2020 Colchester Half Marathon

Today I awoke with stiff and sore legs and it was a good feeling. Yesterday, Debbie and I had our first solid training day of the year. The fact that it was Leap Day made it even more fun. We rode from our home in Bolton to the Colchester Half Marathon, ran the race, and rode back. HORST Engineering was closed for the day so I could put work out of my mind and focus on five hours of movement.


With the ride to the race, warmup for the race, race, cool down after the race, and ride home, we covered more than 50 miles on a very cold and blustery day. Our kids spent the day with Debbie’s parents, so we had extra time to execute this adventure. A shout out to Tony Bonanno who did THREE laps of the course with a little extra to get a total of 40 miles. That’s impressive. One of the things that I love about endurance sports is that just when I think that we put together a tough workout, there is always someone who is just a little more crazy.


The Colchester Half is known for frightful weather. I’ve run it in 2007, 2010, 2015, and now in 2020. It looks like I’ve fallen into a pattern of running it every five years. I checked my blog and the 2010 and 2015 images look like those were snow years. I also recall that 2007 race and it was cold, snowy, and muddy. In that edition, I pushed our son in the Chariot CX-1 jogging stroller and it was quite the challenge as he didn’t really want to go that far on that day and the tires were sinking into the mud which made it even harder.


The winter of 2019-2020 has been extraordinarily mild, so there was no evidence of snow  on the course. Ironically, minutes after we got home, a massive snow squall hit but I was safely inside standing by the fireplace. The Colchester course is known for being hilly (about 1,100 feet of elevation gain) and also for having two sections of dirt road that cover a few of the 13 miles. The footing and traction are often dicey, but yesterday’s surface conditions were perfect with no ice to speak of.


My fastest ever edition was in 2010, so it was satisfying after 10 years to “only” run three minutes slower. I’m sure I trained more specifically in 2010 and I know I didn’t ride 18 miles as a warmup. Even still, I always want to go faster. The last two miles of the course are notoriously difficult as it is a long straightaway with a series of hills that grind steadily upward. Most people run their slowest miles on this section of the course and I was no exception. I feel like I faded badly though the data shows I only faded slightly. I felt terrible and gave up two spots in the last miles, which sucks because I’m overly competitive.


I ended up running 1:28:27 for 20th, which is very good and I’m happy. There were 676 finishers which was remarkable. That has to be the record. This race is one of the best values around. The $14 entry fee created massive demand and people came from all over New England and some came from even farther away. The female winner was Alayna Bigalbal, and she came from Virginia. She did say that she grew up in New London and had family in Connecticut. I was with her for the first half of the race and by the end, she was gaining on me. She only finished 14 seconds behind me and she appears to be a very strong runner.


I can’t overstate the value of this race. Longtime Race Director Rick Konon was all over the course, running around and cheering for everyone like a madman. He has infectious energy and passion and it shows. I always enjoy watching him in action. Debbie handled our pre-registration but I don’t think there were any additional fees. The online registration cost was included, which is remarkable. There was also pre & post race massages, a post race party (complete with multiple vegan options) in the Bacon Academy cafeteria, and ample non-alcoholic beverages. The website also says you get “results, excuses, tales of woe, and camaraderie.” It’s also worth pointing out that there were several volunteer-manned aid stations with fluids. All of the folks affiliated with the race were enthusiastic and helpful. I’m not sure what they do with the race proceeds, but I imagine they are put to good use.


In an era where some 5K’s cost $40 or more, Colchester is a throwback, and if this race cost twice the current price they would still get 500 people to run it. I’m not suggesting that they charge more because the low cost makes lot of people happy. The Shenipsit Striders approach the promotion of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race the same way, so if you want a trail version of a half marathon that is also a great value, check it out and we will see you in May. Full disclosure: Debbie was the Race Director for more than 15 years and we still have a vested interested in seeing Soapstone succeed!


The men’s winner was Will Sanders and he absolutely crushed the Colchester course record, running 1:10:20 which is amazing. As noted, the surface conditions were excellent, but the temperature was only 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was a factor, so conditions were not ideal and he still had a great day.


I dressed appropriately. After the bike ride, I had a complete change of clothes which included Patagonia Capilene underwear, undershirt, and long sleeve shirt. I wore Darn Tough socks, Altra Impulse shoes, CEP compression sleeves, Cw-X tights, gloves, a Capilene bonnet, Rudy Project sunglasses, and my Shenipsit Striders trucker cap. I also wore my UltrAspire waist belt so I could carry my iPhone and a bottle filled with UnTapped MapleAid. The first few miles were chilly and I was wishing I had a high collar or something on my neck, but by the halfway point, I warmed up. For a period of time, I actually pulled up my sleeves. I also removed the bonnet and shoved it in my waist band.


The sun came in and out for a while, but after an hour or so, it went in for good. The skies clouded up and the breeze picked up. It was cold and raw but still good conditions to run in. I mentioned my suffering on the finishing stretch, but overall it was a good race. My pacing was good. I avoided a fast start and ran for several miles with Olivia Mondo. She is training for the Boston Marathon and sometimes we are evenly matched Lately, in the shorter races, she is much faster…but I’m more than twice her age so I have an excuse! She only finished a minute or so behind me, but she looked much better at the line. I was doubled over and my legs were already seizing up. I doubt that she will be walking like a duck (like me) today. I bet she even goes for another run. I won’t!


Debbie had a good run and we saw a lot of friends. I mean, a LOT of friends. Between the Shenipsit Striders, Silk City Striders, and other folks from the running community, I bet we knew 200 people. It was a great way to kick off the 2020 season. After the post-race meal, we changed back into our cycling kits. I should have brought another pair of socks, or at least I should have changed back into the socks that I originally rode in. I was lazy and kept on the socks that I ran with and that was a bad call. They were damp and once the cold air penetrated my cycling shoes, I paid the price. The ride back took longer and it was colder. We suffered but made it home by 3:00 P.M. and before the precipitation started. By 5:30 P.M., we were back in Prospect to pick up our kids. Debbie’s Mom rewarded us with another home cooked meal followed by blueberry muffins that our daughter helped bake. All things considered, it was a really good day.

Race Results

4 Responses to “2020 Colchester Half Marathon”

  1. 1 Emily Huntington 1 March 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Nice write up! I did Colchester last year for the first time, and was very impressed with the feel of the race. Rich is such an enthusiastic cheerleader! Even for us “back of the packers!” I am curious–how do you get the elevation at 1100′? My Garmin pegs it at just under 800. Certainly feels like 1100!

    • 2 SL 2 March 2020 at 9:49 am

      Strava said 1,066. I use a Garmin Forefunner 935. Who knows? It’s hilly. I guess we don’t have to be that accurate…do we?

  1. 1 2020 Bolton Road Race (+ NEAM & Boston) | Life Adventures Trackback on 8 March 2020 at 7:48 pm
  2. 2 2021 Colchester Half Marathon | Life Adventures Trackback on 13 March 2021 at 2:14 pm

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