The Rundown – “Tough As Nails” Half Marathon Recap!


As if running 13.1 wasn’t hard enough, some of us runners need to find new and creative ways to make it harder. Why? The answer may come from the likes of race director Rick Konon who celebrated the 25th running of the Colchester “Tough As Nails” Half Marathon last Saturday. The more important question may be why have I chosen to run it seven times? The answer came from a woman who I met in the ladies room afterward who said “It always feels like such an accomplishment when it’s over.” Hell yeah it does.

Please excuse the change-up in the usual format this week as I recap the race for you. I would have done a separate post but the stomach bug I battled with last week had other plans. I’m just happy to be outside of a bathroom at this point. Now that you have that visual, you’re better prepared for this recap…


I have run a lot of half marathons in my almost 20 years of running and this one is by far the hilliest and, therefore, the toughest. Not only does it deserve the name “tough as nails” I also love the tagline.

Where No One Is Ever Over The Hill < – – get it?

And, just so everyone knows exactly where the hills are, the topography map is printed on the front of the shirt, modeled here by Vaughn:

It should also be noted that this was the very first time a race shirt was even sold. This is truly a no-frills race that was built from the ground up by the race director, Rick Konon. It started with about 15 members of the Hartford Track Club in 1993 and grew to over 600 last week! When I first started running this course in 2006 there were about 200 hearty New Englanders just looking to kill it for nothing more than bragging rights. I’m happy to say, not much has changed.


It’s always hard going into a race when the last time you crossed the finish line you had a course PR. There’s just no way of getting that out of my head so I didn’t try. It made me feel better when I realized that in that year I had run not one but two marathons (New Jersey and NYC) and PR’d in New Jersey (3:28).

This is me two years ago shoving my three minute PR in your face…

We knew this was not happening again and by “we” I mean me and my legs.

Regardless of PRs that would not be had, I went into the race with a mantra that has been working wonders for me. It’s a phrase I lifted from one of my racing heroes Rich Roll:


Not where I want to be, not where I wish I was (see above), not where I used to be, but right here and now, where I am.

This mindset worked for me on race day because I use it in my training. On a daily basis, whether I’m in the pool, on my bike or on the road, as soon as I feel my ego sliding into my head I shut it down with “train where you are!” It’s been working.


Wouldn’t you know that when I especially did not want to know my pace, they had someone standing with a stopwatch at mile 1 to loudly and clearly announce I was running a solid 8:00/min mile. Really? Of course I knew that my in PR year I was running almost a minute per mile faster but whatever…train where you are *insert eye roll*

I struggled in the early miles with my mind and ego but by mile 4-5 I was firmly on board with where I was and I was running strong. I tapped into how I felt and how hard I could push and still feel human at the finish line.

The hills came and went, but the most brutal part of this course is the steady two mile uphill climb to the finish. It’s never ending.


No matter how prepared I think I am for the final two miles of this race, I’m wrong.

My legs were tired, my ass was on fire and right hip flexor was literally screaming at me to please stop this nonsense.

I just kept pushing. I went as fast and as hard as I could, which was definitely not that hard or fast. (see below)

I mercifully rounded the final ascent toward the finish and that’s when the race director, Rick Konon himself was suddenly in my face screaming “ALLIE! Come on!” and we took off. He ran me into the finish line, faster than I thought was possible at that point. The crowd was cheering, Rick was yelling commands, and somehow my legs and lungs and heart just followed.

And then it was over. Thank f***ing God!


I can honestly and confidently say that I’m happy with the results. I ran a smart and strong race and felt really good afterward considering the mental and physical battle I went through. And, for perhaps the first time ever, I ran the tangents so well that my watch read almost exactly 13.1 miles at the finish! #thatneverhappens

According to the race data, I finished 8th in my age group 40-49Β (but I don’t know how many women were in it?) 24th female (again, no clue how many women were out there?) and 108 overall. I’ll take it.

The proof in the recovery was my stomach felt great after my post-race meal (warm croissant, protein box and Blond Americano from Starbucks) and, after almost three hours in the car up to Vermont, I stepped out like I had been walking all my life and not like a 14 year-old in her first high heels. Winning.

Before I go I want to give a huge shout out to LINDA who introduced herself as a fan of my blog at the race! I was super embarrassed and then felt great, and then terrified as I thought about all the nonsense I write and confessions I make here but, she seemed to like me so thanks Linda! I hope you had a great race!

Here’s hoping your week is not tough as nails but smooth and floating downhills.

Have you ever run a race this hilly? How many times?

Do you chase old PRs?

Would you race knowing there’s no bling at the finish?



