Madison Half Marathon race recap

Last weekend Tim and I went down to Madison to run the Twilight 10K (Tim) and Half Marathon (me).  I ran this half marathon as my first ever half back in 2010.  This year the course was different.  Part of me was really excited that the course was different because I wouldn’t be running up the same hill that I remember torturing me back in 2010.

Anyway, back to the beginning…

Tim took the day off work on Saturday and we drove down to the expo.  Bib pickup was a breeze.


Then we had some time to check into our hotel and grab a bite to eat before Tim’s Twilight 10K.  His race started at 8:00 pm. Neither of us had ever done a night race and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  The atmosphere was very festive and a lot of the runners were wearing their glow sticks that were in their goodie bags.

pre race

Post race glow

Tim ended up getting a significant PR!  I was super proud of him.  He pushed himself and ran really well.  And now, he knows what he is capable of.  Since I am helping him train for his first half marathon this summer, this was a huge confidence boost for him.

After his race, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before an early wake up call for my race.  I set the alarm for a little before 5:00, to be sure that we would have time to get ready, eat, drive, park and get to the start line with enough time to hunt down an available porta potty!  We had time to spare….just how I like it.  There is nothing more stressful than feeling rushed before a race.

It was chilly before the race started and I was glad I had my jacket on.

How great am I at taking pictures with awkward people in the background?!?

I lined up in the corral in the general vicinity of the 2:00 pace guy, thinking that I could maybe keep him in sight and finish slightly over two hours.  I knew there were some hills that would challenge me and I wasn’t sure how the day was going to turn out.

When the gun went off, it took a while for me to make it to the start.  The course looped around the Capitol building before heading out around the city of Madison.

Check out the guy in the Half Fanatics shirt next to me!  I can’t wait to get my own.

Within the first mile, I was reminded that this course was NOT flat.  We went up what I have always called “The CrazyLegs Hill” because it was during that race that I first had the displeasure of running that hill.  It is steep.  It is crazy.  And, they post a camera man just a short distance from the top…you know, to catch you looking your best!

I’m trying to be pleasant and everything, but I’m pretty sure I’m shooting the photographer with mind bullets.  Stupid hill.

It was shortly after that hill, that I realized I had dressed too warmly and the jacket was going to have to go.  Dilemma: what to do with my bib?  I had the timing chip on my shoe, so I wasn’t worried about my time not being recorded.  Actually, I was worried about the photographers not being able to see my bib number and not getting any more pictures!  You can tell that it is still early in the race, because my mind was actually thinking things like that.  In the later stages of the race, I am usually unable to put together coherent thought.

What I ended up doing was unpinning the two bottom safety pins and pinning them to random spots on my jacket.  Then, I unpinned the top two pins and repinned the bib to my tank top.  Then, I had to move my Garmin from on top of my sleeve to under my sleeve.  Then I had to move my Boston armbands from on top of my sleeve to my left hand so that I could take off my jacket, put the Boston armbands back on and then tie my jacket around my waist.  My ipod was in the pocket of my jacket, so I had to pull out all the extra headphone cord and then take the ear buds out and loop them through my tank top so that the cords weren’t flopping around.  And I did this while maintaining a sub-9:00 minute pace.  Whew!  I wish the weather would just warm up already so I wouldn’t have to worry about dressing in layers. 

I had gotten ahead of the 2:00 pace group when I took full advantage of a downhill section of the course.  The group caught up to me again around mile 4 and then then got ahead of me and I never saw them again.  I think the guy leading the group went out too fast.  I heard some people talking about it after the race too.

I really felt pretty good for the beginning the race.  There was a steady climb between miles 6 and 7 that slowed me down, but I just tried to keep a consistent effort.  The course gives a pretty nice ‘tour’ of Madison.  You run past quite a few of the major landmarks and through a nice section of the Arboretum.  Although, running through ‘The Arb’ is probably my least favorite part of the course.  While it is peaceful and shaded, there is no crowd support and it can get a little boring.

