My Age Adjusted Half Marathon Times

After reading Runner’s World Train Smart Run Forever by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr (see my review here), I wanted to see how my age adjusted half marathon times looked. One of the main takeaways from the book is that although your race times will inevitably increase as you get older, particularly beginning in your 40’s, your age adjusted times should actually remain the same or decrease if you’re lucky.

Warning: this blog post is full of data and probably only for true data geeks. If it puts you to sleep, don’t say I didn’t warn you. For those of you that are into this kind of thing, you’re in for a treat!

First I plotted all of my half marathons from the very first one in North Carolina to the  one I ran in Utah. I did not include my last race in New Jersey, however. This includes half marathons I ran over an almost 20 year span with 41 half marathons in 39 states, so there are a lot of variables here besides just age to consider. For instance, the terrain and weather varied greatly from one race to the next. Beyond that, I was anemic for a period of years, so there is a spike in my times due to that until I was fully recovered.

You’ll see my race times are in red and my age adjusted times are in black. Initially, the age adjusted times are the exact same as the race times, so you’ll only see a black square for the first few races. Only around my mid-30’s do you even start to see a separation between the red circles and black squares.

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There is also a spike in my times for the race in Colorado. Running at a high elevation really took it out of me so this was definitely one of my slowest finish times. I decided to take out the times when I was anemic and the points from Colorado, since I thought they were outliers from the rest of the data.

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OK. So now I’ve removed the points from when I was anemic and my race in Colorado. With these two graphs, I can get a better idea of the “big picture” of my running.  The obvious outlier in the first one is my first race ever. Even with that point included, however, the general trend for my age adjusted times are decreasing, as shown by the linear fit shown by the blue line. When I throw out my first race time, the trends are more consistent. My race times have averaged around 2 hours and a couple of minutes over the years and have slightly increased. However, and here is the main point of the whole thing, my age adjusted times, again, as shown by the blue line, have definitely decreased over time, which is what I wanted to see.

Another interesting thing is the very large degree of separation between my race times and age adjusted times in my 40’s. For my half marathon in Utah, the difference between these two times is almost 10 minutes!

My plots aren’t anywhere near as “pretty” as the ones in the book, but I think maybe a big reason for that is the author’s age spans over a much longer time than mine do. Perhaps when I’m in my 70’s (as one of the authors is) and I plot my race times versus my age adjusted times, I’ll see something even more linear, rather than what I see. Hopefully even though my race times will (inevitably) increase, my age adjusted times will continue to decrease linearly.

Here’s the link to the Runner’s World website where you can plug in your numbers to see your age-graded race times.

Superhero Half Marathon, New Jersey- 40th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. New Jersey was my 40th state.

When I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey three days before the half marathon, the highs were in the low 90’s, not exactly running weather. Fortunately the weather gods came through and at 8:00 the morning of the race, it was 54 degrees, more like my idea of good racing weather for a May race.

Packet pickup was as simple as it comes, simply pick up a short-sleeve technical shirt and bib at the local running store, Morristown Running Company. There were two days plus race day morning for packet pickup, which was very generous.

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My flat runner

Honestly, this race kicked my butt. The course description states there are rolling hills for “the first three miles but the last 10 are relatively flat.” I guess the term “rolling hills” and “relatively flat” can be subjective. In my opinion there are pretty continuous big hills for the first four miles then you get a little break before the hills begin again, and these are not “rolling hills” but steep, seemingly never-ending hills. I drove the course the day before the race so I knew it was going to be a tough race but even still I underestimated just how hard it would be.

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Quick- how many superheroes can you pick out?

The best part about the course, in my opinion, is when it goes through Loantaka Park. Although it’s a bike path, by the time you reach this portion of the race the crowds have thinned out enough that it doesn’t seem too crowded. This portion of the course is shaded pretty heavily, mostly flat, and scenic. Unfortunately the course only briefly goes through the park. The rest of the course takes you past many nice homes in what I’m sure are extremely expensive neighborhoods, but as beautiful as some of the homes are, it’s not nearly enough to provide a diversion from all of those hills.

So what do you get for your registration money? This year anyway, the first 3000 registrants got a bright yellow wicking t-shirt in addition to the medal, water and aid stations every 1.75 miles, personalized bibs, and photos at the finish (although I didn’t hear about this until after the race so I didn’t get one). Food at the finish was bagels, bananas, cereal bars, and water (alas, no chocolate milk).

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This shirt should be good for visibility when I’m running on the roads!

I did enjoy seeing other people’s superhero costumes even though I didn’t dress up myself. There were many Wonder Women and Supermen on the course. Some of the more original included Poison Ivy (from Batman) and Dr. Octopus.

