Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler Recap

I’ve been neglecting my blog for far too long and have some catching up to do now. When I initially signed up for this race, I was going to use it as one of my 20-miler training runs along the way to MCM. However, with the continuing hip issues I hadn’t run further than seven miles for my long runs, so I wanted to use this as a test to see if it still made sense to run the Marine Corps Marathon this October. The results weren’t all bad, but they certainly weren’t good either.

The Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler ran along the C&O Canal path starting near the Key Bridge in Georgetown on a beautiful, sunny and cool mid-September morning. The race start was only about a mile from my apartment so I walked over that morning with just what I needed to race and my keys and cell phone stuffed in my water pack. I was worried there wouldn’t be a bag drop being such a small race, but it turned out there was, so I really wish I’d brought a hoodie along to keep warm before the race started.

A few hundred people gathered near the start ready to run either the 20-mile or 10-mile options. Race organizers and volunteers were energetic and enthusiastic from start to finish making this a great low-key race. For those that know the C&O, it’s a pretty narrow path, so the 20-milers took off a few minutes before the 10-milers to cut-down on early crowding.

For the first-time ever in a race I wore headphones. It was a last minute decision so I didn’t even have my iPod, I just used my phone. I’m normally very against this because I think that you miss out on the race experience and it can also be dangerous. Seeing as this was along a canal path, there wasn’t going to be crowds of spectators cheering along the way and there wouldn’t be any traffic to worry about. Still, I kept the volume low so I could hear other runners approaching and hear any directions from volunteers at water stops. As I ran almost the entire race on my own at a much slower pace than I’m used to, I’m pretty glad I had the music taking my mind off things.

My plan was a slow, steady race pace so as not to aggravate my hip flexors. One of the positives I took away from the race is that I actually maintained a steady pace with a small negative split (negative split is runner-speak for running the second half of a race quicker than the first half). I have a tendency to start off too strong and slow up, so I was pleased that I kept it steady for all 20 miles. I enjoyed the out-and-back along the canal. I frequently run on the Capital Crescent trail very close to the C&O path, so this was a nice change of scenery, and we could not have had better weather.

I crossed the finish line in 2:59:11, sixth in my age group and 46th out of 184 overall. Everyone’s GPS watches had the course at about 20.3-20.4, so I averaged just over an 8:45 pace. I was pleased with how it turned out, especially given the lack of training, and I certainly didn’t mind the post-race pizza and snacks before my walk home! My only issue was receiving Powerade Zero at the finish. Now I appreciate anything that’s free, but come on, I just ran 20 miles – give me some calories!

After the race I made the tough decision to defer my entry in Marine Corps to next year’s race. I only had a few days left to defer, and I knew that there was no way between then and race day that I could get the mileage in at the paces I needed to to reach my Boston Qualifying goal time. I could go out there and run the race at a slow pace just to finish as I have done with marathons before, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy that this time. I’m bummed about missing the race as it’s one of my favorites, but I’m excited about getting healthy and competing in it next year. I’m already starting to plan out my race schedule for the rest of next year as well. I can’t wait to get more details on the newly announced Nike Women’s half in D.C.



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