Mar 02

Race Report – Colchester Half Marathon

I have a long history of loving to hate this race. I have run it six times, not consecutively, and each experience has been vastly different. There are parts of the course on dirt roads which have been covered in snow or iced over, there are far more cows then spectators (we actually run right through a farm during mile 11!), there are no awards medals or t-shirts, and the field is usually around 500 hearty New Englanders.


So, why the hell would anyone want to run this mess during the dregs of winter? I’ll tell you…

The Race Culture

Rick Konon is an amazing, generous and caring race director who is also a serious runner. When I first ran this half in 2006(?) the entry fee was $6. Yes, six bucks. I remember laughing as I wrote out the check, since back then you had to register via mail. Can you imagine? This year the fee was a whopping $14 ($20 on race day) and, although there are no awards or medals or t-shirts, you do get:

  1. An entire school to stay warm in, keep your stuff in and a locker room for a hot post-race shower!
  2. At least three bathrooms and, one secret one I literally had all to myself. Seriously.
  3. Free pre and post-race massages
  4. A post-race party with a feast of food! I have never gone to it, but hear it’s fabulous.

Rick, the director and organizer, is an amazing runner with a contagious energy for the sport and other runners. He is literally out on the course slapping high fives and yelling encouragement like “don’t get used to the downhill!” Um, I’m sorry Rick but WHAT downhill?

He wasn't holding this sign but I think he should next year!

He wasn’t holding this sign but I think he should next year!

He also sends personal emails, prior to the race, with stuff like this in them:

Broke? Can’t afford the gas & the entry fee? Come out and run it for free and come on over to the post race party too, just be sure and try to make it back when you can afford to pay!

We don’t want to turn anyone away from a course this tough!

For real! I mean, how can you not run this?


I have to credit my good running buddy, Anne Crone with finding this race way back in the day. Ever since, a few of us try to make it out there every February. This year we were raring to go…until we weren’t. One by one my friends dropped out, for very legitimate reasons but, I questioned if I should toe the line alone. I decided to do it since, it was part of my training plan, it’s such a great test on a brutal course and it was predicted to be a perfect race day with partly sunny skies and temps in the upper 30s.

I keep this race in a category all its own. My “normal” half-marathon PR is 1:28, which I earned on a flat course in Hartford, CT in 2014. My PR for this course was 1:38, because this:

Hartford Half Marathon "elevation" chart.

Hartford Half Marathon “elevation” chart.

Colchester elevation chart

Colchester half marathon elevation chart.

Past results:

2006 – ? I cannot find the results for this? I have the bib hanging in my garage but no finish time. They may not even have had timing chips since this is truly a no frills race!

I took a few years off to get married, build a house, have twins and then…

2010 – 1:45 | 2011 – 1:42 | 2012 – 1:48 | 2013 – 1:38

Race Day 2016

Since I’ve been experimenting with my diet to become more metabolically efficient, I had a different pre-race meal plan, which I had tested the previous week. When I woke-up around 6am I had coffee and one small whole wheat fig bar. Then, at 7:30am I made a smoothie with almond milk, full fat greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, peanut butter and Beet Boost and drank it on the way to the race. The race start was 10am. Gotta love that!

Pinned and race ready!

Pinned and race ready!

I felt good during my 10-15 minute warm-up which is always a good sign for me. In that moment I decided I would run by feel and only look at my watch after the first mile. Since I had a semi-normal training week and this wasn’t a goal race by any means, I thought it would be a fun experiment.

At the start line, Rick basically yells “Go!” sounds a horn, and we are off! I ran my first mile in 7:08 and thought “Ok. This feels good.” And it was. It was great.

Every hill I ran up, I just focused on keeping a consistent EFFORT and not pace. I didn’t worry about pace at all, since I had no clue what it was, and just ran by feel.

Mile eight has a pretty significant hill. As it came into full view I was running past two guys who had been in front of me from the start. They had been chatting most of the way (how do people do that?) and this was the exchange when they saw the hill:

Guy 1: Oh boy (with nervous laughter)

Guy 2: Yeah, wow, ok

Guy 1: oh boy (more nervous laughter)

Guy 2: Jeez, wow, ok

And it went on like that. It was like a Beavis and Butthead exchange and it was hilarious! I guess that was their first Colchester and they failed to consult any maps or do any research on the course. After I passed them I didn’t see them again. I hope they made it to the finish!

The Last Two Miles

Not enough can really be said about how brutal the last two miles of this race are. Miles 9 and 10 are on a pock-marked and rolling hill, dirt trail. Once you pass Mile 10 (which used to be solely marked by a spray painted “10” on a rock) you come out into a farm. Not by a farm but in a farm. You are so in the farm that as I ran between cows and a barn, what looked to be a 12 year-old kid was, just at that moment, moving a front loader filled with cow shit manure across our path. I can’t even. At least it wasn’t a hot day.

