Virtual Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap

Image may contain: night and text

MAY 17, 2020

It seems like I’ve been planning this race forever. As with all my big races, I impulsively sign up way in advance (and then often regret it LOL).

So I signed up for Steel Rail Half Marathon as my 44rd Half Marathon (and 5th of 2020) for several reasons:

(Note: 2 have already been run virtually.)

  • It is a flat course.
  • It is scenic.
  • I am familiar with the course.  I ran it in 2017 and 2016.
  • It is currently my half marathon PR!!
  • It is close after my previous half (4 weeks) so I would be sorta already trained for it.
  • It is near enough so I can sleep in my own bed the night before.
  • There is great post race food.
  • Nice swag.

Half Marathon Training:

If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. I ran my last half marathon on April 19 (a virtual version of the Helderberg to Hudson Half that was postponed.) It was awful!!

😦 😦 😦

During my first two 2020 Half Marathons in January and February, I experienced a lot of foot pain. I ran them but truthfully, it was not fun at the time.

And then the NYC Half Marathon was cancelled so I ran that for fun with two friends.

And then this half marathon was postponed until October!!!

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t already signed up for the Smuttynose Half Marathon as part of a race-cation with 8 friends!! That race takes place the weekend before.

I really had a tough time deciding what to do.  I really wanted to run this race but I was not sure if it would be a good idea to run half marathons two weeks in a row.

I had to decide in advance to run it in October or do the race virtually in May.  No refund or deferral option.  The silver lining was that if you ran the distance in May, you would still get the swag (shirt, medal, pint glass.)

So another virtual half marathon….

I did my long runs on the weekends…and my weekdays runs as well. I ran alone due the “social distancing” requirement.

I admit that my runs were not as enjoyable as when I could do them with my friends. Slow and easy with tons of walking (and photo stops.)

So again my goal for this “race” was just finishing and not injuring any part of my body!! But I also hoped that this race would go better than the last one.  I don’t care about speed but I wanted to feel good while running it and not just drag myself through it.

Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:

Well, since this was a local race and work days were at my home, there was not much movement the days before.  In fact, I did not run Thursday or Friday.

As I normally do before a big race,  I ate pizza for dinner the night before.

Then in addition to what to wear, there was the decision of where to run. The race organizer published a virtual course for this race but it looked too confusing.

2020 Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Route

I did want to run on the Ashuwillticook Rail trail (in Mass.) so maybe I run the 8k there in October.

But instead I chose the Corning Smith Bike Path since it was pretty flat and long enough to get in the 13.1 miles.

Race Day:

I ate my usual breakfast – oatmeal and coffee. Last Saturday it snowed and today it almost 60 degrees when I got up.

Hooray for my first race in a tank top.

wearing my Skirt Sports tank so I could count this run for their Virtual Strong 5k

My plan was to take it slow. Run and when I felt like it, walk.  As much as I hate to admit it, my feet have been hurting.

Anyway, here’s how it went:

Miles 1-4.5:

The Corning Bike Path is very familiar since I run there fairly often. I started around 9 am and there were only a few bikers (who passed me wearing masks) on the path but that was about it. No runners at all.

Here are a few pics of the scenery that I took while I was running/walking:

I started at the boat launch along the Hudson River

there was a highway along my left (you can drown out the traffic noise with headphones) and the river always in view on the right

you can see how empty the path was

at times, the the trees even block the highway from view

you pass under various highway overpasses too

very pretty when the trees are in bloom

The weather was perfect and the route so pretty with the trees and views of the Hudson River. It would have even more enjoyable if it weren’t for my damn painful feet.  But it is what it is (neuroma on the ball of one foot and bunion on the other).

I was planning to turn around at the end of the bike path and then continue back in the opposite direction (past my start) until I reached 13.1 miles.

But I was afraid that when I reached my car, I would be tempted to quit so I just plodded on into town.

What about fuel and water?? I do not carry water and I was ok.  I had carried energy gels and Honey Stinger chews.  I did not eat any of the gels and munched on the chews while I was walking. (That was new since I am a gel person but I wanted to save the gels for a real race..)

Miles 4.5-8.5:

This was definitely not a scenic part of the run. Old apartments on one side and the highway on the other.

I dragged myself 2 miles and then turned around to return to the bike path.

no one outside so very quiet.

noisy highway on the right – ran in the road (cuz I hate sidewalks) but there was very little traffic

I get it but are we safe to yet?

not a #518rainbow…it’s from a paint store

Miles 8.5-13.1

The last part of my virtual race was the same as the beginning.

finally heading back onto the bike path

There were, however, now more people on the trail. But everyone was respectful. Walkers and bikers were wearing masks. I moved over as runners passed me by.  I always felt safe.