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Captain America just barely beat Dr. Octopus

The only thing I can say to explain my slow slog to the finish is the hills just were too much for me. Even though I did my long runs on a hilly route, and even had a breakthrough  before the race, it wasn’t enough to prepare me for the hills of this race. My legs felt tired after the first two miles, and that was just when the hills were really getting going. I was doing great following the 2 hour pacer until the hills started getting intense, then the group got so far away from me I knew there was no way that was going to happen for me in this race. Usually I can make up some time in the last 5k of a half marathon, but by then I was so exhausted all I wanted to do was just to finish.

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My sad stats are as follows:

Chip time: 2:13:46

Gender place: 337/667

Age Group place: 36/82

All I can say is, these women from New Jersey are FAST!

If you enjoy hilly half marathons that are pretty low frill, this one would be for you. There is also a relay option for the half marathon.

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Also, just in time for the summer heat, I have a discount code for Nuun: hydratefriends2017 for 25% off your order. The code is good through June 23.

Nuun link

Call for Suggestions for a Half Marathon

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m running a half marathon in all 50 US states. My last one was in Utah, state number 39, which of course means I have 11 more to go. Yay!

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I have the following states to go:  New Jersey and West Virginia, both of which I’ve already got races picked out, so disregard them. That leaves Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, Delaware, Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho (I’m thinking one in Coeur d’Alene just because it looks amazing there), Nebraska, and New Mexico. So I ask all of you reading this, do you have any suggestions for half marathons in these states?  I’m not repeating a state, so if it’s one I’ve already done, thanks anyway.

I’ll take suggestions either way, too. If you loved or hated a race, let me know which one it was and why you loved or hated it.

Even if you haven’t personally ran a half marathon in any of these states but you have a good friend or relative who did and they raved or ranted about it, please pass those my way! I’ll take any and all suggestions I can get.

People often ask me how I choose which races I’m going to run. For many of my races, I’ve had a particular race in mind then something happens and for some reason I can’t run the race I had picked out months or even years in advance, and I’d end up running another race entirely. Usually it’s ended up well, but in the case of Tybee Island, Georgia and Run the Reagan Half Marathon, that wasn’t the best decision. Honestly, since my daughter started school, most of the races I’ve chosen have fit around her school breaks (which haven’t always been during a traditional school year).

Since I’m down to these final states it’s going to take some planning on my part to make sure I reach my goal. I don’t think I’ll be able to just randomly choose a race without thoroughly thinking the logistics through. For example, while there are some half marathons during the winter in Minnesota, you can be sure I won’t be running in any of them. That’s one state I think I have to run in the summer or early (very early) fall.

Now that I have a blog and have connected with many other runners online, I thought I’d send out a call for suggestions here. I know many of you run primarily marathons or other distances than half marathons, but I also know if you’re a part of a running community, you often hear other runners talk about races and I was hoping to gain some of that insight.

However, I realize some of these states aren’t exactly in “hot spots” where people are dying to run a race, like Disney, New York, Chicago, etc. so if I don’t get any suggestions I’ll understand. Personally, I can’t wait to go to most of these states but I don’t think they’re high on most runners’ lists of places where they want to run, with possibly the exception of Alaska.

You never know unless you ask, right? Anyone? Anything?

 

 

I Volunteered at a Race and All I Got Was This T-shirt

How many of you remember the t-shirts that were popular beginning in the late-70’s and peaked sometime in the 80’s, with the saying, “My parents went to Florida and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”? There were many others as well, not just Florida. Choose a place and insert it in place of Florida. Here’s an example:

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Well, I volunteered at a 5k and 10k race recently and I got a t-shirt, but I also received so much more in intangible rewards.

It had been a while since I had volunteered, and I felt like I was due to “give back” for all of the races I’ve ran. This time, my daughter who has recently started running 5k’s also went with me. She very wisely said, “I think all runners should volunteer at a race to see what all goes on and how much work the volunteers do.” I agree 100%.

My daughter and I volunteered at the race-day registration portion, which meant we had to check-in at 6:30 a.m. Ouch! The sun wasn’t even up when my alarm went off. The 10k started at 8:30 and the 5k started at 9:45, and for whatever reason it was mostly people running the 10k that were doing race-day registration. I noticed several things while we were there that might be a bit surprising and thought I’d share them here.

