by Meghan Bruce
The New York City Marathon may be the premiere race on most local runners’ minds this week, but there is another race sharing a block on the calendar with NYC. We are just a few days away from the inaugural Princeton Half Marathon, and being the only running store in town, we sure have heard a lot of your questions, concerns, and training stories surrounding the event over the last few months. On Sunday, a thousand runners who were lucky enough to snag spots into the sold-out race will line up just north of Palmer Square and set off through Princeton’s streets. A recent post described the course, breaking it up into pieces and highlighting the historical significance of many landmarks runners will pass.
Most people entered in the race are locals who have been running the course for their weekly long runs, so going into detail about its ins and outs might be unnecessary. While I am not racing on Sunday, I have ran every part of the course on some run or another, and so I can justify giving a few words of advice to those who might be less familiar with the course, or racing half marathons in general, than most. Keep in mind, these are my opinions; stick to your race plan if you have one!
In chronological order, here are some things you will encounter, and my words of wisdom about them:
1.) Maintain a steady effort on the trail and watch the ground.
Officials and volunteers will be foraging this section prior to the race, spray-painting roots and removing excessively large branches and rocks. However, that doesn’t mean the surface is as smooth as the roads you just came from. Maintain a steady effort level (not necessarily exact pace) and watch where your feet are landing. Give other people space as well if you find yourself in a close pack at this point in the race.
2.) Don’t fear the Washington Road hill.
The stretch up Washington Rd. is three quarters of a mile long. While it does boast the highest grade on the course, it couldn’t come at a better location on the course and on the map. Why? First, it’s almost the halfway point. There’s plenty of flat sections afterwards to recover and ease yourself into more gears so you can finish strong. Also, because you’ve ran nearly six miles before the hill begins, your heart rate should be consistent and your legs warmed up; the hill’s effect on the body won’t be as significant compared to if the hill was elsewhere. Second, this road takes you straight through the middle of campus. Look up, look around. There is plenty to see and probably lots of cheering spectators (and plenty of people to steadily pass if you’re the competitive type…), take advantage of it and you will have crested Washington and be cruising across Nassau before you know it.
3.) Speaking of hills, the Herrontown hill is pretty short.
Once you turn onto Herrontown Rd., you immediately start climbing. The road twists and turns through the woods, so it seems like you’re about to climb a mountain. But…then it ends (okay, there is still somewhat of a climb on Mt. Lucas), and downhills are in your near future. The steepest part of Mt. Lucas is cut off via Poor Farm Rd., so the course plotters cut you a break there at least. Words of advice: just power through. Get it done. All downhill from here, why regret that you lost sight of that at the base of some hill earlier on?
By the time you’re heading downhill on Mt. Lucas approaching Jefferson, you’d better be rolling! Have fun with it!
Some other key information you should know:
1.) Packet pick-up is at Princeton Running Company the following days and times:
Thursday, 10/31 10 AM – 8 PM (don’t mind us if we are in costume…)
Friday, 11/1 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Saturday, 11/2 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Bring your ID; only YOU are allowed to pick up YOUR packet!
2.) The race begins at 7:30 AM (DAYLIGHT SAVINGS IS AT 2 AM: extra hour of sleep pre-race = winning.)
3.) Writing this just made me jealous of you all. BEST OF LUCK TO EVERYONE! HAVE FUN!