2021 Colchester Half Marathon

It felt good to pin on a bib number and compete for the first time in a long time. In 2020 we were able to squeeze in a few modified events within the Covid-19 rules (at the time), and today’s Colchester Half Marathon was also a different kind of event, but it seems like things are moving in the right direction. In a matter of months, we may be able to truly hold outdoor events (cycling, running, triathlon, etc.) like 2019 and every year before that.

Today’s race was capped at 500 participants and we started in waves. There was no grand depart, no mingling before or after, and no post-race party. Those missing elements are what make the running community so cool, so it is still sad to go without that part of the sport, but in the end, it’s about you and the course.

Colchester is normally held in late February, but it was postponed this year until Connecticut relaxed some of the rules and permitted larger outdoor events like this, as long as they were run with healthy and safety rules in place. We were happy too run. Last year, it was on 29 February and that was also a good day. We had a huge post-race party with hundreds of people crammed into the Bacon Academy cafeteria, which in hindsight, looks like it could have turned out badly. Luckily, it didn’t.

This year, we skipped the party, but kudos to the organizers for holding the race, which is an important fundraiser. In exchange for the opportunity to run, we had 11 rules to follow:

  1. Registration will be on-line only. No day of registration.
  2. Registration closes on 3/6/2021 at 9:30pm. No exceptions.
  3. The race will be waves of 30, with a max of 500 runners.
  4. Runners will be seeded based on times submitted during the registration process.
    1. Runners must run in assigned wave.
    2. Runners will be assigned waves based on their estimated finish time.
    3. Failure to run in your correct wave may lead to disqualification.
  5. Runners will be given a specific time to when to arrive to the race, to help with social distancing.
  6. When runners arrive, they will be directed to a staging area to keep with social distancing. 
    1. Runners will move to the starting area when the wave before has completely left.
  7. Race bibs will be mailed to runners on 3/8/2021.
  8. NO drafting rules. ~Similar to triathlons, i.e. runners must maintain a 6-foot separation from other runners they pass or are passed.
  9. There will be water bottles at 6.5 miles and at the finish.
  10. Participants are “strongly encouraged” to leave finish area ASAP after they finish the race. ~No congregating in groups pre- and post-race.
  11. Results will be posted on-line only. Results will be posted after the completion of the race.

The weather was pretty good. At the start, the temperature was around 33 degrees Fahrenheit with brilliant sunshine. That sun made a big difference and helped offset the wind, which was whipping. Several sections of the course are exposed to open farmland, including the last two miles (which are notoriously uphill), so the wind was a factor. Mentally, I was ready for both the wind and the hills, but it still wore me down by the end. I faltered a bit in the last three miles, as I usually do at Colchester. It is so hard to hold the fast pace that you start with because some of the early miles have a net loss in elevation.

With about 1,050 feet of gain, it’s not super-hilly, but when you are trying to run fast and steady, that undulation is an an added challenge. Colchester is also known for some lovely dirt roads. Thankfully, this year, they were dry and firm, which helped make for some fast running.

I started in the first wave at 9:00 A.M. after self-seeding in advance based on my prior finish times. I’ve done this race five times: 2020, 2015, 2010, and 2007. My realistic goal was to run 1:28, my fast goal was to run 1:26:30, and my stretch goal was to break my course personal best of 1:25:19 set 11 years ago. I came close, running 1:26:15, but likely had no chance of picking up another minute. It felt like I was 20 seconds slower than I could have been, but that is probably all I could gain if the wind wasn’t in my face and I ran a bit more during the week.

My only complaint was that some of the cars and trucks on the course lacked courtesy. It was an open course, and we knew that, but some vehicles didn’t yield and passed to close and too quickly. That’s normal for any run I do, but with several hundred people spread out on the 13.1 mile circuit with a volunteer and police presence, you would think that motorists would chill out. That wasn’t the case.

I did get a good night of sleep leading into the race, which is always nice. I felt good for a Saturday morning and loved the chilly conditions. I carried my own water (one bottle) in an UltrAspire waist belt. That was a smart decision. There was only one water stop, and they were full plastic bottles, which I intended to skip anyway. I was able to sip a little water every mile and never felt parched.

Debbie also had a good race, beating her goal time and finishing strong among the master women. We did get a chance to see some friends which was nice. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. On the drive home, Debbie and I stopped at Hurst Farm to pick up some tasty goods. I think the best part of the day was the sunshine.

Race Results

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