Just finished up the Morgantown Half-Marathon this morning. Last year I ran the marathon at this event, but in an effort to save my legs for a longer October trail running event, I opted for the half-marathon this time around.
The entire event, which raises money for Operation Welcome Home, kicks off with an 8K on Saturday that shares some of the same roads as the Half-Marathon and Marathon, which are on Sunday. I opted to use the 8K as a warm-up run and pace a couple other local runners since it’s part of our local Morgantown Area Grand Prix running race series.
We had an earlier start (7:00) for the half than the prior day’s 8K (8:00), but it didn’t feel like much difference. It had rained during the night and remained humid and overcast. I wasn’t sad at that point for being in the half instead of the full. Plus, my legs felt like they were filled with lead at the start line despite a solid warm-up.
The start line announcements were brief, which is nice to keep everyone from becoming more anxious. Of course, all the events must start with a couple “LET’S GO MOUNTAINEERS” chants. It’s the perfect way to get those sleepyheads roused.
The 8K and half-marathon courses are about as flat and rolling as you can achieve in Morgantown without going onto the rail trail. So glad we don’t do that because it would be crowded and boring. This makes the courses challenging but quite achievable, even for those folks who primarily train on flat terrain. Total elevation gain in the half is 745 feet. The marathon course has a bit more climbing at 1775 feet of gain.
All courses start out on a quick mile with a little elevation drop on a four-lane road (yay, we get our own lane!) But that sense of ease from going downhill seems to encourage a few folks to go a little too fast off the front. Not the best course to start out too hard because THERE WILL BE CLIMBING, though it will be distributed nicely.
The course design lends itself well to distraction. For one, the rolling aspect forces you to mix up your technique, pace, and effort frequently. Practice your hill intervals until you say “oh, I didn’t even notice there was a hill there.”
A majority of the course lies inside of a couple nice neighborhoods near the WVU Coliseum. That allows many of the residents to wander groggily a few feet out of their homes to offer support. I was surprised at the number of random spectators along this course and so many were willing to offer encouragement. Pretty awesome to have that consistently throughout.
Another great thing: community supported unofficial aid stations. I remember a few of these on the marathon course last year. Nothing like a bunch of little kids having a great time handing out Swedish Fish and gummy bears. The high humidity made it even more critical to take on water so these stations were very welcome. Thank you!
The course is a circuitous version an out-and-back with a lollipop loop at the midpoint. The support from other racers on my way back to the Coliseum was perhaps the best I’ve ever encountered in a road race. I tried to wave at several runners as a thank you because speaking clearly wasn’t much of an option as I tried to focus on negative splits. I began my build just a little too late, though, and ended stuck in no-man's land, running alone until the finish line.
With cash prizes in the half this year I expected that a couple of really fast runners would show up. And that was exactly the case. The top three guys were all under the 1:16:00 mark. I won’t be running that fast anytime soon!
I found the course length to be spot on to my GPS value at completion, which almost never happens for me. Plenty of well-earned Panera Bread bagels and pizza were waiting at the finish along with a post-race IPA.
My Strava file