Stennis Space Center Half Marathon
The Stennis Space Center Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K were held Saturday at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The annual event is traditionally held the weekend after Thanksgiving and offers the lowest marathon/half-marathon registration fees in the area.
I originally opted to do the 5K since that is the most comfortable race distance for me. I really wanted to do another half marathon since my last one was in January, but I have been lazy and did not want to put in the training. Last week I decided to rip off the band aid and dive head first into half season and I signed up for the half marathon.
I was tired Saturday morning when I woke from all of the Black Friday shopping a day earlier but I was excited to run. I grabbed a bagel and made the 40 minute drive to Mississippi.
A unique feature about this race is that it is pre-registration only. Since there is heavy security within the Space Center, runners must have their name on the list ahead of time at the front gate. Once I cleared security I made my way to the race site which was held in the recreation area of the base.
I got my race number and race tee and headed to the starting line.
All three distances started promptly at 8:00am. With over 500 runners and walkers starting at the same time there was some bottlenecking but it evened out before the 1 mile mark.
I had no idea what to expect from myself since I did not train. My longest run since the spring was the Battleship 12K. I settled on trying to keep a sub 9 minute pace and an sub two hour finish time.
The weather was breezy, cool, the sun was shining and I was feeling great. After a slow start I was hitting an 8:20 pace for the first 5 miles. I focused on trying to pass runners and keep a consistent pace.
At the 5.5 mile mark I stopped for a few moments to hydrate and have some GU energy gel. I slowed down some heading into mile 6 and started to feel the proverbial monkey on my back.
I got my second wind heading into mile 7. I was close to the turn around so I occupied myself by counting how many female runners were in front of me. At 7.5 miles I was in 18th place, keeping an 8:40 pace.
Then came mile 8. Mentally this is always the toughest part of the race for me. We turned off the smooth black top and onto a bumpy road and I just wanted to walk. I did everything from pace calculations in my head to bargaining with myself (if you reach the next lamppost you can take a walk break) to distract myself from my fatigue.
Once I got through mile 8 I was mentally refreshed and focused on catching up with the girl in front of me. Finally at mile 10 we turned back onto smooth pavement and started the journey to the finish line.
At mile 11 I was completely drained and my graceful running form turned into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The weather warmed up quite a bit which made keeping my sub 9 minute pace difficult. I did pass the girl in front of me but my pace slowed down to 9:30 per mile.
Right before the 12 mile marker I briefly stopped. Thankfully a marathon runner who was right behind me yelled for me to keep going because I was almost there. That was enough for me to continue running as I watched him make the turn to continue his 26.2 mile journey. In that instance I was thankful I had one mile left and not 14 like him.
The final mile was ugly but I got it done. I finished in 1:56:57, good for 12th female overall and 5th in the highly competitive 30-34 age group. This was my fourth best time for my 11 half marathons.
I was more than pleased with my time and glad I forced myself to do the race.
After getting my finisher medal I walked to the post race party. A great feature about this event is that the award ceremonies are held individually for each distance so you don’t have to wait around all day. I watched the half marathon awards and enjoyed an ice cold Michelob Ultra and pastalaya.
While walking back to my vehicle I had the pleasure of seeing another runner from my running group. Like me she did this race on a last minute whim, so that called for pictures of course.
I would highly recommend this race especially since the registration fees are such a bargain. The course was beautiful, the medal was impressive, and all overall and age group finishers receive plaques. The Stennis Space Center half marathon is already on my calendar for next year.