Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap

I signed up for this race for several reasons:

  • It was local and I could sleep in my own bed the night before.
  • I would be mostly trained since I ran a half three weeks before this race.
  • It is a flat course.
  • I PR’d on this same course back in October.

Half Marathon Training:

If you read my blog, you know that my training included ZERO long runs but lot’s of races and a vacation in Florida.

Yes, I got some miles on the legs. I ran a slow half marathon (due to the fact that I didn’t train well), ran a 5k instead of my 12 mile long run, and then tapered with a 8 miler. And that’s it.  So be it.

Not what you’d expect for a runner wanting to get a PR.

I was still excited to run the race. I knew that I didn’t deserve to get a PR and I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too disappointed with a mediocre performance.

Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:

I reached out to FB friends who ran the Steel Rail Half Marathon last May and here’s what they said:

  • I loved it. Nice flat, downhill course.
  • The course is great!
  • Loved the course! It’s fast!

I also found some more info by searching online for reviews of the race.

The course is wonderful. It runs point-to-point from Lanesborough to Adams. It starts with two loops around the Berkshire Mall … then goes onto the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail for ten miles. The scenery is lovely. .. you can enjoy views of Mt. Greylock, lakes, and woods. And by the time you’re really hurting at mile ten, the trail starts gently sloping downhill, for real. If you want a half marathon PR, this is the course

Amenities included easy parking, plenty of porta-potties, a post-race massage tent, food, and beer. The tech race shirt was nice and offered women’s sizing. Prizes ran deep; Kent gave out generous checks for the top three overall winners and the top three masters, plus merchandise from his running store, Berkshire Running Center in downtown Pittsfield, for the top three age group winners… After the ceremony, buses delivered participants back to the start. I’d highly recommend this race…

Here’s the course map:

And the map of the elevation:

downhill at the end…sweet!

No 12 miles of walking the day before this half marathon!!! But I did do a lot of gardening. I decided against driving to Mass to get my bib (as I did in October) and instead spent a relaxing afternoon on the lake..

To celebrate both my birthday and the hubby’s, we went out to dinner. Carb loading to the max but no alcohol this time!

dinner view

I hardly ever get much sleep the night before a big race. And this night, it was no different.

Race Day:

So 6:30 am came early on Sunday morning. Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in on a weekend??

The race was scheduled to start at 9:30 am. I was happy about the late start except for the fact that it was May not October and the temps could have been really warm.

Luckily the 90 degree temps left for awhile. And it was actually pretty chilly. I wore my usual half marathon outfit of a tank and skirt. Just added my DIY sleeves to discard when I warmed up.

According to Google, it should have taken about 1h 15 to get there.  So I left my house at 7:15 am.

My GPS took me on the back roads and it was a really gorgeous ride.

I got there plenty early. The race started in the parking lot of the Berkshire Shopping Mall.  Easy to get to and lots of parking.

gender-specific race shirt 🙂

I picked up by bib and race shirt. The bib had two timing chips that you have to attach with safety pins to your shorts or front of your shirt.  Then you return them at the end of the race. Weird, right?

Since the race ended in Adams, MA, they gave you a bag to check stuff which would be available at the finish line.  Very convenient. I packed flip flops, a dry shirt and a jacket in it.

It was quite chilly – about 40 degrees colder than Thursday and cloudy. I shivered but knew that I would warm up once I started running. I stayed in my car for a while but eventually got out to mingle with the other runners. I didn’t see anyone that I knew but instantly made some new friends.  The runners were so friendly.

Since I had eaten breakfast three hours ago, I was hungry so ate a GU before the start.

Soon it was time to head to the start line.

The race is a blur as usual but here’s how I remember it:

Miles 1-3:

9:02, 9:17, 9:23

Image result for steel rail half

The starting line was in the parking lot. I wasn’t sure if there were chip timing or gun timing. And I didn’t start as close to the front as I usually do, though.

For the first two miles, you ran around the parking lot. Like any race, the first mile/mile-and-a-half, was a big congested.  This was the hilliest part of the course (and it wasn’t that hilly.)

This also was the only part of the course where you could somewhat attempt to run tangents (Of course, I did.)

pic from FB

As usual, I got caught up in the excitement and when I glanced down at my Garmin, I saw that I was running 8:XX pace during the first mile. I quickly slowed down.  I knew that continuing to run that pace would be deadly.

I left on my DIY warm warmers but rolled them down but by the second time around, I tossed them (by the start line but forgot to pick them up after the race, anyway.)

Anita Louise Photography

pic from the web site

After mile 2, we left the parking lot and entered the trail.

