just don’t expect it to be packed with spectators because all you had out there were the amazing volunteers at each water stop.
Official Finish Time:
13/13, Female 30-34