After that special treat, I made the hard right onto the main road, which ultimately leads to the finish…once you pass though hell.

At this point in the race, you need to be ON your mental game. I talked myself through the miles with things like “Keep your pace. Head up. Pump your arms. Keep a consistent effort. You’re not almost there. Look at that guy walking. You’re not walking. You’re running. You’re a runner. This is what you do. Head up. Keep your pace.” And on and on and on.

I was passed by two women in the final two miles and I was really unhappy about it. I like to be the one doing the passing, which I had done plenty of, but I had nothing else to give and not enough care to chase them, but still.

Mercifully, I neared the finish. There was a man standing in his driveway, twirling a stick and seemingly not paying attention. At the last moment, he looked up and said “You’re not almost there but there is a finish line around that corner.” Bless you kind sir.

I gave everything I had left, thought for a moment about what the clock might read, and then it came into view: 1:35:35. A three minute PR for this course!

Well look at that!


Also notice how I did not negative split the course, meaning I didn’t get progressively faster toward the end of the race. I know it’s a bit different because this one is so hilly, with some of the longest hills at the end but, don’t put too much stock into negative splits and instead, run by feel!

The Aftermath

The only ridiculous and somewhat creepy word I can think of to describe how I felt is “satisfied.”  I was so completely satisfied with how I ran, and the result.

Anyone who trains to compete, whether in running or triathlon, can tell you that you need these kind of races to boost your confidence and continue training.

The day to day training is hard. People often ask me how I do it or how I stay motivated and here it is. When I race like I did that day, and all the stars align with my mind and body, it propels me forward. I look at my training plan with renewed belief and confidence, and I can continue because I know all the hard work is paying off.

And then of course I saw I came in 30 seconds behind the first place woman for my age group and was really pissed I didn’t at least try to chase her!




Some things will never change.

Until next year Colchester!

Do you have a race you love to hate?

Have you run a race by feel without looking at your watch? How did you do?



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  1. ahh you had me at the words SATISFIED (until I read the next sentences but Im not focusing on that right now :0))
    these days that’s so my goal.
    to feel content (with a performance) to feel satisfied (at days end Ive done all all all I could) to be happily with MY BEST even when it is not THE best.
    CARLA recently posted…6 Ways Dr. Seuss Taught Me About Healthy Living.My Profile

    1. Overall, I definitely feel VERY satisfied! It was good while it lasted… 🙂

  2. Woohhooo!!!! I love all of this! It’s a tie between your mantras or the guy twirling the stick in his drive way (???). Congrats on a great race and making those hills yo bitch!!!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…How to Recover From a Bad RunMy Profile

    1. LOL! The nonchalant stick twirl just made the comment THAT much better!

  3. That’s an amazing pace for that elevation chart! Way to go woman!! Yes, training is tough. Especially when you have kids and sometimes all you want to do is simply sleep in a little longer…However, I recently ran a 10 miler with out my Garmin because it never connected to the satellites (it’s old as dirt. I think it’s time for a new one.) and ended up with a 3 minute PR. My goal was to race that as a “tempo” for marathon training but ended up sliiiighly faster. But what I loved most about that race was like what you said: I was satisfied with the way I ran, how I felt, and it boosted my confidence! I think those are the moments that reignite the passion for training! There’s that…and a new pair of shoes helps too. 😉
    Jess @ run pink recently posted…Marathon Monday: Altra ONE2(squared) Shoe Review aka Heaven in a ShoeMy Profile

    1. YES! So glad you can relate. Now go get a pair of running shoes and a Garmin. I mean, a 3 min PR deserves that much 🙂

  4. Holy hill city. It looks like the Runners World half we did or possibly worse! The day after a hard race (especially the half distance), I normally run a route I’ve mapped. I don’t bring my watch and just run. It makes it a lot easier to get out there not knowing the pace and distance.
    Hollie recently posted…The Evolution of My Running Brand ChoicesMy Profile

    1. Oh it was definitely worse then the RW half!…I also had a good race there too. Maybe I love hills?
      So true to not knowing pace and distance sometimes. Our bodies already know how to do this!

  5. This sounds like such an intense race!! The hills and the exchange between the two guys lol I love the fact that this race has heart. Nothing fancy just good old running on a tough course. I can see why you have done it so many times!! Proud of you for PRing on such a hard race!!
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Princess Half Marathon Weekend 2016 – The ExpoMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much Nellie and it truly is a race with HEART. You nailed it!

  6. I loved what you said: “Anyone who trains to compete, whether in running or triathlon, can tell you that you need these kind of races to boost your confidence and continue training.” Even if that competition is just yourself.

