Race Recap: Gulf Coast Half Marathon

Hey friends (and lovely internet strangers)!

I crossed my April half marathon off the list today by running the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Pensacola Beach, FL. I also did a little bit of recon this week and I think that if I play my cards right (translation: I may have to drive to Georgia a few times this summer), I just might actually be able to pull off this whole run a half marathon every month thing.

The race today was part of the Gulf Coast half marathon series, with races in Gulf Shores, AL, Pensacola Beach, FL & Mandeville, LA. This was my second year to do the Pensacola Beach race and I’ve also done Mandeville twice, but I’ve yet to do the race in Gulf Shores (which oddly enough is the one closest to where I live). I think the Gulf Shores one is sometime in February, so I need to try to shoot for that one next year!

The race starts at 7 a.m., which meant that we had to get up fairly early (4:15) to meet friends (5:15) and carpool over to Pensacola Beach. We arrived just after 6, which left us plenty of time to warm up (2 miles), go to the bathroom (twice), freak out about random details … you know … all the typical pre-race stuff.

My plan for this race was to pace my friend Jill to her first sub 1:30 half. I don’t think she really needed me at all, but we had a blast running together! Running with friends is the best, so naturally it makes sense that racing with friends would be too!

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We needed to average less than 6:52 pace to break 1:30. Our plan was to start out at 6:50 pace and hold that for the first few miles and then check in and see how we felt. We executed those first few miles quite nicely, if I do say so myself. We ran 6:52, 6:50 and 6:50.

We settled into a little group of 4 or 5 runners, which was really nice. We tucked in behind two of the guys that we were running with and just ran their pace for a few miles. Miles 4 through 7 are the toughest of the course. The course is somewhat of an out and back. The first few miles wind through some neighborhoods and the last few do as well, but that middle stretch is just straight out (and then back). You have water on both sides of you, so the scenery is wonderful, but there is just something about running away from the finish line towards a turn around that is tough. You also have to deal with some wind along that stretch. Thankfully today it was much calmer than it was last year! You feel any wind that is in your face though.

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All that is really just to say that our pace fell off a little bit during that stretch. Mile 4 was 6:40 (whoa girl … let’s reign that in a little bit), and then the next three were 6:59, 6:59, 6:56. While these miles were a little over our goal pace, we knew that those were going to be the toughest of the day and we were prepared.

The plan was to make it to the turn around point feeling strong and pick it up some, which is exactly what we did! Miles 8, 9 and 10 were 6:38, 6:44 and 6:44. The suffering of miles 5 – 7 was well worth the reward that we got once we turned around! At that point we had a slight tailwind and we were headed home. I really enjoy out and back courses because you get to see all the other runners as you run back. We saw lots of friends and got lots of cheers, which was a great boost! When we passed the Running Wild tent we even got an extra pacer for about 100 yards as Cherie ran out to cheer us on (in her Birkenstocks and a dress). I wish someone had gotten a picture of that! She told us that if she could keep up with us in her Birkenstocks, then we weren’t running fast enough. Ha!

We told her that we were just waiting until mile 10. Mile 10 is where the fun begins! We did a training run a week or so ago that was 12 miles with the last 3 miles between 6:38 and 6:42. When we got to mile 10 we were right on pace for our 1:29:XX finish. I told her that if we kept it right where we were, we would be golden. In the same sentence, I also reminded her of that 12 mile run with the fast finish. It was time to put the fast finish into play!

Miles 11 and 12 were 6:36 and 6:29! YES! I was getting like super giddy and mushy at this point and I just kept telling her that she was doing it … she was going to be a sub 1:30 half marathoner! Mile 13 was the fastest of the day by far. I finished with a 6:02 mile and Jill finished right on my heels. I honestly don’t know if she really even believed me when I was saying that she was going to be under 1:30 until she rounded the corner of the finish line and saw 1:28 on the clock. Her face was priceless!

We stayed at the finish line for a little bit and saw some other friends finish. After lots of sweaty hugs and #allthefeels, we headed out to do a few cool down miles. We even got to see Jessica and baby Olivia on their way to the finish!

The post-race party is at Flounder’s on the water. It was a BEAUTIFUL day. We had a great time hanging out with friends and soaking up the fresh air and Vitamin D.

These are some of my favorite girls (minus Rebecca … we missed you)!

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It was a wonderful morning! I absolutely loved tackling the race from the perspective of a pacer and I ended up running what was probably my smartest half marathon of the year thus far. I have a hard time holding myself back at the beginning of a half marathon (more so than other distances for some reason). I used to have a hard time pacing myself regardless of the distance, but I like to think I am at least a little smarter than I used to be (thanks to my wonderful coach)!

There is definitely a difference between having the knowledge of how to approach a race and having the patience and persistence to actually execute the plan and make it a reality. I knew that someone else was depending on me and in turn that helped me (and now I am reminded of the Friends episode where they determine there isn’t truly a selfless good deed). I would do it all over in a heartbeat (well … after some recovery days). Who needs a pacer? Sign me up!

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6 thoughts on “Race Recap: Gulf Coast Half Marathon

  1. Congratulations to Jill *and* to you for pacing her in the race and also running an awesome time. If you’re looking for a December half and want to pace someone to a 1:35, Kiawah is always an option… hint hint (although I think 1:35 might be more of a jog for you). This sounds like a good race and well organized, and it’s neat that you guys are still having half marathons there. Most are finishing up down here due to the heat coming. I hope you can find one to do each month too. (Maybe look at the Race 13.1 series, also NC has a ton of half marathons in the summer months…)

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  2. It’s so awesome that you were able to pace someone and learn something for yourself in the process! Next time you race a half marathon full-on you will be able to lean on this experience. What a huge accomplishment for Jill (I would LOVE to run under 1:30) and how amazing that you were such a big part of it!

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  3. Running in a race it’s hard to recall people/faces, but if you can I was in the dark red shirt and white hat. No worries at all if you can’t remember.

    I kept up with you all just behind the leaders for about 3 miles, but then when there was the brief tail wind and you all were getting long gone from me then before going back on the main road. I was probably a good 45 sec. – minute behind you all at the turnaround about 7 1/2 miles in and I knew I likely wasn’t going to make that up. Oh well.

    Many congrats to you all for taking the race to school.

    No complaints from myself though. Naturally slowed some towards the end but I finished just over 1:33, 12th place overall. I’ve had a few training runs that distance faster than that prepping for full marathons, but that’s officially my best half marathon race time and I doubt I could’ve done much better given the weather/atmosphere, which thankfully was manageable for the most part. I know it can get hot/humid quick in the area and I go to Pensacola Beach with family over the summer for a week and know it is almost always windy.

    As long as the weather isn’t obnoxiously bad or humid, I’m usually content if I get under 1:40.

    I’m from Mandeville and have run the Gulf Coast 1/2 there a few times, always enjoyable.

    Many congrats to you all again.

    – Jack

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