A little while after we entered the trail, there was the first water stop.  I always stop at ALL water stops during a half marathon and even though I wasn’t warm or thirsty, I did so during this race, as well.

The trail was beautiful.  River at first on the right side, then also a lake on the left side.  Then eventually, the river was on the left side. I wish I could have gotten out my phone from my race belt more easily so I could have taken some photos.

pic from the website

I was still running at a decent pace and was in the zone. Of course, that pesky foot problem existed the whole time. (My bunion causes my big toe on my left foot to overlap the next toe causing toe pain and often sorenes on the bottom of my foot…ouch!!!)

Early on, a runner in pink asked me what my pace would be since she hadn’t run a half in many years.  I replied that I hoped that it would be around 10. To which she replied “I’ll try to keep you in my sight.”

She looked very fit and I was slightly ahead of her at various times during the race but at the water stops when I walked, she got way ahead.  Still it was nice to have someone to chat with so I tried to keep her pink shirt in my sights.

Miles 4-6:

9:55, 9:28, 9:30

As usual, after the first few miles, I started slowing  a little.  But I was still running at a decent pace (for me.)

There another water stop at almost mile 4 and I walked for a while. (I didn’t really need to but I am so used to walking when there is water.) I debated about eating a Gu but decided that I didn’t need it yet.

pic from Andrea’s FB)

We continued on the same trail and I just focused on the scenery.

The temperature was perfect for running.  Even a little chilly when we were running along the lake and could feel the cool breeze.

Then all of a sudden, maybe at almost mile 6, at another water stop, I realized that I was ahead of my time from the Ramblefest. Should I start thinking PR?

Nah!  Anything can and usually does happen during the second half of a half marathon.

So I walked and ate a GU.  (I wish I could eat them faster but I never can.)

Then it happened again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Garmin reset to zero!!! (It happened during my last 2 marathons.  There’s nothing to change in the settings!?)

So no idea of my current time. No idea of my current pace!! Pissed me off………..

Miles 7-9:

10:19, 9:41, 10:06

What could I do?  Nothing.

So I just continued piggy backing with the runner in pink and enjoying the FLAT course.

pic from Andrea’s FB

There was another water stop around mile 8 and I walked through that one too.  Again, I was amazed at how fresh my legs still felt.

I wasn’t sure what my average pace was. However, I knew that I was running slower than the first half but not too slowly. Since I don’t run by pace, it didn’t matter.  I had NO IDEA how much time had elapsed in the race. That would be how I would determine my finish time and if I were on track for a PR.

Such is life…

Miles 10-12

9:54, 10:42, 9:13

pic from Andrea’s FB

A little past mile 9, there was the next to last water stop.  I walked through it and ate my second GU.  I forgot to buy more so I was stuck with Chocolate and I instantly got stomach cramps…UGH!!

I was determined to muscle through them.  At least, the made me forget about my sore foot.

At mile 10 along the side of the road, I spotted Andrea, my roommate from the Philly Love Run.  We hugged. It was a great boost when I needed it.

She told that I looked strong and at that point, I decided that I wanted that PR…

Mile 13- 13.2:

8:47, ?? (My Garmin recorded the course as long.)

So I ran faster and caught up to the runner in pink and even passed her.

Believe it or not, my Garmin reset itself to zero again… it didn’t really matter since I hadn’t used it since mile 6.

Finally we left the trail. The race ended with a series of 2 left hand turns. We turned left onto Hoosac St. and left onto Depot St. and the finish line was on Depot St. in front of the Adams Visitor Center parking lot.

It seemed to take forever….

I wasn’t sure that I was going to PR.

But anyway as I made the last turn, I gave it everything I had.

I crossed under 2:07 and IT WAS A PR!!!!!!!!!!! (My previous PR was 2:08:59 in October on this same course.)

Gun Time: 2:06:52 Chip Time: 2:06:47

A 2 minute 12 second PR!!! Almost 14 minutes faster than my last half marathon! I’ll take it.

I was on cloud nine.  A PR is great but one that you didn’t plan for is even better.  It was the first half marathon where  I didn’t struggle to complete it. My legs never felt tired. In fact, mile 13 was my fastest mile.  I’m not sure exactly why but I think at my age, the 4 rest days and the long taper (5ks rather than long runs) helped.

Post Race:

I got my medal, some water, a bagel, and a banana. Then I headed to get my free beer.

I’m not really a big beer drinker but this tasted good

With our food ticket, we could get anything that cost $3 for free. Believe it or not, we could have had a hamburger, chili, hot dog, sausage, fried dough but I chose a hot dog. And it was yummy!

I wandered around waiting for the results.

