Two Sundays ago I drove up to Swanzey, New Hampshire to run the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon. This race was purely built into my marathon training so I wasn’t planning to run like I would in a regular race – plus the temperature was a little higher than I’d prefer and it was HUMID.
The race starts and finishes at the local middle school and it is a VERY small race, I think about 250 people ran (both half marathoners and there’s a two-person relay option). When I got there I checked in, got my bib and long sleeve shirt, and warmed up. The race started at 9am, and we were off!
The website says that the course is “mostly flat with some rolling terrain”. That is a lie. This course is certainly rolling, I can’t think of a moment where we weren’t running up a hill or descending down. Luckily I mapped out the elevation ahead of time so that I knew what to expect. The course is pretty residential and goes in a giant loop. Also, the roads are open to cars throughout the course, probably because it is a small race with a late start time, but something that you need to stay conscious of as a race participant.
The first mile or so is along a well-made trail through the woods which was nice and shady and also took us through our first covered bridge (there are four covered bridges on the course, hence its name). At mile two, we came upon our first water station which were located every two miles and lead by the school’s band team, each with their own fun water station theme (mardi gras, star wars, etc.). It was pretty warm out and I decided to take in more water than I normally would, I think I stopped at each station for either some water or Gatorade.
Miles 4-10 are a blur of ascents and descents on hills, going through the other covered bridges. I stuck with another girl for a while since our paces matched. As for others, I found myself passing people mostly when going up hills. Goes to show that hill training works! The crowd support was mostly in small pockets here and there, which is what would be expected for a small back-road half marathon in New Hampshire.
Coming back to the school, the finish line is up on the grass in front of the building with an announcer calling people out as they finish and school kids handing out waters and medals. In terms of post-race refreshments there was plenty of water available as well as sliced oranges, bananas, and an assortment of protein and energy bars. There’s also a barbeque cookout which all runners have access to and anyone else can purchase a ticket to. There was a massage table which I thought was a good idea but the coolest thing was a raffle with race numbers. There was a board with numbers written on it and if your bib number was listed, you got to pick a raffle prize (lots of runner-friendly items). My number wasn’t on it but still, such a cool idea!!
In terms of my results I ran 1:52:47 which is not great, but taking into account the weather, the hilly terrain, and the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be going all out, I’m fine with that. Remember how I said this race was really small? Well it turns out that I placed 1st for my division (Female 20-29), placed top 10 females, and came in 54th overall. I didn’t realize this until I got home so I missed out on a bottle of New Hampshire maple syrup but race organizers are considering awards next year. I think of my placement results as being a small fish in an even smaller pond, but still a good feeling to place especially in the midst of marathon training!
Overall I would say this race is best for more experienced runners, I wouldn’t recommend this as someone’s first half marathon, mostly due to the hilly course and open roads. It was scenic though, and the people that put it together and volunteered and supported were all so nice. Also, it was different to run a small race and was certainly a pleasant change!
My next race? Only one of the largest marathons out there haha. In other marathon training news, I successfully ran one of two 20 mile runs yesterday. It was slow but it was steady, and it certainly has me feeling sore, but it feels OH SO GOOD to have one under my belt, only one more at that distance before Chicago!!
And on a final note, my blog turned 1 a few days ago… happy 1st birthday blog!