Out of about 20 volunteers that were at this particular station (registration) only two of us (my daughter and myself) said that we were runners when the person in charge asked. No one else there was even a runner, and yet here they were spending their way-too-early Saturday morning in the cold volunteering at a race. I found that a bit surprising. I’m sure there were at least a couple of other runners volunteering out there somewhere, maybe at an aid station or handing out bananas at the finish, but the point is, the majority of people volunteering at this race weren’t even runners.

My daughter was also surprised at just how many volunteers there were. This was a fairly small race (I later heard there were about 750 runners total for the 5k and 10k and 75 people doing the 1 mile fun run), so there wasn’t a need for huge numbers of volunteers, but even so, we were by the volunteer check-in station so we saw all of the people who came by, and it was a lot. I think runners sometimes forget or simply aren’t aware just how many volunteers are required to help support a race. There are volunteers first of all that help with planning the race before it even begins, then on race day at the check-in station for volunteers, more at registration, t-shirt pick-up, timing, water stations, course directors (to show you the way at turns), parking attendants, passing out food at the finish, handing out medals at the finish, police directing traffic, and the list goes on.

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Runners signing up at the race-day registration tables
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Post-race aid tents

I was also surprised at how big of a time commitment many of the volunteers are asked to put in. As I said, I was at the race-day registration station so I was asked to be there by 6:30 that morning. We were asked to stay until right up until the 5k began in case there were last-minute stragglers (there actually were a couple of people who registered for the 10k with maybe 5 minutes until the start). This means we were there from 6:30 until 9:45. That’s a pretty big chunk of time, and we weren’t even there as long as some other volunteers were. I saw volunteers cutting up oranges and bananas when we got there around 6:30 and they were still there passing them out to runners who had finished racing the 5k when we left at 9:45.

Before I registered online to volunteer for this race, I had tried to volunteer at other races in the area but was surprised to find that they seemingly didn’t need any more volunteers. One of the bigger races had a link on their website to volunteer, so I clicked it and every single slot for volunteers was full. I tried another race website and found the same thing- no more space for volunteers. I emailed a race director for another race to ask if I could volunteer and received no response. I understand these people are busy because most of them have full-time jobs on top of organizing a race so I’m not faulting them for not getting back to me. I just didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find a local race where I could volunteer. I’d like to volunteer again for another race or two this year and hopefully it won’t be so difficult to find some that would like my help!

The next time you run a race, don’t forget to thank a volunteer! It definitely takes a village to put on a race and the bigger the race, the more people it requires. I know I have more appreciation for volunteers at races after being a volunteer myself.

 

Why My Race Finish Times Don’t Mean Much to Me

I won’t go so far as to say my race times don’t mean anything, but over the years I’ve learned they don’t really mean a whole lot. I’m primarily talking about half marathons here, because that’s primarily what I run. I also don’t mean to disparage anyone and their time goals. Let me explain.

I ran my first half marathon when I was 28 years old. I finished in 2:20:04. I recently completed my 41st half marathon in my 39th state, Utah (2:06:24) and over the years my finish times have been all over the place. Well, sort of. Let’s take a closer look at that.

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Start of the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon

My fastest finish was 1:55:28 at Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state. Prior to that, my fastest finish was 1:56:16 at Evansville Half Marathon, Indiana-13th state. So many years had passed since the race in Indiana that I thought there was no way I would ever beat that time, but sure enough I did thanks to the downhill course in South Dakota. Of note, I didn’t win any age-group awards at either of these races.

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This was a long, slow lap for me at the Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy Half Marathon

On the flip side, my slowest finish was 2:35:42 at Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy Half Marathon, Oklahoma-21st state which was right around when I was diagnosed with anemia. I really struggled to get my times back down after my diagnosis and it took years until I felt like I was back to my pre-anemia running self. I hovered around the 2:05 mark until I finally broke sub-2 hours again at the Frederick Half Marathon, Maryland- 33rd state with a finish of  1:59:48. This was a well-organized, fun race and I think that all contributed to my finish time.

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The finish of the Frederick Half Marathon

I managed to finish first in my age group at the Roller Coaster Half Marathon, Missouri- 32nd state, but the funny thing about that is it wasn’t even one of my fastest times (2:04). When I finished second in my age group at the Dixville Half Marathon, New Hampshire- 35th state (1:57) that was my third fastest finish time ever but my time at the McKenzie River Half Marathon, Oregon- 36th state (2:02:32) was one of several race times around 2:02 and I finished third in my age group. The difference in these races was the conditions and the courses. As I said in my post about the race in Oregon, it was one of the toughest courses I’ve ever ran, so I was really happy with my finish time, regardless of what the clock said.

