Find Part 1 of my recap here.
Despite a topsy-turvy start and some tumultuous weather, I was excited to begin racing. Hershey’s course has mostly stayed the same over the years: runners wind through the Entertainment Complex parking lot and along Hersheypark Drive for the first three miles (although this is the flattest section of the route, there are still several small hills to be found) before turning into the park itself (by far my favorite part of the race).
Hersheypark is home to several small, steep hills, but the adrenaline rush in that early part of the race is more than enough to help push past those particular inclines. Having worked at the park one summer, I love seeing it when it is (mostly) empty.
Around mile four, the course detours into the residential neighborhood that rims ZooAmerica (and yes, you can smell the animals). Mile four also marks the first “oh crap” hill of the course—grade wise it’s not too bad, but it’s on a fairly ho-hum section of road.
Throughout the park and the surrounding neighborhood, we were buffered from the wind. Heading into mile five, however, we were headed into wide open country, where the wind howled wildly. Still, I was more focused on cruising over the hills than battling the weather. My drive led me to ignore my planned walk intervals. I had intended to replicate my marathon training intervals (run 9:00 minutes/walk 1:00), but I was on such a runner’s high that I didn’t stop for the first five miles. Soon, however, I was tiring.
Miles 5-13.1 are comprised of various hills, beautiful pastoral scenes, hills, downtown Hershey, and more hills. Thanks to Mother Nature, miles 5-13.1 were also windier than the first part of the course. Yay for us!
I have to hand it to Hershey though for having some of the best organized water stops of any race I have run. Spaced out every two to three miles, I found them more than adequate in the cooler temperature (I was, however, carrying my own disposable water bottle through mile 11). This year us middle-of-the-packers got pure, undiluted Gatorade filled to the rim of our cups. I couldn’t take down all the liquid at once without stopping, so I only drank half of each cup.
When we reached the Milton Hershey campus (always the most defeating part of the course, in my opinion, due to the plethora of hills and generic rural terrain), the students were full of energy: truly the best spectators ever. Wrapped in blankets to buffer the cold, they hooted and hollered with so much gusto, I couldn’t help but smile.
|Yep, it was pretty much the same post-race scene this year as last, right down to the menu.|
The much touted chocolate aid station was right before a turn leading around the perimeter of the park. I grabbed a mini Hershey bar for later (I knew I couldn’t eat it while running without regretting it), but I must have dropped it while trying to put it in my pocket, because it was nowhere to be found when I finished. Bummer!
Per usual, the last mile of the course was killer, but I was determined to make my sub-2:00:00 goal time. Throughout the race I had worn a pace band, and I had checked it quickly at each mile marker. I was on track during the entire run, but I knew I would be tired in the final stretch. I took a quick walk break up the hill by Chocolate World AND in the parking lot before the tram circle (that parking lot was a major wind tunnel) before picking up the pace for my last half mile. In a stroke of genius, I had set up my iPod playlist so that “Don’t Stop Me Now,” my personal anthem of the 2013 Hershey Half, started to play right around the 1:58:30 mark. As soon as I heard those opening notes, I began my sprint on the outside of Hersheypark Stadium. I knew I was SO CLOSE to meeting my goal. I would either just make it or just go over the 2 hour mark.
Thankfully, it was the former: I finished in 1:59:24, twelve minutes faster than last year’s time. Given the wind and my pre-race stress, I am a little shocked that I made it. And ecstatic!!!
At the race finish, I was awarded my medal by Everest, this year’s Miracle Child. I love that a portion of the proceeds from Hershey races go to such worthy causes! You can visit the Chocolate Town Challengessite to learn more. I think I might have scared that precious dear—I was practically sobbing from the joy of netting my goal time!
|Our race medal and tee were pretty rad!|
Before leaving, I grabbed my mylar blanket (a godsend in the wind) and goodie bag, and I was outta there!
I had other things to do… like gorge on carbs and party in the park.
|I didn't take pictures during the actual race, but I did have the opportunity to goof off afterward.|
*If you like flat and fast, this is not the course for you. I happen to enjoy hills, for all of my griping about them.
Packet Pick-up: F/B
Post-Race Experience: B
Event Organization: D/A
Overall Grade: B
My grades for Hershey stay the same this year for the course and post-race experience. Packet pick-up was a pickle: while getting my actual bib was easy peasy, the hurdles leading up to it were pretty darn irritating. If it wasn’t broke, Hershey, you shouldn’t have fixed it (and the same goes for race morning): please, dear goodness, go back to your old system for 2015’s race.
Aid stations, volunteers (including an adorable towheaded child at mile 11.5 offering up tissues to passing runners) and goodie bag pick-up were impeccably organized, but the issues with the porta potties and gated participant area were impossible to overlook.
Consequently, my overall grade for Hershey goes down to a B. If the race organizers can work out the kinks from this year, I will gladly bump it back into A territory for 2015!