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  1. First off, glad you’re out of the bathroom. Second, you raise me up! And by up I mean up and over hills!!! Sounds like a brutal race. How does it compare to the Leaf Peepers Half? That was a little ridiculous except there wasn’t that fun uphill finish. Lol!
    Angela @ happy Fit Mama recently posted…Last Week’s WorkoutsMy Profile

    1. Excellent question! I feel like ALL the hills came at once at Leaf Peepers and, the ones in the beginning were so killer – so steep – I thought I was walking at one point! That may be the only comparable race but I know I ran it faster so…

  2. That is one intense race! I’m not sure I would be repeating it year after year… I’m impressed.
    And I’ve had that same experience when someone randomly tells me they follow my blog- I mean, we know it’s out there for everyone to see, it’s funny that we somehow assume it’s this private space between friends!
    Laura recently posted…6 weeks to Boston: Training recapMy Profile

    1. I’m so glad you relate to the blog thing. I feel like I have to write as if no one is reading it πŸ™‚

  3. Congrats on that amazing finish time! The hills tho….we have very few hills to speak of around here (they call us flatlanders, after all) so that would have done me in. I just ran the very hilly Mercedes half in Birmingham and that Door County (Wisconsin) half is also very hilly. How do I train for hills when we have none? Lots of heavy lifting to fire up the glutes.

    Clearly your glutes are fired up!
    Wendy recently posted…The Week that Came in Like a Wrecking BallMy Profile

    1. Oh heck yes! I literally thought firing was shooting out of my glutes by the end!!

    • Linda Spooner on March 5, 2018 at 8:17 AM
    • Reply

    It was so awesome to finally meet you!! Colchester was great for me…stayed in zone 2 except for a couple of the beastly hills, and did a fast finish for that last mile. Such a gorgeous day!!! Glad you had a great race, too!!!

    1. Did you say “fast finish” for that last mile? Good for you!!! So glad you had a good day too (and yes, the weather was perfection!) and I hope we meet up at another race! Thank you again for introducing yourself. You made my day πŸ™‚

  4. WOW! You ran that time with all those HILLS! I live in super flat Texas so just seeing that map make me want to hurl lol. I compensate with cycling and weight training but that’s nothing like training on actual hills. Way to go! You should definitely be proud of yourself for that finish!
    Virjinia @ With Purpose and Kindness recently posted…Training Update!My Profile

    1. Thank you so much.
      Funny story – I raced a triathlon in Omaha and the bike route was touted as a “flat” course and, to me it was pancake flat with maybe two inclines. Afterward I heard a woman complaining about how it was definitely NOT a flat course and those hills were tough. OMG I was laughing!! She was from Texas…hahahaha!

  5. This race sounds INSANE!! And I never want to do it. But I want you to keep doing it and keep writing about it. Great job!
    Danielle @ The T-Rex Runner recently posted…Double Life and Workout Wrap-Up: February 12-26, 2018My Profile

    1. I’m here for your entertainment, always πŸ™‚ I’m not sure how many more times I can do this but, for whatever reason, I love this race.

  6. I would run in the opposite direction of that course… impressed you keep going back to it… I myself keep debating doing this half in April that I want to do, but am holding back from registering because I know I’m not in a condition to beat my time from last year… so dumb… I need to let go of numbers!! But in the meantime, I have a little tri I’m doing this weekend (pool swim so no panic attacks)

    1. Not dumb at all! I struggle with it all.the.time. Maybe you should use my mantra πŸ™‚
      GOOD LUCK this weekend!!! I’ll be checking your Insta!!!

  7. I had the same thought as Angela – was this as hilly as Leaf Peeper? At least that one flattened out near the end after that beast of a climb in the first three miles! Uphill finishes baffle me and I try to avoid races with them… although I’m considering a hilly 5K in the summer because it starts 2 miles (warm-up jog!) from my apartment. Great job on a brutal race!
    I relate to the gif of the girl in high heels too much.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Mile Markers: Embrace the EffortMy Profile

    1. Your last sentence made me laugh out loud!! And, you would be a beast on a hilly course since you eat hills for breakfast all the time πŸ™‚

  8. Of course Linda liked you …what’s not to like??? Just looking at that t-shirt makes my legs tired – go you! I hope you are still feeling good a few days out. I’m going to take a nap now.
    Dana recently posted…Lessons learned: March book reviewsMy Profile

    1. I sincerely hope you took that nap! Thanks Dana and yes, I feel great and fully recovered but definitely need 11 more months before I do it again.

    • danielle on March 6, 2018 at 4:45 PM
    • Reply

    you crack me up. your natural ability is stupendous! like i said (many many many times… lol) this half marathon is my half marathon PR so i’m chasing this time down myself, and i am just now accepting that it will require a full year of building and dedication to get there. i just can’t seem to get up and run a few miles without any sort of warmup and then ignore the stretching and foam rolling andALL the other other shit that running in my body now seems to require. how many times can i roll my eyes??? a thousand times infinity!
    i will run a race for fun and not care about bling at all – ti’s all about the good times in my book πŸ™‚

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