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Over the years, I’ve learned how weather, hills, and wind are all huge contributing factors in race times. For whatever reason, I seem to have chosen a lot of hilly courses, so my times have been slower than if I would have chosen flatter or downhill courses. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment because I’m really not a big fan of uphill courses. I’ll admit I’ve often been mislead by the posted courses on race websites and have been surprised to see the course in person. One thing I have learned is that when a race is described as “scenic,” that means there will be hills and often really big hills.

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Finishing the Dixville Half Marathon in New Hampshire

Another factor in all of these finish times is my age. My racing career has spanned almost 20 years and other than when I was anemic or otherwise injured or sick, I’ve somehow managed to keep my times fairly consistently around 2 hours. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak, and for my times to increase as I get older. I’ve learned to not stress out during a race if I get tired or am in pain and let goal times slip by. It’s OK if I don’t run a sub-2 hour anymore. I’ve done it and if I do it again, great, but if not, that’s OK with me. Really.

Just like the saying, “Age is only a number,” I feel like my race times are only a number. I think that’s the biggest take-away here. I’m OK with my finish times, no matter what they are. For every single race I’ve ever ran, I’ve put my all into it and done my best, and that’s all that really matters to me. Not a “fast” finish time. But I’ll take one when I can get it!

Also, here’s a discount code for everyone that buys Nuun.  It’s good through the end of March. Sorry for the late notice!

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My Biggest Running Influences

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Earning these awards are part of what sparked running in me

I feel like I’ve been running ever since I can remember. When I was very young, I remember running through my neighborhood and feeling pure joy. I did take a few years off from running during college but other than that, I’ve pretty much always ran. Neither of my parents were runners or even athletic by any stretch of the imagination. My older brother wasn’t athletic and really no one else in my extended family was athletic either. I just discovered running on my own and fell in love with it from the beginning.

As I grew older, I began to pay more attention to famous runners and I would watch them on TV during the Olympics and cheer them on then, but I never really followed any certain runner’s career. I could name some of the big names, especially the longer distance runners but I really didn’t know much about them. For instance, I didn’t know if any runner in particular had a big race coming up but I would sometimes look up some race results like the Boston Marathon to see who participated and how they did.

I didn’t run my first race as an adult until I was in my mid-twenties. After I started running half-marathons, I realized I needed to get some advice about running and checked out some books from the library and looked around online. Eventually I started listening to some podcasts about running. I would like to think that I know a little more now as a runner in my forties than I did when I was in my twenties.

Recently, I started thinking about who were some of the most influential people in my life as far as running goes. My physical education teacher in grade school has to be at the top of my list. He introduced me to many different sports and activities.  He was also the coach for the school track team and he helped plant that spark in me that grew into a love of running that has never left. I earned the two Presidential Physical Fitness Awards shown above while I was a student of his. I was very proud of myself at the time and felt like it was a huge accomplishment. I think some people under-estimate the power of a teacher but he was extremely influential to my life.

Another person that had a strong influence on my running and has also influenced millions of other people has to be Jeff Galloway. He has written countless books full of advice to new (and not so new) runners around the world. Mr. Galloway has also taught running classes, given talks, and given advice to hundreds of thousands of people. Although he is most famous for his run/walk method, which I don’t currently prescribe to, I think it is a fantastic way for new runners to realize they too can run a long distance race.

Along the same lines as Jeff Galloway is Hal Higdon, whose name is synonymous with half marathon and marathon training. Mr. Higdon has written dozens of books, with his most famous being “Marathon:  The Ultimate Training Guide.” I have read several of his books and have used his half marathon training plans for many years, with some alterations to fit my needs and lifestyle.

A few years ago I discovered the Another Mother Runner podcast which was co-hosted by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell at the time. The AMR “tribe” is currently a little different than when I started listening a few years ago but I still am a big fan of theirs. The podcasts are now hosted by Ms. Bowen Shea along with a rotating cast of co-hosts while Ms. McDowell has been focusing on their Train Like a Mother programs. I’ve learned a lot by listening to their podcasts through the years and I’ve also found them entertaining and easy to relate to, especially being a mother myself.  Another Mother Runner link

As I alluded to before and if you’re new to my blog and aren’t aware, I run half-marathons. I set a goal for myself to run a half-marathon in all 50 states several years ago. Currently, I’m up to 39 states (and 41 half marathons total). I could not have accomplished this without the support from my husband and daughter. Even when my daughter was very young, she usually didn’t complain about me leaving her to go off and run for an hour or two; rather, she’d smile at me and say something like, “Have fun on your run!” Likewise, my husband only rarely ever has complained about my running or dragging him and our daughter to different states for a race. I feel like the two of them are my support team when I’m training for a race and also when we travel to a race. My husband is my official race photographer and my daughter is my official cheerleader. Together they are my support crew. Recently, my daughter has started running a 5k in each state we go to for a half marathon, so it looks like my husband will be doing double-duty as support crew and photographer!