    What a great race report, and I love that you PR’d it. Hills be damned! Great job, Allie!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Running SerendipitouslyMy Profile

    1. I know you totally understand that Wendy and I’m ALWAYS competing with myself no matter what! We are our toughest opponent, right? Thank you!

  7. Way to go!! Sounds like a fun no extra frills run! This reminds me of a race in Lancaster county, here in PA. The Bird In Hand Half marathon, where the race goes through farms.

    I love the positive monologue that pushed you through!

    My sisters and I have been doing a 5K for years that is small torture. the first 1 mile is all hills, the second mile is downhill, and the last mile has a killer hill before the finish line. It’s a tough race, but we love doing it and we go back every year!

    Fantastic job on your 30 sec PR!!
    Ana recently posted…Training Week #8My Profile

    1. Thank you! I’ve read a few blog posts about the Bird in Hand and it seems to be a favorite for those who run it. That 5K sounds just as torturous as this half!!…and I love that it has become a tradition. So great.

  8. Wow…. that comparative elevation chart is just crazy!!! This was a good motivating read for me, as after taking a couple of months off doing hill repeats, I did them again yesterday with the plan to re-incorporate them into my own made up training plan once a week. What am I training for on this made up plan of mine? Life…. and running with Allie one day. Bravo!! recently posted…Sweat, Tears, SeaMy Profile

    1. LOVE IT!!!!!!! And, um, where do you find hills in L.A.? Hollywood? LOL!

      1. um… i think I just accidentally replied on someone else’s comment… oops:) recently posted…Sweat, Tears, SeaMy Profile

      2. Allie, we have hills and mountains all over the place here. Hollywood, Burbank, San Fernando Valley, Malibu, Ventura, Santa Barbara, etc. Mountains run North-South all along the State. Now FLA, that’s flat as a pancake!
        Claude recently posted…Cycling weeks 9-12My Profile

        1. I know – I was just busting Paria since I know she lives in Los Angeles 🙂 I would love to run the hills of ANY of the locations you mentioned. One of these days…

  9. That’s a great race! I would have been crying and late-race elevation like that. Whew.

    And hot showers post-race??? Spoiled!!!
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…What I Ate In NapaMy Profile

    1. I think I did cry the first year I ran it.
      You would do well since you’re getting all that crazy hiking in these days!! Next year… 🙂

      1. There are hills on my regular run path… I go up and down between Santa Monica Blvd and Sunset…. I wrote a post about a year ago called “Hills and Lumbersexuals”… premise being that if facial hair can grow on me based on repeated exposure, then forcing myself to do hills also can…. it worked. recently posted…Sweat, Tears, SeaMy Profile

        1. HA!!! Love this and no worries if you replied to someone else. I’m sure they will love this as much as I do 🙂

  10. Holy hills batman! and congrats on tackling an extremely tough race. I was laughing at you recapping the two runners exchange. That was me during the 5 mile Turkey trot I did. I just “assumed” it was flat since it was 20 mins from me and within a quarter mile had a WTF moment that lasted the next 40 mins or so. I wound up PR’ing so think it was good to not know or I would sike myself out. I am planning to race by feel this spring like I did in the fall. I produce faster times when I am not obsessing about a pace.
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…Half Marathon Training 2/8/16 – 2/21/16My Profile

    1. Oh no!!! That is never good BUT it turned out great so good for you. I’m not sure those two guys faired as well 🙂
      Good luck continuing to race by feel – it works!

  11. I love that race director. What an awesome guy! This has to be one of the most entertaining race recaps I’ve ever read. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall for the conversation between the director and the farm owners: “so I’m wondering if once a year you’d mind if hundreds of crazy runners come barreling past your barns?” And I totally have that family from the DirecTV settlers commercials in my head. And the guy with the stick? It’s like he’d been coached on exactly the right thing to say as a spectator and he was just really focusing so he’d get it right.

    Despite enjoying the crazy comedic value of this whole recap, the fact that you PRed this course by a full 3 minutes should make you intensely aware of what amazing fitness you’re in and how effective and smart your coach’s plan is. Kudos and congrats to you, ladycake!!!!
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…What Went On in February 2016My Profile

    1. Now I’m laughing!!! I never thought about how the whole farm/race conversation went down. But, knowing Rick, he probably knows the guy and it’s no big deal. Too funny!
      Thank you so much and yes, I called my coach directly afterward and just thanked her for doing all the right things, despite my whining!!

  12. Holy hills! You absolutely killed it! I can’t help but think if you PR’ed so much on hills what you will do on the roads soon – you earned this PR!
    OMG the cow manure though. My first half ran through a farm and I about died from the smell of the cow manure…it was a windy day, gross gross gross. Your recap is so inspiring – definitely what I needed to read a few days before my half!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Best Running Fuel for You + Fueling and Hydration E-CourseMy Profile

    1. I was just so happy it was winter and the wind was blowing the right way!! Crazy stuff.
      So glad you’re reading this just in time for your own half!!! You will be amazing! Good luck!!

