I should qualify this review by saying the News and Sentinel Half Marathon in Parkersburg, WV is one of my favorite races. (Because of that, this review is long.) The course is challenging, and it is typically very hot in August, but I still love it. This year’s event did not disappoint!
This is one of the few half marathons that require walkers to walk and has prizes for
walkers. Instructions are given to each registered walker explaining that they must walk the entire course. There are monitors on the course with several on bikes. Donna Graham, the head of the walking division, told me that of 150 walkers in last year’s race, only two were disqualified for running. That is impressive!
Nancy and I arrived at packet pickup around 3:00 Friday. There is no real “expo”, but there are a couple running gear companies represented. (I was so happy to find the Cran-Razz Clif Shot Bloks that I had neglected to buy in advance.) The race shirts come in men’s sizesand a small is always way too large on me. Though some of my friends have started requesting larges for the men in their families to wear, this year I requested a youth large and it fits perfectly!
Because we were there so early on Friday, and this was Nancy’s first time at this race, we went to look at “the” hill between miles 11 and 12. We laughed that it doesn’t look like a big of a deal. I told her to remember that when she was climbing it.
The night before the race we carbo-loaded at the traditional pasta dinner, which is included in the registration fee. Wonderful volunteers bring you as much pasta and salad as you want. There are plenty of free beverages, including beer, and ice cream and cookies for dessert. Everyone is so friendly!
In the morning, Pat, Nancy and I arrived at a parking lot a block from the start an hour before the race. We were worried about finding parking, but there were plenty of lots open charging $3 to $5. All of the lots were fundraisers.
It felt chilly, with temperatures in the 50s. It is never this cool when I do this race! Pat wore a throw-away shirt to the starting line.
There were plenty of port-a-johns at the start, though lines started to form before 7:30. As we started to warm up, we found David, who is active on the WALK! Facebook page! (It was nice to finally meet him.)
Unfortunately, the three of us walked a little away from the start for our warm up, and we missed the national anthem. It is one of my favorite things at this race. The high school band plays while a giant American flag unfolds from the roof of a building. You feel as if you are in a Rockwell painting!
To make it easier for course monitors, walkers and runners wore different colored race bibs and walkers had numbers on both our front and back. It was exciting seeing how many walkers there were!
The mayor announced the start of the race, and we were off! After the first mile, I was ready to pick up the pace, and went ahead of Pat and Nancy. For years these two have been so much faster than I am. This felt very strange. But Nancy is recovering from an injury and is not in peak shape yet, so I don’t expect to be faster than her for long.
I picked my “rabbits” to chase and tried to maintain a 130-140 bpm heart rate while not walking slower than a 13:30 mile.
Fairly quickly I passed the first group of three women I had picked. I was so excited, I turned around to show Pat and Nancyand they cheered for me. Then we hit the first real hill, and my heart rate jumpedand my pace slowed. (At this point I was playing with my phone trying to find the Sweatin to the Oldies radio station I used in training, and that slowed me a little, too.) Within half a mile the women passed me, picked up their pace and I never caught them again.
Though there are a lot of walkers in this race, I did not see many at my pace to hold a conversation. I talked to a few as I passed them, and talked to some runners who were doing the run/walk thing (I finished before them). Still, I ended up walking most of the race by myself. I don’t typically carry music with me during a race, but I used just one ear bud and kept the volume very low. It was just enough to have a beat to keep me going, but low enough I could have a conversation and hear cars coming.
There are pockets of locals who line the streets for this race. It is so fun having total strangers cheering for you when you are out in the middle of nowhere.
There are 17 water stops that get closer together as you get nearer to the finish. Many of the stops included ice and sponges. In years past, I have taken ice at every opportunity, but it wasn’t necessary this year because it wasn’t hot. At about mile 10 I put a cup of ice in my hat, but I would have been fine without it.
I typically try to pick up the pace at mile 10. (A running coach once told me to treat the
first 10 miles as a warm up, and the last 3.1 as a 5K race.) I was able to get a tiny bit faster, sometimes down to a 13 min mile, but I couldn’t maintain it.
As I approached the hill between miles 11 and 12, I started to have doubts. I didn’t do as many hill workouts as I should have. But I paced myself, trying not to push too hard, and it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, going down the other side is even more steep and oddly more difficult.
My favorite part of this race is the finish line! The street is lined with people cheering on the finishers. And as I approached, the announcer said, “From Columbus, Ohio, another walker — Cindi Leeman.”
I was immediately handed an ice-cold towel and a bottle of cold water, then walked down a little farther to get my medal. I saw Davidand we talked a little bit while I waited for my friends. Nancy was less than a minute behind me. We grabbed bagels and bananas, and Pat showed up about 5 min later.
My finish time was 2:57 plus a few seconds. Though not a PR, I’m very happy with finishing a hilly course in under 3 hours.
We talked about waiting for a free massage, but didn’t feel like standing in line. We eventually just went to the church for the pizza lunch. We were offered cheese or pepperoni Papa John’s pizza, more ice cream and more cookies! It was great!
There are a couple reasons why I really like this race. The first is that it has a walking division that means something. Second, the community atmosphere is very fun. And finally, the registration fee is very reasonable and includes the pasta dinner and pizza after the race. (You could come to Parkersburg for the weekend and never spend a dime on food.) The only negative I have about the race is the lack of music. There were only three or four places with entertainment. If you need entertainment, you should consider carrying it with you.
So, if you are looking for a half marathon in August, and you don’t mind hills, I highly recommend the News and Sentinel Half in Parkersburg, WV.
Partway through the race, I started to feel pain in my right ankle and at the joint near my big toe of that same foot. I’ve had issues with my ankle for nearly a year. After a cortisone shot a few months ago, the doctor said if it didn’t work, the next step is surgery. Though I felt better for a while, the pain is starting to come back, but is not as bad as it was before the injection. It might be time for another one.
The foot pain is fairly new and is entirely my fault. I wear high heels. A week or so ago, I started to feel a little bit of pain in my foot while wearing my tallest heels. Because my low pair was at the shoe shop being repaired, I kept wearing the shoes causing the pain. So it was not a complete surprise when that joint started to ache in the middle of a 13-mile race. When I finally took my shoe off, the foot and toe were a little swollen. I’ve been icing and taking anti-inflammatories. My low-heeled shoes are back, but I think I might need to invest in a nice pair of flats — just in case.