A blog by runners. For runners.

Race recap: Cortland YMCA Leaf Peeper Half Marathon

Skipping the big race for the local raceFor 10 weeks, I trained for the Runner’s World Half Marathon. I chose a challenging plan. Followed it close. And spent two days a week on the track. I clocked mile repeats at 5K pace, 800s at 2-mile pace, 400s at mile pace, and so on. Early in the plan, I set PRs in the 5K, 1 mile,and 2 mile. Take that, adolescent Stephen!

But all that time spent on the track, grinding my gears, while working to my advantage physically, worked against me mentally.

By week nine, I delayed the start of my workouts. My finger hovered over the start button on my watch. I ran my splits, eventually, and hit them, too. But in week ten, I pushed them back. Psyched myself out. I made excuses – a few were legit – lightning cracking open the sky one day and pelting rain and 30+ mph winds on another.

Physically sound, I was mentally burnt out. Maybe it’s because I’ve misplaced my iPod shuffle?

All the while, I delayed registering for the race. In my head, I just didn’t have time (in the same respect that we don’t have time to do all the simple things that we put off). Why can’t I ever send my car payment in on time?

So with one week to go, I called off the big race and decided to stay local.

The Cortland YMCA Leaf Peeper Half Marathon course is scenic, quiet, and relatively flat, with one moderate hill just before the turn around. Much of the course follows a babbling brook and stretches through rustic farm land. Around mile four, three spirited men run an extension cord from their front porch, plug in their guitars and amps, and strum classic rock licks from their front lawn. Real salt of the earth kind of stuff.

I ran the race last year, too, under similar, last minute circumstances, so I knew what to expect.

The weather was crummy. Real crummy, especially, since the days preceding and following were so pleasant. 38 degrees and 18 mph wind coming from all directions! But that’s the weather everyone ran in that day, so that’s all I have to say about that.

I took an early lead in the race and didn’t look back. I fist pumped the lead guitarist at mile three. And I took deep, relaxing breaths. At the turnaround, I spotted the number two and three guys coming down the stretch, a little too close for comfort. I worked the hill, hard up and harder down, and built on my 50+ second lead. The garage rockers played me another solo show, and I worked the final three miles to claim first place in 1:14:02.

The weather worsened for everyone in the 1:45 and over club. Horizontal sleet coated everything and everyone for a few minutes before moving out. Many of us, while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, huddled close in the utility room near a propane heater, which looked and sounded more like a small jet engine.

The awards were grand! A basket of local apples and wines, two hand-painted wine glasses, a maple leaf medal, and a print of a local artist’s foliage calligraphy.

In the cold, biting wind, I celebrated, traded stories, and reminisced with runners from our local and neighboring clubs who made the same, last minute decision to run this memorable race.

Have you ever bailed on your big-ticket plans to stay local? Tell us about in the comments below.

Written by Stephen Marcin.