They gave out cash and pottery for top awards and a coffee tumbler for AG awards.

I also bumped into a former student of mine and her mom.  She won the Masters.

Congrats Michele! You are speedy!

I came in 5th or 6th in my AG, I think.

So I headed toward the buses. On the bus back to the mall, I chatted with some runners who are planning to run Wine Glass. We hoped to meet again.

My last stop before heading home was Target to do some shopping and get my post-race Starbucks.  Coincidentally, in Target, I ran into a law professor whom I used to work with. She had also run the race.

Additional Race Reflections:

The Good:

  • Close enough to be able to sleep in my own bed the night before.
  • Organized packet pick-up.
  • Lots of parking and easy to locate.
  • Real bathrooms after the race.
  • Enthusiastic volunteers and crowd support.
  • Scenic course especially with the foliage and water views.
  • Flat course!!
  • No major injuries. (just the usual foot pain and some stomach cramps)
  • Gender-specific shirts
  • Decent selection of refreshments (free beer & $3 food coupon)
  • The post race music, massages and food stands were nice
  • PRed!! Woot! Woot!

The Bad:

  • The two laps around the parking lot were boring. (It did save the expense of closing roads to make up the 13.1 miles)
  • The late start for a May race.
  • No professional race photos (just a few on the newspaper website and on FB)

The Ugly:

  • Nothing really.

It was a great race. I loved it! I would have enjoyed it even if I didn’t get a PR!  But that made it just sweeter.

one last look at my PR medal

Would I recommend this race?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I don’t usually repeat half marathons but if I did, I would run this one again.

Final Stats:

Next Up:

Oct 1 – Wine Glass Half Marathon in Corning, NY. (or possibly the Maple Leaf Half in VT on Sept. 9.)

Since today is Tuesday, I’m also linking up with these wonderful ladies:

Erika @ MCM Mama Runs, Marcia @ Marcia’s Healthy Slice and Patty @ My no-guilt life for

I’m also linking with Susie and Rachel and Debbie and Lora for the Running Coaches’ Corner

Happy Running! Do you have a favorite Half Marathon? Do you train to PR? Or does it happen by surprise?







34 thoughts on “Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. I’ve told you before you don’t have to do 12 miles when you’re trained! So maybe you’ll rethink your training (probably not).

    That looks like a beautiful course but ugh to the laps around the mall!

    Congrats on the PR. Awesome. And I’m not surprised.

    I will almost always train as if I expected one, but I never expect one & I really don’t in my upcoming half. Of course I’d like it. 🙂 I just really need to find more flat courses . . .


    • Except that I didn’t do any training for either half. Just some miles added on to 5k races. No continuous long runs at all for the first time. So I didn’t deserve a PR but I’ll take it. I’ve trained well and did lousy. You never know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You did — you went to the gym & you did speedwork in addition to your races. Once your endurance is in place, it’s just about maintaining it. Plus you’re lucky you can go out & run that far without injuries (which isn’t saying there’s no aches or pains).

        There’s no such thing as an undeserved PR. And as I’ve also pointed out, just one training cycle is not always enough to reap benefits. That consistently running makes a huge difference, too.


  2. Congrats on getting your PR! I used to live in Pittsfield, MA, so I’m familiar with that rail trail, I used to ride bikes there all the time. Maybe I should consider this race next year and stay with friends.


  3. Oh my gosh, that flat and downhill route is my kind of race!! So glad you had such a great race and got a PR – hey, training doesn’t always tell the story, sometimes it’s just your day. 🙂


  4. Congratulations Darlene! Sounds like a beautiful course. I’m seriously thinking about beginning my taper for Utah now. The more long runs I do, the more aches and pains I’m feeling. My husband even said that I should just keep running mid distance miles because mentally I know I can finish 13. The goal is to just finish without injury. Like you said, the older I get the more important ‘fresh legs’ are for my race days 🙂


    • I was but I knew better. I just didn’t think I’d run that well so it wouldn’t matter. Now I wonder if I knew my pace, would I have pushed to finish faster? Who knows?


    • Thanks. But running with RA is just amazing.

      Lot’s of races but no halfs until Oct. At least none that I signed up for….


  5. WooHoo! Congrats on that big fat PR. To get one when you least expect it is the sweetest surprise. You’ve proven what I tell many of my coaching clients. Less is more in so many cases. Especially for us in the 40+ crowd. Well done!


  6. Congratulations, Darlene! What a great recap…you had me in suspense! You had a great race and it looks like a beautiful course. It’s awesome when you get a PR by surprise, well done!


  7. Pingback: Saratoga Palio Half Marathon Recap – My First 5K and More…

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