  13. SUBLIME, a race for runners and by runners! $6-$14 in 10 years, unheard of! No useless bling-bling trinkets, Tshirt and medal swag, and the endless awards ceremony!!!!!!!!!!!! Just real stuff a dead runner would need after this elevation profile: a well deserved massage, and a massive re-feed!, commiserating with your fellow competitors while stuffing your face-…and a good time was had by all:)

    Running between cows, smelling cow shit, I’m in Heaven! And yes, where do you get a personal bathroom b4 a race?

    The recognition one comes away with in this race is the sense of truest accomplishment that resides in the heart, the feeling that in the face of the harshest odds (hills), the runner dug deep to find the key to run that 3minute PR (in your case); BEAUTIFUL!

    Rick Konon is an amazing person, a rarity in today’s cut throat race marketing business, which I’ve seen devolve over the last 4 decades. I’m always reminded of my entry fee for Ironman Hawaii 1981: $25, yes, really!. I’d fly to New England just for the privilege of running this race and to meet this Man, I’m in AWE!

    Consistent effort, yes, that’s precisely how to run this race. Even still, you paced it so well, just looking at your splits precisely mirrored the profile. That was a fantastic effort on your part:) Good on you for paying so little attention to your Garmin, I’ve always done the same. It’s merely a feedback device, not a whip (Tina gets it)!

    Beavis and ButtHead maybe, I think they were more like rejects from the script for ‘Fargo’, I’m embarrassed (being a man and all)! ‘You’re almost not there ..’, as gut wrenchingly funny as it is profound!

    Far be it for me to timidly (but I must) suggest you fell to the spell of the start and the cheers; but you may have run that 1st Mile a bit fast? It looks like that hill (50′ rise over about 1/4M) has a fair metabolic cost to it at such an early stage. Turning a 7:08pc that 1st Mile definitely stuck you above AT. Perhaps it might be why you couldn’t answer (physically or mentally) those 2 women that passed you in the grueling last 2 Mile stretch.

    I think you’ll like to revisit this episode when you read my last recommendation, can’t wait to hear what you think of the book (rather textbook).

    I think next year you’ll be 1st Woman (and lower your PR), how’s that for a prediction?!

    Allie is just too Awesome, 7:17.4pc on this course is an amazing feat for the books!

    No, I LOVE all my races. I hate the stupidity with which I approach some however, the EGO is always gnawing at me. It’s like Satan and the guardian Angel sitting on your shoulders whispering in each ear; the temptation is always there, which voice are you going to listen to?

    GPS: Tina set me straight and validated my approach to the Garmin. If I’m slower than I think, I ask why am I tired (sleep, alcohol, recent effort, stressed out, sick, injured, etc.). If I’m faster than I should be, it may be time to throttle back a bit (depending on the logistics of the course).

    Sorry to be so lengthy, I have keyboard diarrhea!
    Claude recently posted…Cycling weeks 9-12My Profile

    1. Never apologize for being lengthy – I love you thoughts, comments and quotes as you are always spot ON! Yes to everything you said about this race and the director. I would love lower entry fees and no frills races ANY DAY of the week!! When you’re ready to come out and run this with me, just say the word.
      You are also absolutely correct about me going out too fast. It’s a slight downhill though out the first mile and then the hills begin. I agree I would have had more in the tank had I not done that but…live and race and learn and race again!

  14. Amazing job!! I love that the course takes your through a farm. It sounds kinda quirky and less formal than a lot of races, and that’s probably part of the race’s charm right?
    Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness recently posted…My HIIT Studio 6-Week Challenge Health & Fitness ResultsMy Profile

    1. That is exactly what it is and I wouldn’t change a thing! Thanks Nicole.

  15. You are amazing! Love love the hill sign.
    jill conyers recently posted…50 Things That Make Me Very HappyMy Profile

    1. Thanks Jill. I love it too!

  16. Go Allie! As a non-racer, I really have nothing productive to say except you placed #69. Heh heh.
    Dana recently posted…It’s just a numberMy Profile

    1. My husband thought that was great too – LOL 🙂

  17. Amazing, that course sounds ROUGH as Beavis and Butthead elluded to 😉 I seriously am so in awe everytime I see your racing times. I can’t even fathom being that fast. I have never run a race without a watch. I feel like MCM is the race I love to hate. It’s become my nemesis and I really want to crush that course then next time I get the chance to race it! Congrats!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…2016 Racing Plans and some race discounts!My Profile

    1. Thanks Sue! I feel the same way when I read some other blogs – there is always someone out there faster…which is just inspiring and jaw-dropping.
      I know you feel like that about MCM. I would actually love to run that someday…and I KNOW you will live to crush it and I can only hope to read all about it!!

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