I noticed early on that the mile markers weren’t lining up with my Garmin at all and I anticipated that the course would probably end up a little bit long.  Not a big deal, but it had me wondering if that was a consequence of changing the course.

When I got to mile 10, I saw that I was on pace to finish around 2:00, if I could keep my current pace.  I started to feel pretty good about myself, especially since I was feeling much better at mile 10 of this race, than I did at mile 10 of the Oshkosh Half Marathon, when I first went sub-2:00.

The worst part of the course came at about mile 10.5.  There was The Hill.  It was very steep.  Most people were walking it.  A lot of people were swearing.  The crowd was trying to be encouraging.  I made it through without walking, but I’m sure that my quad-burning shuffle wasn’t pretty.  At one point during the hill, I made the mistake of looking at my Garmin and seeing that my pace was sitting somewhere around 13:00!  It was rough.  I was so glad to be done with it.

A biker tried to take me out between mile 11 and 12.  There were two people on bicycles who needed to cross the race course to get to the bike path.  The first one crossed in front of me and the second one decided to try to make it as well.  The problem was that the first one slowed way down when she got to the curb and the second rider couldn’t go any further.  So, I ended up having to put my hands out to stop myself and then scoot around the bike.  It probably elevated my heart rate even more!

The course ends with a run up State Street to the Capitol.  I was pleasantly surprised that I still had a little bit left in the tank to pick up the pace at the end of the race.  At that point, I knew I was going to go sub-2:00.  I was thrilled!

My Garmin stats:

The ‘official’ stats:

So, ‘officially’ I came in 19 seconds away from a PR.  Could I have worked harder to get that PR?  Absolutely!  Am I disappointed?  Nope!  Why?  I am focusing on the overall pace and how I ran the race.  Here is a comparison:

So while my official results will forever list Oshkosh as my faster half marathon, I look at Madison as a total ‘win.’  I was able to maintain a slightly faster pace over a much hillier course.  I felt stronger during pretty much the entire race.  And, I had a little bit of a kick left at the end.

But, what does this mean for the future?  I think I need to adjust my training paces.  I should probably stop doing my tempo runs at a 9:05 pace!  And I may need to do some faster intervals.  (My next half marathon does have a 1:50 pace group.  But that is probably out of reach.  It would require an 8:24 pace.)

I’ll have to think more about what my goals will be going forward.  For now, I’m pretty happy with the way the race turned out.  I also realized that since I PRed at Oshkosh, each of the three half marathons I’ve run since then has been my 2nd fastest half marathon!


*Nice shirt.  I love that they added a ribbon for Boston.

*Nice medal.  Interesting design.  Nice colors.

*Great volunteers.  All water stations were well-staffed.  There was plenty of water and Gatorade.  They were a bit crowded, though.

*Scenic course.  You get to run past a ton of Madison landmarks.

*Weather turned out to be almost perfect. 

*Expo discounts!  Scored a discount to a race I was planning on doing in October.  And a free coffee mug to go with it.


*Did I mention that hill? 

*Post race food.  The water was all the way at the end of the finish chute and I was thirsty!  They had the typical chocolate milk and pieces of banana.  There were also mini sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, but none of that sounded very good to my stomach.  I was craving oranges and bagels.  But seriously, the water should have been first.

*The 2:00 pace guy definitely had his pace wrong.  I finished in 1:58 and he was so far ahead of me after 5 miles that I never saw him again.  I hope he didn’t go out too fast for some of the runners who were trying to stick with him for a PR.

Overall:  A

I would definitely do this race again.  Even though it was a hilly course, the crowd support was pretty good and that is always encouraging.  It is a well organized event and I would love to tackle the Conquer the Capital event by doing both the 10K on Saturday night and the Half Marathon on Sunday.


4 thoughts on “Madison Half Marathon race recap

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