Inaugural Prince William Half Race Report

I paced another race. On Sunday I ran the inaugural Prince William Half Marathon as the 3:00 pacer. It was a very well-organized race and there aren't many things to critique. The weather was beautiful and I had a fantastic experience. I'd love to do this one again, and to pace it again.

Race shirt design featuring the course, and the cannon medal with spinning wheel

The Prince William Half is named for Prince William county in Virginia, a bit west of Washington DC. It's home to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. The race started and ended at Jiffy Lube Live Amphitheater, which turned out to be a great venue. Packet pick-up was at another location in Manassas the two days before the race. I went on Saturday. There were no vendors, just some official race merchandise for sale. I picked up my packet and my pacer shirt, but I wouldn't get my sign until race morning. I decided to drive the race course so I could see just how hilly it would be, and familiarize myself with it. I don't usually do that, but since I was pacing other people, it would be beneficial to know the course. The main stretches of the course were an out & back on Rt. 29. Then there were a few turn-offs into the battlefield park that were shorter out & back segments. They were scenic and some of them had monuments to look at. The course was indeed hilly, there were several long stretches of uphill, but only one or two steep hills. Because it was an out & back course, we would have just as much down as up.

This old house was not on the course, but I drove by it the day before
Setting up the start/finish line on Saturday afternoon
Leaving Jiffy Lube Live on Saturday after scoping things out 

I got up quite early on race morning to drive to Manassas, which was a little less than an hour away. Parking was free and plentiful at Jiffy Lube Live, but there was a back-up to get into the lots. I was supposed to pick up my pacing sign at 6:30 and I just made it. On my way into the venue I saw Pam from Shirlington Running Club.

With my sign and my bright green pacer shirt; lucky me: I had perfectly matching compression socks

Pre-race logistics were great. There were lots of indoor bathrooms! After getting my sign I had just enough time for a pit stop before lining up in the corrals. I wanted to be there early so people could find the 3:00 pace group and ask questions if they needed to. There was also a 3:30 pacer, so I wasn't the sweeper. This reassured runners. Several folks said they were planning to stick with me or near me, at least for the first half of the race. While waiting for the start I saw Pam again, this time with Megan and Jen, and I also saw Letty and Drew. There was a slight delay of the start time for some reason, but it wasn't a big deal.

With Pam, Jen and Megan; I'm supposed to make it clear that the 3:00 applied to me only; the ladies finished well ahead of me, as they should have
And pre-race with Letty, who also ran significantly faster than the 3:00
Drew kicked butt and got a PR! I also need to thank him for hooking me up with the pacing gig!

We started running out of the event venue and onto streets. We had an early hill as we climbed an overpass over I-66, but then we also got an early downhill. I skipped the first walk break because of course crowding, and not wanting to stop directly in front of other runners. Then we fell into a rhythm of 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking. On some of the hills we walked a little extra. The pace seemed good for my crew. Several ladies ran with me the entire race, and others were there for long stretches. They all appreciated the walk breaks.

Can I say again that the weather was beautiful? I know the race organizers weren't responsible for the weather, but they picked a great date for the race. We had some sun and the temperature was perfect. Not too warm, not too chilly, and above all: dry. The course was rural and pretty. The aid stations were spaced appropriately, and offered both water and Gatorade at each stop. There were Clif Shot gels at most of them too, if not at all of them. This is not common for a half marathon, but it was appreciated. The course was also very well marked. Even if I hadn't driven the course, even if I couldn't see runners ahead of me, I could not have gotten lost. My only observed issue, and it's minor: there could have been a couple more port-o-potties at the first spot on the course. The first potties are always the most needed, with the longest lines. But other than that, I'd say the race experience was just about perfect.

My own race went well. Of course, as a pacer I was running more or less a consistent per mile pace and would finish just under 3 hours. But I felt so much better than I did at last week's Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, where I felt like I was dragging the whole way, and where the weather was hotter and muggier. Even with more hills than last week, I felt great this week, and it wasn't all because of my easier pace. It was just a good day. I don't have photos from the course on race day because I was focused on pacing.

The ladies and I came into the finish in 2:58:57. We stopped and took some photos. I was so proud of all of them for hanging in there on a hilly course. A couple of them were doing a training run in preparation for Marine Corps Marathon, and I was proud of them for not going out too fast, even though they could have run faster if they wanted to.

Most of these ladies ran the whole way with me; I was happy to have them in my group

After we said our goodbyes, I ran into Ian, owner of The Running Store and the race director. I told him what a great event it was. Then I went through the immediate post-race food tent, which had bottles of water and vitamin-enriched water/juice, mini bagels, bananas and fruit chews. I didn't need that food. I was waiting for the real goodies inside Jiffy Lube Live. I had a craft beer from Virginia's own Old Busthead, and a mini burrito from Moe's. There was other food available for purchase. I forgot that there were also Duck Donuts. I didn't see where they were because there were too many visual distractions. There were a few vendors hanging out, and I saw Ryan at the Altra tent. There were also bands playing in the amphitheater. What a great post-race party. I ran into Marathon Maniac Greg and we chatted for a while. Then I exchanged my race t-shirt (not the pacer shirt, but the participant shirt) for another size because they ran small. I loved the shirt and the cannon medal with spinning wheel.

High commendations to Ian, the crew at the Running Store, the staff at Jiffy Lube Live, the sponsors and all the volunteers. This was one of the best inaugural events I've run. I highly recommend putting it on your calendar for next year.


Comments

  1. Great write up Sandy, you are so right about the race, it was well organized and a beautiful course, and the weather could not have been better. I paced the 2 hour group and it went very smoothly, good water stops and a great crowd, I will be looking forward to running this one again next year!

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    1. Indeed. Nice meeting you when I picked up my sign!

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