The course starts in downtown Portsmouth and then winds back and forth throughout the city before ending at historic Strawbery Banke. It is a relatively flat course and is enjoyable run. The major concern going into the race was whether the rain would end before the start.
Weather forecasts were predicting 2-4 inches of rain Friday night into Saturday morning. Luckily, the rain did pass by prior to start, leaving us with perfect running weather (high 50s/low 60s and overcast). The only downside was that the course was wet and there were some puddles and mud (where there was some road construction under way).
I met up with some friends at the start line; however, we started to seed ourselves in the crowd a little too late. So we started much farther back in the pack than I would have hoped. Once the race started, it took quite a while to break out of the pack. This left me with around an 8:00 mile for the first mile. Quite honestly, I’m not sure where I wanted to be. I was two weeks off of running a 50K, four weeks off of running a marathon and four weeks off of being injured and not having run for the previous four prior to the marathon. In my mind, I felt that I would be OK with around an 8:00 pace overall, but would really prefer to be sub-7:30.
For the first couple of miles, I picked up the pace but remained conservative while running with a friend. At about the half way point, I started to pick up the pace and started to push it a little more (but still remaining pretty conservative). Overall, I feel like I continued to pass people throughout the race and very few people passed me (that is always a great feeling).
Just before the final dash across the finish line, there is a little hill. I pushed up it and then picked up the pace some more. In the end, my official pace was 7:39 (7:31 on my Garmin). All in all I was happy with these results, and I look forward to improving upon that pace throughout the year.
At the finish line, there was ample water, sports drinks, bagels and fruit for the finishers. There also was a display screen and chip reader so that you could stand in front of it and immediately get your results.
Would I run the race again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. However, I have two complains:
(1) Picking up my bib and my wife’s bib the day before was not the friendliest of experiences. I didn’t have my wife’s ID or confirmation with me, and I had to go through an act of congress to be able to pick up her bib. The claim was that this was for “security purposes” and I was given quite a bit of attitude of questioning it. Having run many races (from 5Ks to marathon/ultra), I have never had a more negative experience in this aspect. And it just wasn’t me. While I was trying to work my issue out, this happened to other people also. There was even one man who thought that he had his wife’s printout, but it was the “wrong” printout. He didn’t click through all the links and print out what the organizers were looking for. He was left out in the cold.
(2) The starting line was chaos. I really appreciate it when larger races have pace markers/corals at the beginning of a race so that runners can seed themselves accordingly. There will still be people who disregard this, but at least it provides an opportunity to create better organization and make it a better race for runners focusing on their paces. Quite honestly, there are many novice runners who do not know where to line up and simply push to the front … only to become obstacles for the faster runners behind them.
Overall, the negatives could easily be fixed, and if they were, this would be an even better race in the future.