This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Delaware was my 45th state.
Since I live on the east coast, you might think Delaware is a state I would have run long ago instead of it being one of my last few races. However, I found it a bit difficult finding a half marathon in Delaware that I thought would be a good fit for me, that is, until I found the 2019 Seashore Classic Half Marathon. I prefer smallish races put on by local runners. I also prefer courses that are flat or slightly downhill. This one checked all of those boxes plus the races along the coast came recommended by other runners when I asked which race I should run for my half marathon in Delaware.
Packet pickup the evening before the race was about as quick and easy as they come for races- I went to a restaurant called Irish Eyes, told the volunteers which race I was running, picked up my bib and shirt, and was done in less than five minutes. There was no expo, no vendors, absolutely nothing other than a room with two volunteers handing out shirts and bibs, oh and print-outs of hand-drawn maps.
Normally I like to drive the course the day before a race so I get an idea in my head what I’m up against before a race. We tried to find the start but were unable to and it was quickly getting dark and we still hadn’t had dinner, so we decided to just get dinner and I decided to just hope for the best for the course. It was touted as being flat and fast, along the water and mostly through a state park. How hard could it be, right? That would come later.
Race morning was 65 degrees and a bit overcast, a tad warmer than I would have liked but not terrible by my standards (I tolerate the heat much better than most people). There was a 5k, half marathon relay, and half marathon, all of which started at the same time and place. Still, it was a fairly small crowd so even though maybe the first half mile or so was a bit crowded, things pretty quickly thinned out.
The first two miles of the race were on the road and my mile splits were 8:18 and 8:26, way too fast for me and I knew it. I figured I would just roll with it as long as I could, though. We entered Cape Henlopen State Park somewhere around mile 2.5 and shortly after that the ground changed from asphalt to crushed gravel. Mile 3 was 8:53, much closer to what I was aiming for.
We continued on the crushed gravel path through the park, passing a lighthouse, and had several water views along the way. The turnaround point was on Gordons Pond Trail, which was also the relay handoff. I still felt pretty good at the halfway point but by mile 8, I was pretty much done mentally and physically with the crushed gravel trails. The sun was out in full force by now and there were long stretches where we were exposed to the wind, which was pretty brutal.
I did a ton of self-talk during this race and I told myself that we should be back on asphalt somewhere around mile 10. However, I was warned by a local runner that often when you go from running a long distance on crushed gravel to asphalt, it feels harder on your legs when you get back on the asphalt. Perhaps this is because the gravel isn’t quite as solid as asphalt and you have to work a bit harder to get your footing. Whatever the reason, my legs were toast by the time we reached the asphalt again.
Mile 11 was my slowest mile, at 9:46, and I was struggling to not walk (but I didn’t). All around me, people were stopping to stretch their legs briefly before continuing on. By mile 12 I was able to speed up a bit to 9:34 but my legs were so tired I couldn’t speed up that much. Finally, with the end in sight, my last mile was 9:18, and I had a respectably strong finish, with a final time of 1:58:38, good enough for second in my age group.
I had put it out there earlier this year that one of my goals for 2019 was to finish in the top three for my age group, Running Resolutions for 2019. I was thrilled that I was able to do that with this race because I knew it was my best chance for doing that this year. I waited around for the age group awards ceremony, not knowing where I placed in my age group, but knowing there was a slight chance I might win something based on previous years’ times.
Following the race, medals were handed out to all of the finishers at the finish line, along with bottles of water. Just a little walk from the finish line, at Irish Eyes Restaurant, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, beer, and Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t have the stomach to eat or drink anything other than water, so I just sat and people-watched for a bit, waiting on the awards ceremony. Finally I decided a strawberry daiquiri would taste awesome (that’s normally not a drink I would ever get, either), and my husband happily went to buy one for me inside the restaurant.
My thoughts on this race are that it’s a pretty good one to run if you’re a 50-stater or live near Lewes, Delaware and want to run a scenic half marathon. If you’re the type of runner who needs crowd support, fancy aid stations, and loads of bling, this isn’t the race for you. The shirt was pretty simple, as was the medal. There were three aid stations on the course, with water only. I barely saw anyone cheering on runners except for the finish/start area.
Even though this race is often described as “fast and flat,” this isn’t an easy course by any stretch of the imagination. There are rolling hills in the park and large sections of the race where you’re exposed to the sun and wind. There’s also the toll running on crushed gravel takes on your legs. That being said, I really did enjoy this course and several times commented out loud to other runners how beautiful it was. I would recommend this race with those reservations.
Have any of you run a race in Delaware? If so, which one did you run and what did you think?