Check out my other posts on the half marathons I’ve ran in each state.

Who are your biggest running influences? Do any of you listen to the AMR podcast?

Dogtown Half Marathon, Utah- 39th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Utah was my 39th state.

The Dogtown Half Marathon in Washington, Utah (just outside St. George in southern Utah) was so cold. How cold was it, you ask? It was so cold my feet were numb and I couldn’t feel them until I ran the first 1.5 miles of the race. It was so cold, my hands were still cold at the finish, despite wearing gloves for the entire race. It was so cold I saw a woman warming her hands from the car exhaust pipe of a police car that was sitting near the race start with the engine idling. OK. So how cold was it really? It was 28 degrees at 7:20 when I was dropped off by my husband and for a southern gal like me, that’s frigid. I can’t remember the last time I ran in temperatures that cold.

But first, let’s back up a bit. Packet pick-up was Friday, February 24 at the Washington Community Center and was quick and efficient, or there was the option to hang out for a bit and try to win some of the prizes being given away. There were the usual vendors selling shoes, running apparel, and GU; as well as tables advertising other races in the area, and random other local businesses. There was also a bounce house there for parents with young children. My daughter was running the 5k so she and I went to pick up our packets together. We got a rucksack bag, a t-shirt (cotton/polyester blend), our bibs, and mostly junk flyers and coupons we would never use.

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Race morning was a frigid 28 degrees, as I mentioned earlier. When the sun finally came up over the mountain, it at least felt a little warmer. Half-marathoners were bused to the start, essentially an industrial park, for the point-to-point course. The course was advertised as “net downhill,” and while portions were certainly downhill, there were plenty of uphill portions as well. If 13.1 miles isn’t enough for you, there is the Double Dog Dare Challenge, where you run the half marathon course in reverse, then run it again the opposite direction with the rest of the half marathoners, giving you 26.2 miles of hills, hills, and more hills!

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We were only in the industrial park section of the course for a short while before we headed toward more scenic areas. For me, though, the best part of the race was around miles 6-9, when we were running through trails. The trails were sandwiched in-between a canyon and it was beautiful. There were rolling hills through here and while it wasn’t exactly easy running through this section, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as some of the other areas with steep inclines that seemed to go on forever. There were nice sections of the course with viewpoints of a beautiful snow-capped mountain, and we got to see this view from different angles. I didn’t run with my phone for this race, so I didn’t take any photos along the course, and I unfortunately can’t share them here. I did snag this photo which was taken from the race start from the Facebook site, however:

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The last few miles were past a community park with soccer/lacrosse fields and finally the end was in sight! I was utterly exhausted starting around mile 6 of the race, so I just didn’t have it in me to speed up towards the end, as I sometimes do. In fact, my last 3 miles were my slowest of the race. My left leg, which is my “good leg,” was bothering me very early in the race, with a tight hip flexor and my quad felt like it was made of lead. Usually it’s my right leg that’s the problem, with my knee giving out and other issues I’ve been having with it, so I have no idea what was going on with my left leg. I just knew this wasn’t going to be one of my best finish times and I was fine with that.

So finally, I reached the finish line at Staheli Family Farm and was handed a hefty-sized medal. I was directed to a table full of lunch-size paper bags, each of which included a water bottle, fruit snacks, and trail mix. Also on the table were containers of chocolate milk, string cheese, bananas, oranges, and bread. Not bad, but nothing special.

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On a side note, as I mentioned earlier, my daughter ran the 5k, and she won second place in her age group! I was so happy for her! She got a medal similar to the race medal, but it was silver and looked slightly different. She was thrilled, of course, especially since this was only her fourth 5k.

My overall impressions of the race are that it was a tough but beautiful course. The below-freezing temperature wasn’t conducive to a fast time for me, since I tend to have problems breathing when it’s that cold (I had asthma when I was a baby and had cold-induced asthma through grade school). For someone that likes running in colder temperatures and enjoys the “challenge” of hills, this would be a good race. It was well-organized and not overly crowded, but not so sparse that you would be running by yourself for miles on end. There was almost no one cheering on runners along the course, though, so if you enjoy that, you won’t get that at this race. Overall, it was a scenic, fairly low-key, challenging race.

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Dogtown Half Marathon

My race stats:

240th of 451 runners total

115th of 251 of women

6th in my age group

Finish time:  2:06:24