At one point, I bumped into a former student. We chatted and then went in different directions.

a social distancing selfie

This run was hard. It was painful. But I did it and earned my medal!

So five half marathons so far for 2020. Three virtual ones. I was planning on running a half marathon every month. That was before my foot neuroma and now the pandemic. So I think I’m done. Best laid plans lol

Additional Race Reflections:

The Good:

  • The weather
  • Flexible start time
  • Slept in my own bed the night before
  • Flat course
  • Scenic for 9 out of 13 miles
  • Not crowed with other runners
  • No clock, no pressure.
  • Great Swag (when they ship it to me)

The Bad:

  • No water stops
  • No crowd support
  • Running alone
  • No mojo to run fast
  • My achy feet

The Ugly:

  • Everything listed in Bad

Would I recommend this race?

Yes. But the real thing would have been a lot more fun. Or if I could have run it with friends.

Next Up:

Not sure.  I think I’ll skip June and July.

Hopefully I’ll be back to a real half marathon in August.

The Good News | My First 5K and More...

Since today is Tuesday, I’m linking up with Zenaida and Kim (Kooky Runner).

I’m also linking up here:

Formerly the Running Coaches’ Corner, it’s back with new co-hosts Coach Debbie RunsRunning on HappyConfessions of a Mother RunnerMile by MileRuns with Pugs, and Fauxrunner.

Happy Running! Have you been training for a big race? Are you running it as a virtual race?  Have you done any Virtual Races?  If so, how did they go? Please share.



30 thoughts on “Virtual Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Awesome job!
    That’s how I run my virtual races, too. Enjoy it and don’t get injured! Most of your course is indeed very beautiful – and nice and empty, too!
    I don’t take fuel with me either for 21Ks – but how did you manage with no water on such a warm day? That’s stamina.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was pretty shady and I didn’t run fast at any point. I had planned to pass my car and get a drink but decided not to.

      Usually I do drink a lot of water during a real half.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That path does look nice! It reminds me of the Hillbilly Half that I’ve done (early November). Running 13.1 on your own is a lot tougher than in the midst of fellow racers, which makes it that much more badass for finishing. Great job! We need to discuss our strategy for next weekend’s 5K!


    • You are right. It is hard to run alone. I need to get racing again.

      I guess unless the weather is bad, I’ll run it on Sat, May 30. Maybe we can each take a photo high fiving and put it together.


  3. I’m sorry that the foot pain has been sticking around. I did a virtual half this spring and it was a good experience, but I just can’t find it in myself to do a 2nd one. 5k and 10k yes but the half is just too tough alone. And I may not have to!!! Looks like races are coming back this summer in my area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. It is tough running solo even with beautiful scenery. I got s shot in my foot and the pain is gone. Too late for the race, though.


  4. Nice job! My virtual half last month was hard too! It’s just tough without the other runners or the crowd support. I can’t imagine you quitting, tho, lol. You’re like me, you’ll grit it out and get it done. I have a virtual 10 miler coming up and if they open the lakefront path in Chicago, I’m doing to do it there. Because that’s where it was supposed to be held.


    • I hope you o get to run on the lakefront.

      I know. I am stubborn. Now that my foot doesn’t hurt, I don’t have a log run on the schedule. Not even a virtual one.


  5. I agree the races and runs are definitely not as much fun without our friends. I am sorry that your feet are still hurting. You did have some beautiful scenery though. Congrats on your half!


  6. Way to tough it out, Darlene. Congrats on finishing another half marathon. I am not a huge fan of virtual races either. They just don’t have the same vibe as a real race but I can understand why you chose to do this one virtually. My half at the end of June was canceled. No word on what will happen yot as far as deferments, refunds, etc. I hope you get to run yours in August!


    • I doubt the August race will happen. No refund for that one but maybe they will defer.

      I agree. Virtuals are just runs for me.


  7. Looks like a beautiful run too bad your feet hurt. I’m not doing any virtual halfs, I need the crowd support.
    I can’t believe you don’t need water for 13.1 miles! I need to carry water for anything over 8 usually. Great job pushing through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Boo on the foot but I got a shot and now its feels so much better. I do need the crowd support and unfortunately, this race did not offer a deferral or refund and I sucked it up and did it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.