Are you the kind of person who likes well-organized, local running events that benefit worthy causes and treat you to a course full of classic New England scenery? If so then the Seacoast Half Marathon is your kind of race.
The 14th edition of the Seacoast Half Marathon took place on Nov 10, 2019. The event starts and finishes at Portsmouth High School with a rolling course that travels through several beautiful New Hampshire costal towns including Portsmouth, Rye and New Castle. 100% of the proceeds benefit a worthwhile cause; this year it was Haven and the Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County.
The organizers claim that their goal is to put on a well-organized race that highlights the beauty of New Hampshire’s coast and I have to say that they did this and more! I arrived at Portsmouth High School an hour before the race kicked off to find plenty of parking and plenty of volunteers to tell me exactly where to go. I secured a spot that was just a few steps from the finish line. My parking location would give me quick access to dry post race clothes, which was helpful considering that it was a blustery 30 degrees that morning!
Bib pickup was smooth and there were plenty of volunteers who were more than willing to drop what they were doing to help answer runner’s questions; you have to love that! A few hundred runners and I hung out in the toasty Portsmouth High School cafeteria waiting for the start of the race; it sure beat hanging outside in the cold! As the 9 am start time ticked closer the mass of runners and I made our way to the start line just outside the high school.
My intent was to set a PR that was at least one second better than my current half marathon record of 1:29:26 so I made my way near the front, rocking pink Vaporfly Next%s and a singlet. This way the only way to feel warm would be to run fast! A local high school student did an amazing job singing the National Anthem and then we were off!
There is nothing like the rush of adrenaline that comes when a race kicks off. I don’t know if you are this way but a million thoughts run through my head as I put in those first few strides. Do I have what it takes to hit my goals? What lies ahead in the next few miles? Did I make the right gear choices? Did I remember to lock my car?
The Seacoast Half Marathon kicks off with a nice downhill stretch that invites PR paces and then it suddenly becomes clear as to what makes this race so special. Volunteers and cheering spectators seemed to be everywhere. Seriously every turn or intersection had a volunteer directing traffic and encouraging runners. At one point I swear I saw a course marshal dressed like Darth Vader unless I was hallucinating by that point! Every aid a station was seemingly staffed by 40 people in a line handing out cups; totally awesome!
The course is deceptively hilly and undeniably beautiful as it slightly rolls up and down along the coast and through quaint New England towns. This was one of the first road races where I found the course to be beautiful enough to distract me from the sufferfest that is road racing! I managed to exceed my A pace during the early miles and I was feeling great so this only added to my happiness.
Half marathons are beautifully painful in the way that they are short enough to go all out yet long enough where the finish can only be attained through some mental determination. Around mile 7 I started doing the math on how far I still had to go which was a pretty intimidating number at this point. I reminded myself of how much training I had to do to get here, how often I skipped trail runs to train for this road race and how if I did not PR I would need to do this again. All of this, plus the never-ending encouragement of the volunteers kept me going and hitting the paces I wanted to hit.
The last few miles of this course are the most challenging with a super pitchy but short hill right at the end but this is where the spectator support stepped it up a notch. Spectators shouted words of encouragement and they even complimented my shoes several times which somehow motivated me to hit that last hill, hammer out the last flat and cruise downhill to the finish line at just over 1:25 which gave me a PR of almost 4 minutes!! My watch told me that I had run 13.27 miles, which I attribute to needing to cross the road a few times along the course.
I crossed the finish line and headed directly into Portsmouth High School where the post race food was located. Some races give you no post race food and some give you a banana but the Seacoast Half Marathon gives you a buffet that includes bread, pizza, quinoa, soup and more! I think this was the most post race food I have ever had which is completely awesome.
I organize four half marathons so I know how much work goes into events like this and I can definitely say that the Seacoast Half Marathon organizers know what they are doing. I love the Seacoast Half Marathon for so many reasons. It is locally organized, it benefits worthy causes, the community goes all out to support runners and of course because I was able to nab that PR I was seeking. If you are looking for these things in your next half then I highly suggest checking it out in 2020!